Visual journalism is often the first cut in struggling local newsrooms

This fellowship aims to revitalize it


In early 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic began, Ximena Natera found herself locked down at home, in New York, like millions of people across the country.

The photojournalist, who was living alone at the time, felt restless. She wanted to photograph people other than herself. So Natera ordered a portable backdrop. “A very small one, because it was all I could afford,” she said. As neighbors passed the backdrop, Natera would ask: “Can I take your photo?” ...

Years later, as Natera was interviewing for a photojournalist position at Berkeleyside, a nonprofit digital news site that covers Berkeley and the East Bay in California, she was asked about what kinds of stories she liked to cover, and what type of work she liked to do. The portable backdrop — what she likes to call a photo booth — came to mind.

Natera was eventually selected as a CatchLight Local Fellow, a position supported by California-based nonprofit CatchLight, which pairs visual journalists with community-based news organizations in underrepresented markets. Natera’s two-year position at Berkeleyside is in partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms across the U.S. to report on undercovered subjects.

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