Introducing the 2016 Tow-Knight Fellows

  • By Newmark J-School Staff
Photo by Skyler Reid
Photo by Skyler Reid

We recently welcomed our sixth cohort of entrepreneurial journalism fellows at the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. Each of our 18 new fellows is spending a semester with us at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism to develop his/her own venture.

Our 2016 fellows come from 12 countries: Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, India, Japan, Sierra Leone, Turkey, the United States, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. They’ll be introducing their projects in the weeks and months to come as they learn, experiment and explore new ways to serve communities sustainably with new journalism products and services.

We believe in sharing anything and everything we can that might be helpful to others, so we’ll be sharing lessons we’re learning, resources we find useful and insights we gather over the course of our collective journey. We’ll also be sharing updates about our program alumni and their ventures.


Santiago, Chile | | @CaroAstuya

Bio: I’m a specialist journalist in digital and multi-platform content. I’ve more than 15 years of experience in TV contents, social TV and digital audiences. Leader of the first 2 Social TV study in Chile (2014-2015). I’m part of  the Latin American network Chicas Poderosas, the creator and the first Labs director  and I’m supporting the Comunications of Laboratoria Chile, a social entrepreneurship. My main goal is to achieve women to become empowered with the technology use and experience in digital areas.

Project: MetroCommunity. MetroCommunity is an app for people who use Metro (the Chilean Subway), where they will find positive information and will join a community with others who are travelling many hours, day after day, through this transportation way.


New York, New York, USA || @johnemryseller

Bio: Emrys Eller is a multimedia journalist focused on health and ecology. His work has published in The Guardian, WNYC, and The Village Voice, among others. He grew up playing chess and chasing moose through Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Since leaving rural Alaska, he has traveled to dozens of cities across four continents and lived in Seattle, Austin, New York and Santiago, Chile.

Project: RadioScope. RadioScope uses motion graphics, photo manipulation and animation to create visuals for investigative print and podcasts to open new distribution channels on the web, such as Youtube, Facebook and other social media.


Istanbul, Turkey | | @denizergurel

Bio: Deniz Ergürel is a technology journalist and a social entrepreneur aiming to help people better understand the challenges and opportunities of new technologies, all in an effort to improve the quality of our lives. He is the founder of a news service that brings the best virtual & augmented reality stories.

Project: Haptical is dedicated to curate top virtual & augmented reality news from around the world in a weekly newsletter. The aim is to give decision makers and entrepreneurs a better understanding of the growing VR and AR markets.


Sydney, Australia | or | @peterfray

Bio: I am an editor, reporter, fact-checker and recently turned academic. I hold the position of professor of journalism practice at University of Technology Sydney. As an editor or editor-in-chief, I’ve run The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald, The Sunday Age and The Canberra Times and PolitiFact Australia.  My reporting beats have included politics, religion, media, arts, foreign affairs and agriculture. I am at CUNY to help make new jobs in journalism.

Project: GoClevr. GoClevr is for readers who don’t have the time to find their favourite authors or seek out new ones. It is a mobile app that scours the world to deliver fresh insights and analysis from journalists with the brightest minds and sharpest wits.


São Paulo, Brazil | | @laigous

Bio: Ligia Guimarães is a brazilian journalist writing mostly about economics for 12 years, as a reporter and assistant editor. Always very driven for people’s stories, trying to insert people in the economical themes. Worked for 6 years at G1, the biggest news website in Brazil; working since 2012 for the national newspaper Valor Economico. She believes that brazilian women are accomplishing amazing journeys and breaking stereotypes everyday, but Brazil’s media is not telling their stories the way they deserve.

Project: The first website devoted to tell uplifting life stories of women in Brazil, showing how the notion of motherhood affected these women’s life decisions, in the context of the public policies related to each story.


New Delhi/Bangalore, India | | @hrvenkatesh

Bio: Venkatesh is building a mission-led, independent news service dedicated to Indian politics. He has 14 years experience as a journalist. He was previously Editor, running the newsroom at The Quint, and just before that, Director of Communications at India. His longest role, for 9 years, was as Senior Anchor, CNN-IBN. Graduated: Oxford, Symbiosis and Bangalore Universities. Obsessessions: Entrepreneurship, journalism, tech, books and his family.

