In early September, the Online News Association (ONA) named Kelly Moffitt one of three recipients of the MJ Bear Fellowship, which recognizes digital journalists under 30 whose work “represents the best in new media.” Moffitt is one of two North Americans to win a fellowship. A third was reserved for an international recipient.
The fellowship’s namesake, Mary Jane Bear, was herself “a pioneer in digital journalism,” according to Moffitt. “From 1996 to 2001, Bear worked for National Public Radio during the advent of the internet, bringing the organization to the fore and ending her tenure there as Vice President for Online. At one point in her career, she was a producer, just like me.”
Moffitt is honored by ONA’s recognition of her work. She launched a local ONA chapter with St. Louis Post-Dispatch developer Andrew Nguyen. Each month, the two organize monthly meetups for more than 80 local digital journalists who meet to network, share, and learn new skills. “The amount of support and camaraderie I’ve had from that experience has made ONA an invaluable resource to me. So, to receive such a fellowship in recognition of my work on a project that I wouldn’t have been able to start without that community of support has been wonderful.”
The MJ Bear Fellowship will assist Moffitt’s on-going work to help local podcasters, whom she sees as integral to the dissemination of community news. “It is easy for increasingly coastal media hubs to ignore the hard work that local journalists do with scant resources,” Moffitt said. “Getting the names and work of local journalists onto the national stage tells people that our work is important, our communities are important, and we want to be here doing the hard work, day in and day out.” Moffitt was a recent panelist at the ONA conference in Washington, D.C., where she described her “Flyover Podcast Newsletter,” a project that showcases podcasts produced between the coasts by journalists, local new organizations, and community members not affiliated with traditional news sources. Moffitt publishes the newsletter every week.
The Fellowship, which funded Moffitt’s recent ONA conference attendance, will cover her ONA dues for three years. It will also provide her with a year of mentorship, which she hopes will help her take the newsletter and the work of local podcasters to the next level. “From a public radio perspective,” Moffitt said, “I’d love to imagine ways local public radio stations could collaborate better with local podcasters and incorporate their content into programming.”
At St. Louis Public Radio, Moffitt produces content and manages the digital platforms for the one-hour live talk show St. Louis on the Air. Moffitt’s colleagues agree that the show is better because of her work on it. Producer Alex Heuer noted how Moffitt “constantly seeks how to get beyond the ‘talking heads’ mode of journalism. She connects with real people to tell real stories.” Senior Producer Mary Edwards remembered the energy, enthusiasm, and expertise that Moffitt brought to the show. She credited Moffitt’s curiosity for “many wonderful show topics that were off the beaten path but eminently interesting,” topics that helped with efforts to appeal to younger audiences.
Moffitt will soon depart St. Louis Public Radio to join Peabody-winner StoryCorps as a producer.
About Moffitt’s departure, Edwards described how many of us at St. Louis Public Radio feel. “As devastated as I am that Kelly is leaving us, I am absolutely thrilled for her opportunity to work for StoryCorps, an organization I greatly admire, which is headed by one of my own heroes, David Isay. I will forever be indebted to Kelly for all she did for the talk show and look forward to hearing her great work at StoryCorps.”
Moffitt credited her time at St. Louis Public Radio for preparing her for her new role. “Working here gave me space to learn how to produce audio. That would not have been possible without the grace and smarts of my colleagues Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, and Aaron Doerr, who took the time out of their packed schedules to train me. Daily talk show production also gave me the chance to dig deep into local communities to find stories that would resonate in conversation. I think those research skills, as well as those I've honed through the Flyover Podcast project, will come in handy when looking for important conversations across the country to produce for StoryCorps. I hope my focus will stay on communities between the coasts, so I can travel back often and explore new places that are often overlooked on a national scale. My background before coming to St. Louis Public Radio was in community engagement, and the StoryCorps opportunity gives me a chance to be out in the community and listening, which is my dream way to spend my day.”