InquireFirst launches Cross-Border Science Journalism Project in Merida, Mexico


Fabiano Maisonnave (left), Amazon correspondent for the influential Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, and Alexa Vélez, senior editor of Mongabay Latin America, react during an InquireFirst workshop to the announcement that they will receive a reporting grant for a project focusing on the environmentally sensitive Amazon. Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

MERIDA, Mexico – InquireFirst is pleased to announce our first regional reporting project which will be conducted by two South American reporters as part of a new initiative to encourage cross-border reporting on science, health and the environment by Latin American journalists.

A partnership with The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Department of Science Education, the Cross-Border Science Journalism Project was launched in February with the awarding of financial support to Fabiano Maisonnave, Amazon correspondent for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, and Alexa Vélez, senior editor for the online environmental news site Mongabay Latin America.

The project proposed by Maisonnave and Vélez was selected during an environmental investigative journalism workshop organized by InquireFirst in Merida, Mexico from Feb. 16-20, 2020. The project, which focuses on the environmentally sensitive Amazon, will be published in May 2020.

Maisonnave, who is based in Manaus, Brazil, has been reporting from the Amazon for the past three years.  As an international journalist, his reporting has taken him to 32 countries and he has reported from Caracas, Washington, D.C. and Beijing.  Maisonnave has a master’s degree in history from the University of Connecticut and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2016.

Vélez is the senior editor of Mongabay Latin America, a media organization headquartered in Lima, Peru that focuses on global environmental issues. Founded in 1999, Mongabay has teams of journalists in the United States, Indonesia, Latin America, India and Brazil.  Vélez’s work has been recognized with numerous reporting and editing awards.

The editor of the project is Iván Carrillo, a science journalist with more than 20 years of experience as a writer, editor and television anchor. Carrillo is part of the 2016-2017 generation of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT. He is an independent contributor to National Geographic and the Latin American editions of Newsweek and has collaborated with Discovery Channel and CNN en Español.

In 2020, InquireFirst will issue three additional calls for cross-border reporting proposals. In March, the editorial focus will be on health, in May the focus will be on water and/or ocean conservation, and in July the focus will be on nutrition, biotechnology and/or food production.

To ensure credibility and fairness, an international panel of judges will select the winning team in each category.  The winners will be announced on

By launching this regional initiative, InquireFirst and HHMI’s Department of Science Education aim to convene, inspire and encourage the work of science writers in Latin America.  Across Latin America, science journalism plays a vital role in providing rigorous and current information to increasingly diverse audiences. Through our support of collaborative projects, we hope to strengthen the network of experienced Latin American science writers by providing them with reporting resources and new outlets where they can publish their outstanding work.


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Gabriela MinjaresGabriela Minjares, an investigative journalist who is co-founder of La Verdad de Juárez in Ciudad Juárez, México, reports that her news organization received a grant in June 2019 from the International Center for Journalists which is providing seed funding and technical assistance to develop new business models to ensure the economic sustainability of La Verdad de Juárez. Gabriela credits InquireFirst’s February 2019 Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop with providing her with new ideas which she and her colleagues included in their successful grant proposal.

Aldo BenitezAldo Benítez, deputy editor of the in-depth Sunday section of La Nación in Asunción, Paraguay, conducted a 4-day workshop at the Escuela D Periodistas in May-June 2019 during which he taught Paraguayan journalists the tools and techniques he learned during InquireFirst’s February 2019 Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop. The subjects he covered included interview techniques and ethical treatment of sources; steps for reporting and writing an investigative report; and cybersecurity protocols.

Lucia MimiagaLucía Mimiaga, editor of the Investigative Unit of El Debate in Culiacán, Sinaloa, produced a documentary about femicides and the disappearance of women in Mexico which generated a high number of views on the newspaper’s FaceBook page. Lucía says the interview techniques she learned during our Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop helped her with the delicate and sensitive interviews needed for this project.


Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

September 20-25, 2020
California State University Fullerton
Investigative Journalism and Government Accountability

Top U.S. journalists will join InquireFirst as speakers at this workshop, which will offer sessions on fact-checking, in-depth investigative reporting and cyber security.

The workshop will equip a team of Latin American journalists with investigative skills to produce deeply reported and carefully fact-checked investigative reports that lead to greater transparency in their countries.  The workshop also built professional alliances that encourage journalists to conduct cross-border reporting on high-impact regional investigative stories.

Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

November 2020
Mexico City, México
Science and Health Symposium

This seminar will focus on urgent health issues in Latin America such as cancer and diabetes and HIV, as well as public health issues such as resistance to vaccines and sexual and reproductive rights. More than 40 journalists and health care professionals from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico will attend the high-level seminar in Mexico City.


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