After working in economic development, urban design, journalism and broadcasting André Natta, a SCAD architectural history alumnus and former District editor-in-chief, will join the 2017-2018 class of John S. Knight Journalism Fellows at Stanford University, one of the nation’s most competitive journalistic fellowships.
“Most folks don’t get a chance to follow through on the first choice for a career. I’ve been able to have two (arguably three) and enjoy them,” Natta said. “I never expected that opportunity; not in a million years.” Natta has always been drawn to economic development, urban design and journalism, and has spent his career trying to find, or create, a synthesis of these three passions.
While an undergraduate student, Natta led District, SCAD’s student newspaper, and in 2000 launched the publication’s first online edition. (The publication ceased its print edition in 2008.)
After graduation, Natta remained in Savannah, working as a programs assistant in marketing for the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority. He later moved to Birmingham, Alabama, pursuing an opportunity to work as senior Main Street coordinator for the city’s economic development organization.
It was while working in Birmingham that Natta “started to get frustrated with the apparent gaps of coverage and access to information about the districts we were charged to serve as an organization,” and decided to start his own online news site, “The Terminal,” to fill these gaps he found in Birmingham’s local coverage.
“I learned a lot while doing economic development,” Natta said, “and applied several of those lessons to how I approach journalism, but I feel as though I can help more be accomplished from writing, convening and helping to make sense of things than I ever could otherwise.”
“The Terminal” led to a string of journalistic opportunities for Natta, and this winter he applied for Standford’s John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship. The process involved multiple long-form answers to questions, a portfolio of past work, an explanation of he would use fellowship time and resources and an interview.
“The process made me aware of how much I love doing journalism and how dedicated I am to wanting to produce better work and serve my fellow citizens,” Natta said.
Now in its 51st year, the JSK Fellowship is a 10-month program for working journalists who want to develop innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to improve the quality of news and information reaching the public.
“We support journalists who are deeply engaged in exploring solutions to the biggest challenges facing journalism,” according to the JSK website.
Natta’s research question is, “How might we better understand the potential impact of regional coverage on national dialogue?”
Natta is eager for the time to delve deeply into his research without worrying about deadlines or other unrelated concerns.
“I’m most excited about the unknown factors,” Natta said. “There are conversations with some incredibly smart people, both students and faculty, that I’m sure will happen.”
Natta has no definite plans for the conclusion of the fellowship, but hopes that his research and the time for self-discovery will reveal the next step in his career.
“I’d be especially interested in seeing how to re-imagine the connection between journalism and civic engagement, both on and offline,” Natta said. “My heart wants to return to the Southeast, specifically either Birmingham or finally finding my way back to somewhere in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry.
“I feel like there’s an opportunity to make sense of the changing urban landscape of the South and how it may change the region, and I want to be a part of the conversations about those changes.”