Journalists from across the globe gathered Tuesday evening in the terraced backyard of the Wallace House, mingling with guests from UM and the community to kick off this year’s Knight-Wallace Fellows program.
Each year, about 20 mid-career journalists are picked for the eight-month program, coming to Ann Arbor to live and study a topic of their choice. They take a leave of absence from their jobs, receive a stipend and get access to UM resources.
Last year, Ann Arbor News reporter Tracy Davis was selected for the program, studying globalization and world ecology. This year, columnist Geoff Larcom will research the psychology of leadership.
On Tuesday, two university administrators, David Lampe and John King (both K-W board members), were on hand to officially welcome the fellows and their guests. Lampe is UM’s vice president of communications and a former journalist; King is UM’s vice provost for academic information.
Lampe urged the fellows to take advantage of the university’s vast resources: “We know who knows what about what.” King called UM “a terrific sandbox.” (As an aside, he also noted UM’s large number of student organizations – over 1,000, including The Squirrel Club, which sells its T-shirts for $12.)
The keynote speaker – Andrew Whitehead, head of core news for BBC World Service Radio – was a K-W fellow in 2004, and researched the origins of the India/Pakistan conflict over Kashmir. The work resulted in his book, “Mission in Kashmir,” published last year.
Championed by veteran journalist Mike Wallace, the Knight-Wallace Fellows is fairly low-key in the Ann Arbor community, but boasts powerful connections in the profession: Board members include Wallace, ABC News anchor Charles Gibson, and Jill Abramson, managing editor of The New York Times. High-profile visitors – including, in the past, Bill Cosby, Michael Moore and George Soros – are also known to drop by Wallace House during the year.
Features of the K-W program also worth mentioning: the twice-weekly sherry hours and trips to Istanbul and Buenos Aires. For journalists who’ve earned entree to this rarefied community, it’s a special eight months indeed.