Four Business Journalists Win Reporting Grants

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Four veteran journalists 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 U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s inequitable treatment of African American farmers and the growth of the “rent-to-own” housing market to trends in overtime pay for U.S. employees and the difficulties migrant workers face in receiving back wages they are owed.

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. Roughly 50 journalists have won McGraw Fellowships to date.

The new Fall 2021 McGraw Fellows are:

  • Marcus Baram: A freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y., Baram will explore the evolution of the overtime wage rule in the United States in recent decades.

A longtime reporter and editor, Baram has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Village Voice, New York magazine, and the New York Daily News. Currently, he edits and writes stories on income inequality and the powerful influence of the oil and gas industry for Capital & Main. Previously, he was a senior editor at Fast Company magazine, where he edited several award-winning feature stories, and worked as an editor at HuffPost and The New York Observer. His 2014 biography of the late Gil Scott-Heron, “Pieces of a Man,” was named a notable book by The New Yorker.

  • Rebecca Burns: A Chicago-based independent journalist, Burns will examine the role of institutional investors in housing markets and the growth of the “rent-to-own” industry.

For the last decade, Burns has chronicled the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis in Chicago and nationwide. Her reporting on housing and finance has appeared in outlets including Bloomberg Green, the Chicago Reader, the Huffington Post and USA Today. Her investigation into the post-2008 return in Chicago of contract selling, an infamous form of predatory lending, won multiple local and national awards and contributed to the passage of new state regulations. Burns is also a contributing editor and former staff writer for In These Times magazine 

  • April Simpson: A senior reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, Simpson will examine how USDA lending practices have contributed to racial and economic inequality in farming communities.

Simpson joined Public Integrity in October 2020 to cover racial equity. She was previously the rural issues reporter at Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Before joining Pew, she was an associate editor at Current, where she covered public media and won recognition for her #MeToo investigation of a veteran reporter. Simpson was a U.S. Fulbright fellow in Botswana, an Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo fellow with the International Women’s Media Foundation, and an Innovations in Food and Agriculture fellow with the National Press Foundation.

  • Tina Vasquez: A senior staff writer at The Counter, a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on investigative journalism and the business, politics, and culture of food, Vasquez will use her Fellowship to report on back wages that are owed to migrant workers.

 Vasquez is a North Carolina-based journalist with more than 10 years of experience reporting on immigration, reproductive injustice, labor, food, and culture. She is the first immigration reporter for The Counter, where she is carving out a beat covering the intersections of migration, labor, gender, and food systems. In 2020, she was Type Investigations’  Ida B. Wells Southern Fellow. Her work has appeared in the New York Review of Books, Playboy, NPR, Bitch Magazine, Scalawag, and a variety of other publications.

Nearly 100 journalists working on stories across a wide array of subjects applied for the latest round of the Fellowships. Each winning project receives funding up to $15,000. In addition to financial backing, the McGraw Center provides Fellows with editorial guidance and assistance in placing stories with media outlets.

Applications for McGraw Fellowships are considered twice a year. The next deadline for proposals is March 31, 2022. For more information, an FAQ, and the online application, please go to  You’ll find examples of our Fellows’ published work on our Fellowship Stories page.

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 coverage through training, student scholarships, and support for veteran journalists.


Jane Sasseen
Executive Director, McGraw Center