19 women changing journalism in 2019

It’s not easy being a woman journalist. Nearly one-third of early career journalists consider leaving the profession due to attacks and harassment.
Meet the women who, against all odds, are turning the tide with reporting that challenges traditional narratives and brings new stories to light.

Ana and Eulimar
97% of women of reproductive age in Latin America and the Caribbean live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. Ana María Rodriguez and Eulimar Núñez’s striking multimedia piece “When abortion is a lifeline” shows the realities of women living under these restrictions through video, graphics and text.

Healthcare stories often feel clinical and detached, but Ana and Eulimar’s passion for women’s health and visual storytelling skills ensured this story was personal. In Eulimar’s words:

“The future of journalism relies on trust and engagement with the communities [we report on]… I [want to] keep humanizing the issues, explaining the facts and the science, and telling stories in innovative ways so people pay attention.”

This unique approach grabbed the attention of some of media’s most prestigious awards: Ana and Eulimar won a 2019 Gracie Award for Interactive Media, and were nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy for Outstanding New Approaches. The work hasn’t stopped there – Ana and Eulimar are working together to tell more stories, this time on the women protecting abortion access in the U.S. South.

Tara Gatewood

Tara Gatewood is the award-winning host and producer of Native American Calling, a one-of-a-kind radio program providing thought-provoking conversations on issues specific to Indigenous nations, like health care, culture, politics, pop culture and justice. Her unique position is vital to creating a better understanding of Native American lives nationwide. To her, journalism is closely tied to community:

“In our Indigenous communities journalism is a natural part of our culture as we are traditionally story gatherers. Technology and new media platforms are accelerating the journalism that’s already been a part of our Indigenous communities from the start and are helping our stories extend into the future.”

Gatewood doesn’t just report the news, she’s also working to promote and provide skills to her community, developing a curriculum for Native American youth to hear voices of contemporary Native American women. Additionally, Gatewood wants to pay it forward by taking the skills she learns from the Gwen Ifill Mentorship program to mentor others coming out of our Native nations, especially those also interested in radio. Representation matters – Tara is working to ensure we all see that, too.

Title: Erika Schultz and Corinne Chin

Usually stories of deportation focus on people right as they leave the country, but what happens when they go back? In their groundbreaking and visually remarkable report “Beyond the Border,” Seattle Times reporters Erika Schultz and Corinne Chin worked to serve their community by connecting asylum and immigration issues in Mexico and Central America to Washington state.

As visual journalists, Erika and Corinne dive deeper when they’re behind the camera, focusing on strong connections before and after the shot, while carefully connecting the story to the broader context of the world. To both journalists, the future of journalism is rooted in the community it’s covering. For Corinne:

“Journalism [needs to be] more inclusive, where more members of our communities see themselves fairly reflected in our coverage in complex and multifaceted ways.”

That approach shines clearly through their work. In ‘Beyond Borders,’ they painted a fuller picture of the immigration debate and demonstrated how issues like these affect everyone and should be covered by local newsrooms in every corner of the country.

Sarah and Aqilah
Journalists Sarah Conway and Aqilah Allaudeen in collaboration with Borderless Magazine staff (Michelle Kanaar, Nissa Rhee and Alex Hernandez) reported on holistic and trauma-informed legal and social care for asylum seekers in Chicago. In a feature story published by Chicago Readers and Borderless Magazine, six asylum seekers told their personal narratives of experiencing the asylum process, detention centers and family separation under the Trump administration. The piece, visualized through illustrated portraits, demonstrates the realities of those seeking asylum. The project has also evolved into a super cool comic book, proving comics aren’t just for superheroes.

The two have continuously focused their journalism on showcasing the ways that our increasingly globalized world are interconnected. Aqilah’s extensive travels sparked a passion for engaging with issues at the intersection of social justice and business – finding that every business story has profound socioeconomic consequences. Sarah is a co-founder and editorial director at Borderless Magazine, a nonprofit news outlet reimagining immigration journalism for a more equitable future. Both incredible journalists encourage us to explore beyond where most people think the story stops.

