The Investigative Fund is pleased to announce the 2018 winners of the Ida B. Wells Fellowship, whose goal is to promote diversity in journalism by helping to create a pipeline of investigative reporters of color. As winners, the following individuals will be given the opportunity to complete their first substantial piece of investigative reporting.
Taylor Eldridge is a New York-based investigative journalist. She is currently an investigative fellow with the non-profit newsroom, The Marshall Project, where she covers a variety of topics within criminal justice, with a focus on mental health and healthcare. Her work has appeared on Vox.com, the Newyorker.com and others. She will be reporting on prison healthcare.
Rebecca Rivas is an El Paso native who now lives in St. Louis, covering racial equity and inclusion, local politics and general news as a staff reporter at the St. Louis American, consistently named the nation’s top African-American newspaper. As a Fulbright scholar, she investigated Peru’s high maternal-death rate among Andean women and produced a 45-minute documentary that has been used as an educational tool in college campuses nationwide. Her work has also appeared on NPR, HuffPost and National Geographic online. She will be reporting on mass surveillance.
Isma’il Kushkush has contributed to theNew York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, Guernica and Reuters, among others. He was based in Khartoum, Sudan, for eight years and has covered political, economic and cultural stories from Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi, Sweden, Israel, the Palestinian territories and the United States. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis, and a Master of Arts degree from the Columbia Journalism School with a focus on politics and global affairs. He will be reporting on sports recruiting.
Zahra Hirji is a Washington, DC-based staff reporter at BuzzFeed News, covering energy and climate change — everything from the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental rules, to worker safety in the Alaskan oil patch. She previously wrote about fracking, global climate negotiations, and other environmental issues for InsideClimate News, Discovery News, and EARTH Magazine. She will be reporting on worker safety and discrimination.
The winners represent a cross-section of America and of journalism experience, ranging from emerging to mid-career journalists. Each will receive $12,000 plus funds to cover travel and out-of-pocket reporting costs. The fellows will also receive intensive editorial feedback, legal counsel, research resources, assistance with story placement and publicity, and mentoring. They will all attend a customized data boot camp through the National Institute of Computer-Assisted Reporting, as well as the Investigative Reporters & Editors conference, which kicks off today in Orlando.
“These reporters bring an incredible range of life experiences, which are reflected in the diversity of their project proposals,” said Alissa Figueroa, Senior editor in charge of the Ida B. Wells Fellowship program. “I’m thrilled to work with them in the coming year.”
People of color constitute less than 13 percent of all newsroom staff, according to an annual survey by the American Society of Newsroom Editors, and 10 percent of supervisors; their presence is even smaller on investigative teams. Women represent 37 percent of newsroom staff and 35 percent of supervisors. Survey data indicates that fewer than 10 percent of journalists come from a working-class background. Meanwhile, studies have shown that diverse editorial staffs are essential for reporting that is relatable and actionable for all audiences.
The Ida B. Wells Fellowship competition, now in its third year, is held annually. The program was made possible by support from Open Society Foundations and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation.