Max Maldonado ’22 Wins Grant for Documentary on Environmental Racism

  • By Newmark J-School Staff
José Jesús Zaragoza (left) and Max Maldonado ’22

Max Maldonado, a 2022 graduate of the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, has won the inaugural Economic Hardship Reporting Project/Newmark J-School Reporting Grant from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

EHRP, a nonprofit that supports independent journalists telling stories about systems that perpetuate economic inequity, awarded the $5,000 grant to Maldonado and has paired him with a mentor, filmmaker Juanita Ceballos, who will help him develop a short documentary.

The purpose of the grant is to provide an exceptional Newmark graduate funding to produce ambitious works of journalism about inequity. Grantees receive a reporting stipend, mentorship, and connections to editors at news organizations. They also have access to Newmark J-School production equipment and facilities during the grant year.

Maldonado’s documentary investigates environmental racism through the practice of sugarcane burning in the Florida Everglades. While pre-harvest burning has been mostly phased out around the world, Big Sugar continues to hold fast to this process, despite claims from health experts that the smoke is harming the nearby black and brown communities. Maldonado developed an interest in the area after he helped a local non-profit deliver food to the residents of the low-income communities of the Glades. He is currently working on the project with his co-director José Jesús Zaragoza.

Maldonado is a freelance journalist and cinematographer based in New York City. He started in journalism as a college student working for the radio station of Florida Atlantic University, reporting on local stories in South Florida. At the Newmark J-School, he specialized in documentary filmmaking with a concentration in health and science reporting.

His mentor, Ceballos, is a documentary producer and cinematographer in New York. She has covered Colombia’s civil conflict, police brutality in the United States, and the refugee crisis in Venezuela.