The Online News Association has launched a new award for early-career digital journalists.

The MJ Bear Fellowships, which were announced at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, will pair three promising digital journalists with a "digital news leader" as a mentor, as well as providing a trip to the Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet in Boston and a year's ONA membership.

Applicants must be working journalists between the ages of 23 and 30 and fluent in English, and have examples of "concepts, experiments or projects that move digital journalism forward".

Two of the winners will be selected from the US or Canada and one internationally.

The fellowships are named after ONA founding member AJ Bear, who died in December last year at the age of 48 after suffering from leukaemia.

She was a founding board member of the ONA, and later executive producer, Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa, for MSN.

Earlier in her career she held the posts of vice president for online, and director of news media services at National Public Radio in the US.

According to a release from the ONA, the goal of the fellowships, in Bear's own words, is "to promote the voices of young professionals working in or training to work in the field of online news by presenting programs at ONA's annual conference, or in other venues. The programs will be designed to explore and showcase innovations, developments and new ideas in the field".

ONA board president Christine Montgomery, who is also managing editor at, said the association sees the fellowships "as a great way to help the next generation of journalists innovate and succeed in the industry.

"We’re looking for young people as eager to lead as they are to learn, who have demonstrated their commitment to pushing the boundaries in creating digital news."

The ONA has raised $40,000 for the fellowships to date, and is open to donations through its website.

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