Project: NetaData independent, non-partisan news service dedicated to Indian politics, policy and data.


New York, New York | | @ghazalairshad

Bio: Ghazala Irshad is a multimedia journalist focused on diversity, women’s rights, refugees, Muslims, and the Middle East. She is also a social media strategist with experience in the advertising and PR industries. Ghazala has eaten and Instagrammed her way around the world with the UAE-produced travel show Peeta Planet, tweeted the Arab Spring from Egypt, and taught photography and English to refugees from Southeast Asia to the Middle East. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Gawker, Roads & Kingdoms, and more. Ghazala now aims to channel her experience and interests in a new venture as the founder of a travel community to connect young Muslim travelers and inspire immersive exploration.

Project: On the surface, Travel Moor (working title) is a digital community for young Muslim travelers to connect, share tips and stories, and inspire authentic exploration. On a deeper level, Travel Moor encourages young Muslim travelers to engage with locals in an effort to dispel stereotypes and build bridges across cultural divides.


Tokyo, Japan | | @k_ishii

Bio: Katsunao Ishii is an editor of G2 magazine and nonfiction books published by Kodansha, which is one the largest publishing houses in Japan. G2, issued quarterly, is the only specialized nonfiction magazine published in Japan. He has  also edited many literary nonfiction books and handled the work of Japan’s prominent writers and journalists. He is  beginning his new project after he returns to Tokyo in 2016, in the hopes that he would help the Japanese nonfiction sector survive and hopefully thrive.

Project: Repofeed. A website of Japanese nonfictions, where writers publish stories and get research costs, readers enroll to access stories and editors work as agents.


Washington, DC, USA |  | @bloomfornews

Bio: Stephen Jefferson has been a software developer for the past decade, primarily working on freelance projects for small businesses.  Through experience, he has acquired a passion to also work outside of code and manage his own projects.  Stephen formed a nonprofit in high school to raise awareness for skateboarding in his hometown of Loudoun County, Virginia.  Stephen continued his entrepreneurial spirit by founding Bloom in 2014 to explore new opportunities for journalism.

Project: Bloom. Bloom empowers local news to be shared more intimately with its community.  The platform allows journalists to leverage geography in their stories, offering readers a more personal experience for places they view important.


Harare, Zimbabwe | | @fungaijustbeing

Bio: I am a journalist, researcher and editor with an academic background in journalism and media studies, and international development. I am also the founder of Her Zimbabwe, a women’s web-based platform promoting feminist thought leadership in Zimbabwe. With most of my work experience being in the non-profit sector, I am keen to use this opportunity with CUNY to enhance my understanding of for-profit media and revenue streams.

Project: Her Zimbabwe, which is an online startup gathering news, critique and analysis from young Zimbabwean women.


Freetown, Sierra Leone | | @iamansaray / @theafricapaper

Bio: Issa A. Mansaray is the founder of The AfricaPaper. Born in Sierra Leone, he has traveled throughout Africa, Europe, and the U.S., reporting on press freedom, politics, and human rights violations. He is co-founder of the Africa Institute for International Reporting (AIIR) defending press freedom, training, and assisting African journalists. A graduate of Webster University and The School of Journalism, Columbia University, NY., he served the Minnesota Media Council for two years. Mansaray is an award winning journalist, and most recently a Kiplinger Fellow on Public Affairs Journalism at Ohio State University, and Donald W. Reynolds Business Journalism Fellow at Arizona State University.

Project: The AfricaPaper covers Africa’s 54 countries, its diaspora, politics, people, businesses, education, and development for its communities in US, Europe, and the world.


Sao Paulo, Brazil | | @thiagomedaglia

Bio: I’ve been travelling since 2004 to places out of the tourist maps: I crossed deserts in Chile, rivers in Central Brazil and indigenous areas in the Amazon Basin. As an independent reporter for National Geographic Brazil, I solidified a strong network with some of the leading scientists in my country. In the past 2 years I’ve been working mostly with data journalism. My project, Ambiental, is born with the goal to shorten the path between scientific knowledge and the common public.

Project: Ambiental ( Ambiental is a digital global community where media professional (journalists, programmers, developers, photographers, video-makers) and researchers can join forces to generate reliable free content.


