Diversity fellowships announced


Jan. 23, 2017


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The Fund for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University are pleased to announce the winners of our nationally competitive journalism initiative funded by the Ford Foundation, with the express goal of increasing diverse and inclusive voices and topics in investigative journalism.

Five journalists will be awarded grants and fellowships for social justice investigative reporting projects, and two early-career journalists selected as “Rising Stars” will receive editorial mentorships in addition to grants and fellowships to support their projects.

Lisa Armstrong, Michele Chabin, Lottie Joiner, Jaeah Lee and Linda Matchan were selected as FIJ Schuster Institute Social Justice Investigative Reporting Fellows and will receive grants and fellowships to conduct their investigative reporting.

The two selected as Investigative Journalism Rising Stars are Sonia Paul and Stacy Thacker.

The diversity fellows will investigate critical contemporary issues such as women’s legal rights, the criminal justice system’s treatment of juveniles, human rights issues involving prisoners, tribal government policies affecting current and future generations, and more.

Judges for the selection process said the choices were difficult to make because they received many excellent applications to undertake serious investigative stories that could have far-reaching impacts. The “rising stars” category was added to this diversity initiative by FIJ, the Schuster Institute and the Ford Foundation.

“The impressive array of proposals we received reflected a desire by independent investigative journalists to take on the toughest issues facing our society. It is a strong reminder that the well of investigative journalism is deep and filled with talented reporters whose skills we are proud to help put on display,” said Ricardo Sandoval Palos, president of FIJ. “My only disappointment is that we could not award fellowships for all of the proposed projects.”

“We began this initiative believing there were important stories in diverse communities that weren’t being told. And those who applied confirmed this. We received many outstanding proposals from journalists of color and women journalists from across the country. Now more than ever, it is crucially important that diverse voices are reflected in news coverage, starting with those who investigate and tell the stories. We are grateful to be part of this initiative with FIJ and the Ford Foundation,” said Florence Graves, Schuster Institute founding director and editor-in-chief.

“The Ford Foundation has always been proud to support a range of high-quality, independent investigative journalism, which feels even more urgent at this moment when the public needs information it can trust. Disrupting inequality is a priority for the Foundation, and we believe that increased diversity and inclusion of stories and storytellers can be a powerful tool in that effort,” said Ford Foundation program officer Barbara Raab.


Lisa Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with credits in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Intercept, The Daily Beast and several other publications and websites. She has reported from several countries, including Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Philippines, and reported from Haiti from 2010 to 2014. She is currently reporting on juvenile incarceration and recently published a story about minors who have been sentenced to life without parole.
Michele Chabin is the Jerusalem-based correspondent for USA TODAY, Religion News Service, the New York Jewish Week and the National Catholic Register. Although she frequently covers wars and terrorism, she much prefers writing about religion-state issues, cultural trends, scientific innovation, women’s empowerment, poverty and social justice.
Lottie Joiner is an award-winning journalist who covers race, social justice, civil rights and culture. Her work focuses on issues of health disparities, poverty and inequality. She has written for The Washington Post, The Daily Beast,, and Essence magazine and produced several podcasts on race and policing for USA TODAY.
Jaeah Lee is a freelance journalist in San Francisco. She was most recently a reporter at Mother Jones, covering law enforcement and criminal justice after Ferguson. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Guardian, VICE News, Pop Up Magazine, and others. In 2015, she was part of a team at Mother Jones that won an Online Journalism Award for a series on the cost of gun violence in America.
Linda Matchan has been a print and multimedia reporter and editor for the Boston Globe and a documentary filmmaker, with a focus on social justice and the arts. Now a freelance journalist, her lengthy career at the Globe included a series on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. She is a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for her multimedia project about Inuit suicide in the Canadian Arctic, and for her 2015 documentary Circus Without Borders.


Sonia Paul is an independent journalist, radio producer and contributing editor at Her work focuses on culture, corruption, identity politics and media, with an emphasis on revealing injustices and challenging assumptions. Her enterprise reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Policy, VICE News and on Public Radio International, among others. She was based in Lucknow, India, as a freelance journalist from 2013 to 2015.
Stacy Thacker is an enrolled member of the Navajo tribe and grew up on the Navajo Nation. She decided on journalism as a career to give a voice to Native Americans in communities that might not have one. She writes: “I am early in my career but I’ve made it a point to take reporting positions in places that are near reservations so I can continue my quest of telling as many Native American stories as I can.”

This initiative was funded by the Creativity & Free Expression unit of the Ford Foundation, an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 75 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The Fund for Investigative Journalism (FIJ). Since 1969, FIJ has supported the work of independent journalists who have tips, sources, and ideas, but lack the resources needed to do their investigations. The late Philip M. Stern founded FIJ to invest in the work of determined journalists in the fight against racism, poverty, corporate greed, and governmental corruption. FIJ-supported projects have won a wide array of journalistic honors, including Pulitzer Prizes, the George Polk Award, the Sigma Delta Chi Award, and many others. Please see for more information.

The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University is a collaborative, investigative newsroom focusing on social justice and human rights issues as well as government accountability and transparency. We dive into systemic problems afflicting those who are poor, voiceless, or forgotten—with an eye toward informing policymakers and public debate. Launched in 2004 by Florence Graves to help fill the void in high-quality public interest and investigative journalism, the Institute was the nation’s first independent, investigative reporting center based at a university. Our staff and Schuster Institute Fellows cover such subjects as human trafficking and modern-day slavery; criminal justice; race and justice; food and health; government and corporate wrongdoing; environmental justice; gender and justice; political and social justice; and border issues and immigration. Please see and for more information about our award-winning reporting.