South Asia Reporting Fellowship

This program is aimed at promoting a rare element in 24/7-news-cycle journalism — in-depth and follow-up reporting on major events relating to South Asia or South Asians, long after the breaking-news crews have moved on.

Questions to Sandeep Junnarkar, Awards & Fellowships chair: sjnews at

NEW YORK, November 3, 2010 – As part of their mission to encourage in-depth coverage of South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora, SAJA and SAJA Group Inc are pleased to announce changes to its flagship SAJA Reporting Fellowship program (SRF), which will now provide greater flexibility while streamlining the application process.  

Journalists will have two opportunities each year to apply for the fellowship, once each fall and spring, which we envision allows them to pitch more timely underreported pieces. The fall 2010 round opens Nov. 1, 2010 and the Spring round 2011 opens April 1, 2011.

The application process has also been simplified. Journalists will now submit a short application that asks for their pitch and credentials. If the application is approved by our judges, SAJA will ask for more details about the project.

With those changes in mind, SAJA and SAJA Group Inc. announces a call for submissions for the SAJA Reporting Fellowship. Open to freelancers and staff journalists in any medium, the fellowships are meant to encourage in-depth reporting projects by providing grants to cover a portion of reporting expenses.

A total of up to $20,000 may be given out annually, divided among projects or a single project at SAJA’s discretion. Each fellowship award is typically between $3,000-$7,000. 
These Fellowships, launched in 2005 to ensure follow-up reportage about the 2004 tsunami and its victims, were initially funded by SAJA members, corporate donors and friends of SAJA. For the last five years, SRF received a major financial boost thanks to the support of the Mahadeva Family Foundation, which will make an annual contribution of $20,000. “The support of Kumar Mahadeva and Simi Ahuja, who have been part of the SAJA community for more than a decade, is critical to SAJA’s core mission of improving the coverage of South Asia through the SAJA Reporting Fellowships and similar programs,” said Sandeep Junnarkar, the group’s Awards & Fellowships chair and professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. “This is going to have a major impact on the kind of stories that the Fellows do and how Americans learn about what’s going on in South Asia today.” 

In the 2010 Fall period, the fellowship is open to proposals on any in-depth topics covering South Asia or the South Asian Diaspora.

SAJA will start accepting preliminary proposals on starting Nov. 1 through Nov. 15. After reviewing the proposals and credentials, we will inform applicants whether we are interested in a full proposal. The deadline for the complete proposal, with supporting materials will be Nov. 30, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

To be eligible for this year’s fellowship, applicants must:

  • Have demonstrated experience in completing high-level, comprehensive journalistic projects.
  • Produce content in the English language.
  • Be able to publish or broadcast the finished work in North America (U.S. and Canada).
  • Applicants need not be based in North America, but the final work MUST be published in a U.S. or Canadian media outlet.
  • Be willing to work with an editor, chosen by SAJA, who will oversee the successful completion of the project.
  • Be available to discuss the project at SAJA events, including but not limited to the annual SAJA convention and/or panel discussions.
  •  In addition, the news organization(s) that publish(es) or air(s) the finished work(s) must agree to provide a prominent credit to SAJA.

Preliminary proposals must include the following (Deadline to apply: Nov. 15 @ 11:59 pm):

  • Working Title (10 words or less)
  • Project idea (100 words or less).
  • Why is it important to cover this story now? (75 words or less).
  • Your credentials–why are you the right person to cover this story? (75 words or less).

If approved, you will be asked to submit a full proposal.

The complete proposal (Deadline to submit: Nov. 30 @ 11:59 pm):

  • Project Proposal which describes the thesis of the project and explains why it’s an important story. What is the news hook? Why should a news outlet publish, broadcast or post this story?
  • A preliminary list of people to be interviewed.
  • A DETAILED budget that spells out what expenses the fellowship funding will cover and how the rest of the project will be funded.
  • A realistic timeline that shows SAJA’s deadlines (see below) will be met.
  • A resume and three work samples. We’re looking for applicants with a successful track record in producing print, broadcast, radio, photographic or multimedia pieces. The applicant must provide the work samples either as URLs, attachments, or by cutting and pasting to the application. Broadcast applicants can also provide digital samples. 
  • Support letter(s). If the applicant is an employee of a U.S. or Canadian media outlet, a letter of support from the editor/employer/supervisor. The letter must show that the applicant’s employer will give the applicant the time to report, produce and complete the work to meet our deadlines, as well as allot time for the fellow to speak about the project at SAJA events. The letter must show the company’s willingness to share publication rights with SAJA after an initial, exclusive first-run period is over. The letter MUST also contain contact information for the employer.
  • If the applicant is a freelancer, the proposal must include a letter from a U.S. or Canadian media outlet expressing support and a strong interest in running the piece.
  • Even a South Asia-based freelancer must include a letter from a U.S. or Canadian media outlet expressing support and a strong interest in running the piece.
  • An employee of a South Asia-based media company must include a letter from a U.S. or Canadian media outlet expressing support and a strong interest in running the piece.
  • A list of at least three references.


Timeline for the Fellowships is as follows:
Nov. 1, 2010: Applications process opens.
Nov, 15, 2010: Preliminary application deadline.
Nov. 30, 2010: Full application proposal (By invitation only if your preliminary proposal is accepted)
Jan. 10, 2011: SAJA fellows announced.
Between Feb. 1 – May 1, 2011: Reporting completed.
June 1, 2011: Finished project submitted to SAJA.
June 1 – 15, 2011: First-use period, for exclusive publication by the fellow’s employer, or if a freelancer, by the media company with whom the freelancer is contracted.
June 16, 2011: SAJA disseminates the work widely, through the web, other media and panel discussions.

Judging: The pool of applicants will be narrowed down to approximately five finalists. A panel of judges will review the finalists, and rank the projects from first to last. The SAJA board will make the final determinations on what amount of money will be awarded. Finalists will be notified and expected to be available for interviews with the judges if necessary.

1. All decisions are final and subject to the discretion and judgment of the judges and the SAJA board.
2. SAJA board members and members of their families are not eligible to apply.
3. SAJA is not responsible for any financial or legal liabilities (or any other liabilities) that arise from the actions of the fellow(s).
4. SAJA reserves the right to amend or extend deadlines or changing other procedures relating to the fellowship program.


After reading this page carefully, fill in the online form at
Questions to Sandeep Junnarkar, SAJA Administrative Director: sjnews at

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FINANCIAL GOALS: In order to assure long-term financing for the fellowships program, we are targeting an initial fundraising effort of $100,000 or more. We plan to raise the money through fundraising events, donations and contributions from individuals and foundations, and other sources.

We need your support!

Make a tax-deductible to SAJA Group Inc in one of two ways.

1. Make an online contribution using your credit card.
2. Mail a check payable to “SAJA Group Inc” (“SAJA Reporting Fellowships” in the memo line) to SAJA Group, Inc, c/o John Laxmi, Treasurer, 19 Einsenhower Road, Closter, NJ 07624; 
e-mail: johnlaxmisaja at

SAJA Group, Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization (EIN: 55-0844632) and is registered with the State of New York Charities Bureau (Registration Number 20-70-28). Please send any funding questions to


Q. Is the SAJA Reporting Fellowship (SRF) open to journalists not based in the United States?

A. The SRF is open to all journalists, anywhere in the world, as long as the proposal is about South Asia or the South Asian Diaspora. The finished work must also be published, aired or posted online by a US or Canadian publication, broadcaster or Website.

Q. What projects are being considered for the SRF?

A. Generally, we are looking for projects that cover topical and important issues that have either not been covered in-depth or not covered at all by the mainstream U.S. media.

Q. How much money will I receive for this fellowship if I were to win?

A. The fellowship is awarding up to $20,000 this year. Each project, however, is likely to receive between $3,000 and $7,000 at SAJA’s discretion. If a winning proposal requires additional support, the SAJA board has the discretion to provide more funding.

Q. I am a freelancer. How important is the letter of support from a U.S. or Canadian publication showing interest in the piece?

A. It is a critical component of the application package. Without that letter, your proposal will be considered incomplete.

Q. I work for a South Asia-based media company. Do I need a letter of interest from a U.S. or Canadian publication or can I just run the piece in my publication in South Asia?

A. One of the main goals of the SRF is to bring strong coverage of South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora to North American audiences. SAJA assumes that publications in South Asia cover that region regularly. Therefore, it is critical that journalists working for South Asia-based media find a U.S. or Canadian market for their proposals. A letter from an editor of a North American media organization showing support and strong interest in the proposal is REQUIRED.

Q. I will need to purchase equipment–like cameras, hard drives, audio recorders, etc.–to successfully complete this project. Will the SRF pay for such equipment?

A. The fellowship does NOT pay for big-ticket electronic items. It will, however, pay for Flash Memory up to $200.

Q. I work for a North America-based media outlet. Why do I need to submit a letter of support from my editor?

A. You need to submit a letter of support from your editor to assure SAJA that your employer will support your endeavors. This support could can be in the form of 1) additional financial support to complete the reporting; 2) giving you time to travel to complete the reporting; 3) setting aside time from your daily work obligations to complete the reporting and writing required to complete the project.

Q. Why does the media outlet that first publishes the work have to agree to let other organizations republish the work after an initial, exclusive run?

A. The goal of the SRF is to bring awareness to the widest possible North American audiences about an important issue about South Asia or the South Asian Diaspora. Therefore, SAJA gives first-run exclusivity, but then wants to disseminate the work more widely after that period. SAJA asks subsequent publications to credit both the SRF and the original media outlet that ran the piece.

Q. If I have applied before, can I apply again?

A. Yes, you may apply again. SAJA recommends, however, that if you did not win previously, you re-conceptualize your proposal to give it a fresh perspective.

Q. Can I apply by the deadline but submit required material after the deadline?

A. NO. Incomplete applications will NOT be considered.

Q. Does it matter how well the application is written?

A. Yes. It indicates to SAJA how serious you are about your work, your attitude toward this fellowship, and your drive to successfully publish the reportage.

Q. Can I submit several proposals?

A. Yes, as long as each proposal is self-contained with ALL the required material.

Q. Can a team submit a proposal team?

A. Yes, a team may submit a project. Keep in mind, however, that a team of more than 2 or 3 will require more travel expenses. In that case, the team may need to find other funding support.

Q. Which countries are considered to be part of South Asia?

A. South Asia is the all-encompassing term for the Indian Subcontinent. South Asia is distinct from East and Southeast Asia. The seven countries of South Asia are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The SRF, however, will also consider proposals about Afghanistan.

Q. What does SAJA define as the South Asian Diaspora?

A. The SAJA stylebook defines it as follows: Because of the British colonial legacy and large-scale immigration, there are substantial pockets of people of South Asian origin scattered around the world (besides South Asia, of course). In some cases–Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago–South Asians make up at least 35 percent of the population. Other countries with large South Asian communities: Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. The government of India puts the size of the Diaspora at more than 20 million. There are more than 2 million South Asians in the United States. Stories about the South Asian Diaspora in these countries as well as more recent settlements will be considered.

Q. When is the deadline?

A. The deadline for the preliminary proposal is Nov. 15, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. If approved, you will be asked to submit a full proposal which is due by Nov. 30, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.