New York City, USA | | @namenzie

Bio: Nicola Menzie is a religion reporter who has worked for more than a decade in digital news media. During her four years on staff with an online Christian newspaper, Nicola observed a dearth of representation of minority and women voices in religion news media. She is now developing a digital publication, called Faithfully Magazine, to challenge this trend. The purpose of the news site is to add diversity of thought and representation to conversations about Christianity and its intersection with myriad other issues.

Project: Faithfully Magazine. Faithfully Magazine is a fun, bold and inclusive platform that covers news, culture, and Christianity from a distinctly counter-cultural and transcultural perspective.


Caracas, Venezuela | | @LuzMelyReyes

Bio: Luz Mely Reyes is a Venezuelan journalist, entrepreneur, writer and political analyst who co-founded of Efecto Cocuyo, an independent media organization based in Caracas. She has worked for the most relevant newspapers in her country as a reporter, political editor and investigative editor. In 2012 she became the first woman to be editor in chief of a national Venezuelan newspaper. She has specialized on in-depth journalism, investigative reporting and political issues, with focus in elections. She also has experience in the convergence process in newsroom, multimedia organizations and printed media.

In 2015, due to the hostile environment for independent media, she quit her position and cofounded Efecto Cocuyo as an innovative site that delivers in-depth  reports in a conflictive and restrictive environment. She believes that the “perfect storm” which is pushing traditional media is an opportunity for journalists to go a step beyond their traditional role and become owners of media which can be sustainable and innovative.

Project: Efecto Cocuyo. Efecto Cocuyo is  an independent media founded by  Venezuelan journalists who have  introducing new ways to build a strong community of users through social media and apps, especially  Twitter and WhatsApp.


Fort-de-France, Martinique | | @callmemadly

Bio: Madly Schenin-King is the founder of Veille Tourisme Antilles, a platform which aims at better involving Caribbean host communities in the travel business through information and resources. For five years she worked in corporate communications with French and international brands (manufacturing, education, supply chain etc.). She has been running her own venture since 2015. Born and raised in Martinique (French Caribbean), she is currently based in Paris and has lived in Spain. Madly holds a Master’s degree from La Sorbonne.

Project: Veille Tourisme Antilles fills the gap between local communities in the Caribbean and the travel industry. We enable hosts (residents, local businesses) to keep updated of what’s going on in the sector. From hotel openings to new airlines or job offers, we give them the knowledge and resources needed to better understand this business and shift from “passive hosts” to active members in the value chain.


Nuremberg, Germany |  | @vic_schneider

Bio: Victoria Schneider is a freelance writer usually based between Johannesburg and Beirut. She spends most of the time in the field, in villages and rural areas, where she studies peoples’ lives and ways of living before she reports on them. Her work in Africa evolves around foreign investments, especially mining companies, and how they affect local communities. The rest of the year she is in Gaza City, Jerusalem and Beirut searching for human stories that can make the Westen audience relate to the region.

Project: Project Name TK. A multimedia platform that challenges conventional foreign correspondency by remixing voices from the Middle East and the West in their mother tongue as well as in translation in order to make debates in the respective region accessible for both sides (and overcome prejudices).


New York, US |  | @CookingWGranny

Bio: Caroline Shin is a multimedia journalist and the creator of the Cooking with Granny web series where New York grandmothers from diverse cultures cook secret family recipes and share genuine, often unheard stories about war, immigration, motherhood, and more. Her Kickstarter-funded show has been featured on NBC News, NY Daily News, NY1, and Apollo Theater. Her work has also appeared on New York Magazine, In Style, and CNN. Caroline seeks to preserve culture through food and storytelling, and cast diversity both on and behind the camera.

Project: Cooking With Granny ( What started off as a stand-alone video series is gaining new legs as a diversified business model.


Sao Paulo, Brazil | | @ProjetoStock

Bio: I am a multi-task journalist with a weak spot for human rights stories and data-driven projects. I have been working for news agencies, newspapers, magazines and online media over the past 10 years, covering topics from the World Cup and presidential elections in Brazil to technology, financial markets and human development. In 2014, I decided to create Volt Data Lab ( and turn this project into the first data-driven news agency in Brazil. I am still figuring out how to do this.

Project: Volt Data Lab ( Volt is the first data-driven news agency in Brazil, reporting on human rights, social development, economic issues and technology