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Five Journalists Win McGraw Reporting Grants

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Five veteran journalists working on four 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 the growing influence of the anti-vaccination movement and the public health risks posed by the disposal of oil and gas waste, to the impact of changing immigration policy on the US economy.

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. Close to 50 journalists have won McGraw Fellowships to date.

The new McGraw Fellows are:

Jessica Camille Aguirre: A freelance journalist based in Germany, Aguirre’s Fellowship project will examine European carbon markets within the context of global climate change policy. Working in collaboration with German investigative news organization Correctiv, she will look at carbon credit trading fraud across multiple EU countries.

Aguirre’s work focuses primarily on the intersection between social or economic issues and the environment. She is a regular contributor to Vanity Fair’s the Hive, and her feature reporting has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, n+1, The New York Review of Books online, Men’s Journal, WIRED and many others. Her articles were included as notable work in the Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019 and the Best American Sports Writing 2019. She has received a number of awards, including third place for Outstanding Feature in 2020 from Society for Environmental Journalists. She is a visiting scholar at New York University.

Justin Nobel: A freelance science and environmental journalist working out of New York, Nobel will report on the booming oil and gas waste disposal industry. His project will focus on the industry’s liabilities and financing, as well as the public health risks and environmental justice issues posed by the landfills where waste ends up.

A regulator contributor to Rolling Stone, Audubon, and the environmental investigative site DeSmog Blog, Nobel has written about human trafficking in the offshore oil and gas industry, the rights of nature movement, and various hazards associated with unconventional oil and gas development. His recent reporting on oil and gas radioactivity has helped to inspire grassroots activism and legislation. He is working on a book on this topic to be published by Simon & Schuster.

Eric Pape and Gary Cohn: Pape, a freelance writer and editor, and Cohn, a Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter, will look into the fast-growing anti-vaccine movement and its implications for people and science in the age of Covid-19. Both are based in southern California and teach at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism.

Pape has reported extensively from five continents, including a stint as a Europe-based correspondent for Newsweek International. He has been deputy editor of the watchdog and investigative site Honolulu Civil Beat, a John S. Knight fellow at Stanford University, and a story advisor on the Peabody Award-winning documentary, “Who Killed Chea Vichea?” Pape’s work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Spin, Foreign Policy and dozens of other publications. He recently completed his second journalistic graphic “novel,” an immigrant woman’s powerful #MeToo story.

Cohn is a longtime investigative reporter whose stories have exposed wrongdoing and resulted in significant reforms. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for reporting on the human and environmental dangers posed by discarded ships and was a Pulitzer finalist in 1996 and 2001. His work has received numerous other journalism awards, including two Selden Ring Awards for investigative journalism, an Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) Medal, a George Polk Award for environmental reporting, and two Overseas Press Club awards.

Youyou Zhou: A New York-based freelance data journalist, Zhou works with graphics and code to tell stories. She will use the Fellowship to report on the impact of U.S. immigration policy on skilled workers and its economic implications in an increasingly globalized world.

The project builds on Zhou’s work at Quartz, where she covered immigration and the business of migration with data analysis, visualization, and interactive features. She was part of the team that investigated the death toll in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a project that won the Investigation of the Year in Data Journalism Awards, and she was awarded First Place in the Investigative Editors & Reporters’ Philip Meyer Award. Her news design and data visualization work has also been recognized by the Society for News Design and the Information is Beautiful Awards. Prior to Quartz, she built interactive news graphics for special projects and set events at the Associated Press.

Roughly 120 journalists working in a dozen countries applied for the latest round of Fellowships. In addition to financial backing, the McGraw Center provides Fellows with editorial guidance and, where needed, assistance in placing stories with media outlets.

Applications for McGraw Fellowships are considered twice a year. The next deadline for proposals is Jan. 15, 2021. For more information and the online application, please 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