Eileen Guo

Freelance print, web, and audio journalist Eileen Guo is no stranger to shaking up the status quo. Having “never really worked in a traditional newsroom, nor even gone to journalism school,” Eileen has dedicated her career to reporting on communities on the fringe of the mainstream. It’s no surprise, then, that her work on wildlife trafficking is reframing the conversation around black market trade.

When you think of international black market trade, chances are that narcotics, human trafficking, and weapons come to mind. But Eileen focused on the fourth most lucrative black market good: rosewood, a tropical hardwood often used to make musical instruments and furniture. Reaching more than 1.5 million people on Apple News alone (you read that right), Eileen’s story for National Geographic showed the intense impact of timber trafficking in Guatemala. The story not only exposed this environmental crisis, but helped shift the narrative in a country where stories like these are rarely told. In this way, Eileen’s work contributes to a future of journalism that she believes will have “more diversity, representation, and accountability.”

Title: Shola Lawal

At just 26, Nigerian journalist Shola Lawal has already established herself as a key voice throughout the African continent. Shola has dedicated her career to sharing stories of humanity and injustice, such as the women’s rights movement in Nigeria, migrants in Libya, forest reserves in Ghana and political upheaval in Togo. This year, she raised the bar for young journalists, receiving the 2019 Future Awards Africa Prize for Journalism, considered the “most important awards for outstanding young Africans.”

As our 2019 Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow, Shola hasn’t missed a beat. While interning at the Boston Globe and taking classes at both Harvard and MIT (no big deal), Shola’s reporting continues to elevate voices that often go unheard. During a recent trip to Tapachula, Mexico, Shola explored the lives of migrants from Central America, Africa and the Caribbean, shining a light on the overwhelming obstacles they face in search of asylum. Shola’s not just doing it all — she’s doing it well.

Karen Coates and Valeria Fernandez

Karen Coates and Valeria Fernández peeled back the curtain on one of American agriculture’s darkest truths. Their story for Unseen America, “The Young Hands that Feed Us,” profiles the estimated 524,000 children who are picking food to help their families make ends meet. Karen and Valeria raised the voices of these minors who, thanks to weak child labor laws, perform the “job that no one wants.”

The story has received widespread attention for taking an in-depth look at this all too common practice – and plans are in place to adapt it for a younger audience. “It’s critical for other children to learn about the experiences of their peers,” Karen said.

“Kids need to learn early on how important evidence-based reporting, fact-checking and truthful storytelling are to our democracy and our future. And the best way to teach that is to expose children to deeply reported journalism that matters.”

Jasmine Brown

Jasmine Brown is not new to the IWMF community – her reporting covers a wide range of issues from social justice to climate change, taking her to some of the most remote places in the world. She’s made her mark through her Fund for Women Journalists project “The Marshall Islands, A Nation That Fears It’s On the Brink of Extinction,” that aired on ABC’s Nightline (“impressive” doesn’t begin to describe that one). Previously, Jasmine worked her way up through the ranks at ‘20/20,’ where she contributed to ABC’s Peabody Award winning coverage of Hurricane Sandy.

Continuing to make her mark on the industry, Jasmine is part of our inaugural Gwen Ifill Mentorship mentee cohort. For her, the future of journalism is tackling tropes:

“Lately, I’ve grown tired of the phrase ‘history repeats itself,’ more and more it feels like an excuse. I’m constantly pushing myself to use journalism as a tool to break down cycles of oppression and suppression.”

Jill and Nichole

Jill Filipovic and Nichole Sobecki aren’t afraid to chase down the story. Both women have reported on some of the world’s most complex stories in recent years, from Jill’s steadfast reporting on abortion access around the world to Nichole’s intrepid coverage of the Westgate mall attacks in Kenya.

Reporting on the highly stigmatized issues of sexual abuse and abortion in Honduras, “finding sources who would talk to us was the greatest difficulty.” Both logistically and emotionally, these stories are hard to tell, but Jill and Nichole’s drive to tell women’s truths led them to persist, resulting in a stunning 4,500 word feature and a photo spread in POLITICO magazine. Capturing the powerful stories of Honduran women and girls faced with few options but to flee their country to find security, Jill and Nichole’s reporting shows that the toughest stories are often those that most need to be told.

