Amy Maestas, senior editor at The Durango Herald, is one of 18 people named to the prestigious Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship program at the University of Michigan for the 2016-17 academic year.
Maestas, who has worked as a journalist for more than 27 years, including 20 years with the Herald, will take a leave of absence from the Herald beginning in August.
“This is a tremendous opportunity not only for me but also for our company,” she wrote in an email to the staff. “The knowledge and experience I gain during my fellowship will benefit the company immediately and in the future, and I am looking forward to being part of the leadership when I return.
“I'm thrilled to be part of such a prestigious fellowship, and I feel really lucky to work for a company that supports and encourages such ventures,” she said.
Knight-Wallace Fellows receive training in narrative writing and multiplatform journalism. They pursue customized studies and attend twice-weekly seminars at Wallace House, the program's headquarters a few blocks from the university's campus. The Wallace House was a gift from legendary newsman Mike Wallace, one of the original correspondents for CBS's “60 Minutes.”
In addition to seminars, fellows will visit Turkey and Brazil, considered integral parts of the program.
Fellows receive a stipend of $70,000 for the eight-month academic year, plus full tuition and health insurance. The program is funded through endowment gifts by foundations, news organizations and individuals committed to improving the quality of information reaching the public.
Maestas, 48, plans to study the future of hyperlocal newspapers.
“I'll be researching how hyperlocal newspapers can thrive in the future, because their demise due to the digital disruption has potentially serious consequences for communities,” she said. “Uninformed and disengaged citizens, and lack of government oversight, are threats to democracy. When local media doesn't have anybody in the room to tell readers about issues and events, governmental processes are negatively impacted.”
Since graduating in journalism and mass communication from the University of Utah, Maestas has worked as a reporter covering city government, politics, business and public lands. She has worked for several publications, including as a reporter for the Deseret News; assistant editor of a bank trade magazine; managing editor of The Event, an alternative newsweekly; and as a music reviewer for several small publications in Salt Lake City.