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Erin O'Mara: Nurturing and Mentoring the Independent Journalist Voices of Tomorrow

Erin O'Mara: Nurturing and Mentoring the Independent Journalist Voices of Tomorrow


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Erin O’Mara, the executive director of The Nation Fund for Independent Journalism. Let’s learn what’s happening at The Nation Fund for Independent Journalism and how Erin is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Erin, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through The Nation Fund for Independent Journalism?

Erin: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! A strong, independent press is a vital and fundamental part of addressing many of the world's toughest problems. Journalists uncover and tell important stories that would stay hidden if not for their hard work. Journalists speak truth to power, expose wrong-doing, and give people the facts they need to make decisions for themselves and their communities. Journalism can also shine a light on human rights abuses, inequality, and discrimination, and give a platform to people from historically marginalized communities so they can tell their stories and be heard. Journalism creates a free flow of information that can make our city, state and federal governments, and even the schools (your readers attend) work better.

Spiffy: Couldn’t agree with you more, Erin! Can you tell me what motivates you to do it?

Erin: Spiffy, in your work as an interplanetary journalist, you see so many examples of the power and promise of journalism! I want to make a difference and I believe that great journalism can make everyone's lives better. I want to do more to protect and amplify independent voices, and that means doing more to invest in the next generation and train young journalists. Someday, the students reading this will be running editorial pages, managing the business of media, and setting and raising the standards of journalism itself. I want to help them get there and I can't wait to see what they do!

Spiffy: That’s very exciting! Can you elaborate on the impact of your work?

Erin: Our work offers training and mentorship to students beginning at age 15 through recent college graduates. Students from diverse backgrounds hone their writing and research skills, learn how to pitch story ideas, work with editors, and find their voice. We have an internship that teaches the critical process of fact-checking and immerses students in the editorial process. And we have an internship devoted to teaching the business of journalism. Our goal is to offer students from all backgrounds the training and support they need to smooth the path into a career in journalism.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. Can you elaborate on its impact on your community?

Erin: In May 2023 we launched a new fellowship: The Fellowship for the Future of Journalism—Advancing truth, equity and justice. The fellowship’s immersive multi-year structure is a launchpad, giving students from diverse backgrounds the training and platform they need to add their much-needed perspectives to the national dialogue. We believe the key to securing the future of independent journalism and raising the standards of journalism is to ensure that the make-up of newsrooms matches the demographics of the communities they serve. The Fellowship for the Future of Journalism will not only deepen but widen the recruitment funnel, creating more opportunities for diverse cohorts of students to learn, train, and enter the field of journalism.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Erin: Yes! Anyone of any age can be a journalist! Be curious! Read all sorts of different things and keep writing. If your school has a newspaper, join it. If it doesn't, talk to a teacher about starting one.  

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Erin—it’s been an honor!

Erin O'Mara is the executive director of The Nation Fund for Independent Journalism. Erin believes in the power of journalism to create a more equitable world and works to educate future cohorts of journalists. (First published on the Ladderworks website on August 3, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.