Jareen Imam

To say Jareen Imam is making a splash is an understatement. From being part of newsgathering for Peabody Award-winning Arab Spring reporting with CNN, to now leading a global team who find, verify and report on breaking and trending news stories at NBC, she’s making a full wave. Beyond being part of our Gwen Ifill mentorship program, she’s involved in Take the Lead’s “50 women who can change journalism” fellowship. As part of the group, Jareen is on the planning committee of #WomenDoNews, an initiative editing Wikipedia to include more entries about women in journalism. As of today, only 17% of entries are of women – that’s a bleak statistic.

Through our mentorship program, Jareen is growing her leadership skills to empower the next generation of journalists to report and tell stories that matter to them, their communities and worldwide audiences. To her, the future of journalism lies within the public:

“We need to invite the audience into our process… What people want to see is accountability and change. They want to see impact and solutions in their communities. If the journalism industry can do that, if it can reprioritize what matters for the people, then there is a possibility for better, sustainable journalism in the future.”

Julia Gavarrete and Heather Gies

It’s not often that journalists have the opportunity to follow a story all the way through. When Heather Gies and Julia Gavarrete interviewed Jorge, a teenage boy seeking asylum from Honduras during a reporting trip to Tijuana, they didn’t expect to hear of his brutal murder just one week later. Compelled to continue telling Jorge’s story, Heather and Julia travelled to his hometown of San Pedro Sula to speak with his family, resulting in a heart-wrenching narrative on the dangers Honduran refugees face both at home and while seeking asylum.

Heather and Julia’s careers have both centered on bringing attention to stories of vulnerable communities and human rights injustices in Central America. Their thoughtful storytelling brings a new level of humanity to these issues – as Julia says, “Being a journalist means having the conviction to generate change. But we can only…make things change course by listening to people’s stories.”

Victoria Moll-Ramírez is known for her passion for focusing on the human impact of stories, as well as for her relentless reporting. The proud daughter of a Honduran mother, Victoria has witnessed the struggles her family has had to overcome in Honduras just to obtain a better life. She has turned that opportunity into a movement to share stories with depth. She’s covered breaking stories from the migrant crisis in Honduras to pushing to profile THE Latinx artist Romeo Santos for ABC’s Nightline. By pursuing these big stories, she enables more representation in the news media – which we all know we need more of.

For Victoria, the future of journalism is about being able to adapt: “The digital revolution and shifting country demographics have created an unpredictable future and an undeniable need for journalism. I am proud and excited to be on the frontlines of that change.”

Nadia Shira Cohen
Freelance photojournalist Nadia Shira Cohen always knew she wanted to be a photographer, but her journey to becoming an award-winning photojournalist was difficult. At 15 she received her first camera; in the same moment, she was diagnosed with cancer. She began to make self-portraits to document the physical and emotional evolution of being sick as well as photographing her fellow oncology patients at Mass General Hospital in Boston. Fast forward, and now her work is internationally recognized.

In April 2019, Nadia, alongside IWMF fellow Nina Strochlic, published her environmental story from the Yucatán Peninsula, “An unlikely feud between beekeepers and Mennonites simmers in Mexico,” in National Geographic. The impact of the story was immediate. The President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador visited Campeche the next day and publicly responded to their article. Nadia was awarded 2nd place in the Environmental category of the 2019 Photo Contest held by World Press Photo. It doesn’t stop there: this piece also earned her the 2019 Yves Rocher Foundation Grant, and Nadia is one of two Eugene Smith Memorial Fund finalists awarded a Leonian Grant for her continuing work on this project. In short, she’s #goals.

These 19 amazing journalists are just some of the more than 200 women journalists who received $2.1 million in direct support from the IWMF in 2019. This year alone:
  • 156 journalists participated in 10 Hostile Environment and First Aid Trainings (HEFATs) conducted by the IWMF in the U.S. and Latin America;
  • 140 news features were produced by IWMF grantees and fellows; and
  • Journalists in distress received $70,000 from the IWMF’s Emergency Fund.
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