McGraw Center Announces Fall 2018 Business Journalism Fellows

  • By Ellen Lai

Six veteran journalists working on three projects have been named the latest recipients of the McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism. Each of the winning projects will receive a grant of up to $15,000.

The new McGraw Fellows will explore subjects ranging from income inequality in the U.S. economy and labor abuses in international supply chains to the racial impact of foreclosure among seniors living in urban neighborhoods.

The McGraw Fellowships, an initiative of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Center for Business Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, were created in 2014 to support ambitious coverage of critical issues related to the U.S. economy and business. The Fellowships – awarded twice a year – enable experienced journalists to produce deeply reported works of investigative or enterprise business journalism.

The new McGraw Fellows are:

  • Jeff Kelly Lowenstein and Nick Penzenstadler: Kelly Lowenstein, a freelance investigative journalist and professor at Grand Valley State University, and Penzenstadler, a reporter on USA TODAY’s national investigative team, will investigate the racial impact of foreclosure within federally-backed mortgage programs designed to keep seniors in their homes. They are examining a decades-long pattern in which banks, lenders, servicers and federal regulators targeting urban neighborhoods have contributed to thousands of minority borrowers losing their homes in the troubled program, despite efforts at reform by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
    • Kelly Lowenstein, based in Grand Rapids, MI, has done investigative work on race and poverty issues for more than a decade. His work has received national and international recognition from organizations like Investigative Reporters and Editors, the National Press Club and the National Headliner Club. A Fulbright Scholar, he has written or edited five books.
    • Penzenstadler is based in Denver, CO. He specializes in investigative work that is shared with and cultivated from the 109-property USA TODAY Network. He recently reported on President Trump’s private real estate ventures, legal entanglements and golf empire. His work has been recognized by the Scripps Howard Foundation and Education Writers Association. He previously worked at The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wis)and The Rapid City (S.D.) Journal.
  • Margie Mason, Robin McDowell and Martha Mendoza: Mason, McDowell and Mendoza, all members of The Associated Press’ global investigative team, will collaborate to examine labor abuses and international supply chains. The work builds on their Seafood From Slaves project, which led to the freedom of 2,000 enslaved migrant fishermen in Southeast Asia, arrests and convictions, the seizure of millions of dollars in assets and revisions to US law. The series won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service in 2016.
    • Mason is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has worked as an AP foreign correspondent in Asia for the past 15 years, covering some of the world’s biggest stories from more than 20 countries. Much of her coverage focuses on health, human rights and social justice — often involving women and children — in some of the globe’s poorest corners. Her stories often marry watchdog reporting with powerful narrative writing.
    • McDowell spent more than two decades in Southeast Asia, where she covered everything from bloody coups and al-Qaida-linked terrorist attacks to plane crashes, tsunamis and the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. Now based in Minnesota, she continues to focus on the world’s most vulnerable, including minorities and others who are persecuted because of their race, religion, gender or social status.
    • Mendoza is based in Santa Cruz, California. Her reports have prompted Congressional hearings and new legislation, Pentagon investigations and White House responses. Over the years, she has received a number of journalism awards for her coverage of human trafficking, environmental issues, immigration and border policies, health, terrorism and government transparency.
  • Gary Putka: A freelance journalist with broad experience editing and reporting business stories, Putka will use his fellowship to explore aspects of income-inequality in the US economy and workplace. As an editor at The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Putka managed reporting teams that won or contributed to four Pulitzer Prizes, four George Polk Awards and numerous other laurels for stories on business and philanthropic fraud, college admissions preferences for white applicants, deadly diet pills, crimes in cardiology, criminal-justice miscarriages, and more. As a reporter, he won the grand prize in the Benjamin Fine Awards for Outstanding Education Reporting for exposing pervasive cheating at an elite Pittsburgh high school, and his stories on collegiate price-fixing prompted a US Justice Department investigation and consent decree against Ivy League schools.

Roughly 100 journalists working in nearly a dozen countries applied for the latest round of Fellowships. Each winning project receives funding up to $15,000. In addition to financial backing, the McGraw Center provides Fellows with editorial guidance and, where needed, assistance in placing their stories with media outlets.

Applications for McGraw Fellowships are considered twice a year. The next deadline for proposals is December 14, 2018. For more information and the online application, go to

The McGraw Center for Business Journalism was established in early 2014 by the family of the late Harold W. McGraw, Jr., former chairman and CEO of McGraw-Hill and long-time publisher of BusinessWeek magazine. The Center is dedicated to enhancing the depth and quality of business news coverage through training, student scholarships and support for veteran journalists.

Jane Sasseen
Executive Director, McGraw Center