Eduardo-FrancoEduardo Franco Berton, founder of Red Ambiental de Información in Bolivia, has been recognized with an Honorable Mention by the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) for his environmental investigation, “Poaching Threatens South America’s Only Bear Species,” which was published by National Geographic in 2019.

Eduardo was first introduced to National Geographic editors by a speaker he met during our InquireFirst Science Journalism Workshop in 2018. The SEJ judges, in recognizing Eduardo’s work, said, “The journalist traveled thousands of miles and worked undercover to talk with bear hunters, shamans and government officials who, because of inadequate budgets and understaffing, are virtually powerless to stop the killing of South America’s only bear species.”

Carolina Bravo Gómez, who reports on environmental issues at the television network Noticias Caracol in Bogota, Colombia, told us that InquireFirst’s February 2020 Environmental Investigative Journalism Workshop in Mérida, México provided the information she needed to produce an in-depth report on efforts in indigenous communities to protect the mangrove ecosystem that provides a habitat to hundreds of species of birds and animals. Noticias Caracol broadcast Carolina’s story on July 26, UNESCO’s International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem. She conducted interviews for her story during our InquireFirst field visit to Celestún.
Watch Carolina’s report

Saúl Martínez, a reporter and photographer at El Imparcial in Mexicali, Baja California says the contacts he made during InquireFirst’s February 2020 Environmental Investigative Journalism Workshop in Mérida, México have helped him expand his regional science and environmental network as he works on in-depth projects on the urgent issues of science, health and the environment. Based on a field visit to Celestún during our InquireFirst workshop, Saúl published a story on July 26, UNESCO’s International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem.
Read Saúl’s story

Barbara-FraserBarbara Fraser, an environmental writer based in Lima, Peru, has recently been named climate editor at EarthBeat, a publication of U.S.-based National Catholic Reporter. Barbara credits her participation in InquireFirst’s February 2020 Environmental Investigative Journalism Workshop in Merida, Mexico with helping her plan the expansion of EarthBeat’s coverage to deepen the science and give it a more global perspective. She said, “The Merida workshop was a welcome dose of oxygen for me.”

Gabriela 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.

Gustavo Cabullo MadridGustavo Cabullo Madrid, a cross-border documentary producer who works with the Universidad Autónomo de Ciudad Juárez, says the presentations by prominent journalists and professors during InquireFirst’s February 2019 Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop inspired him to launch an online news site, which focuses on the LGBTQ community and other underserved communities on the U.S.-Mexico border.  The name of his site is Ser Visible, or Being Visible.

Mariana MondragonMariana Mondragón, general director of NotiGAPE Radio in Matamoros, México, conducted an investigative journalism conference for journalism students at the University of Matamoros in May 2019.  Mariana says she instructed the students – the next generation of journalists in Matamoros – on tools and techniques for investigative reporting that she learned during InquireFirst’s February 2019 Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop.

Paraguayan television reporter Enrique Dávalos has been invited by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy to give a presentation on what he learned during our February 2019 workshop during a journalism and transparency conference in Asunción in May 2020.  InquireFirst Executive Director Lynne Walker has been invited to give the keynote address during that conference and will be traveling to Paraguay in May.

Inés García, an investigative journalist at the weekly newspaper Zeta in Tijuana, México, is organizing an investigative journalism workshop in collaboration with Red Nacional Anticorrupción Capítulo Baja California, an NGO focused on transparency. Inés tells us that she will be teaching the tools and techniques that she learned from seasoned journalists who gave presentations during InquireFirst’s February 2019 Transparency and Investigative Reporting Workshop.


Photo by Luis J. Jiménez/InquireFirst

Biodiversity and climate change are the focus of InquireFirst environmental investigative journalism workshop

MERIDA, Mexico – “There’s no more important work than the work being done by journalists,” said Brian O’Donnell, director of Campaign for Nature, during a February 2020 environmental investigative journalism workshop organized by InquireFirst.

As the world witnesses a “massive acceleration in extinction” of species, coverage of biodiversity by environmental journalists can underscore the growing crisis and the need for large expanses of land and sea to be protected from logging, agriculture and fishing, he said.

O’Donnell told 21 Latin American journalists who attended the InquireFirst workshop focused on environmental investigative reporting that as climate change has dominated the news, biodiversity has gotten “just a fraction of the coverage.”

With the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity scheduled later this year, organizers and participants have set an ambitious goal.  “We need to protect at least 30% of the planet by 2030,” O’Donnell said.

Environmental journalists from throughout Latin America attended the four-day InquireFirst workshop in Merida, Mexico.  Print, radio, television and online science journalists from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador and Mexico participated in the Feb. 16-20 workshop.

Brazil “is an exceedingly important player in this effort,” O’Donnell said of international biodiversity efforts. “For this strategy to work it has to be a global goal. We need to make progress as a planet. Brazil can either be a leader or a blocker.”

The InquireFirst workshop, which was sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and National Geographic, focused on cutting-edge environmental science as well as professional development sessions for journalists.

InquireFirst also announced the launch of its Cross-Border Science Journalism Project, a new initiative to encourage cross-border reporting by Latin American journalists on science, health and the environment, during the workshop. The initiative, which is being conducted in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will provide financial support in 2020 to four teams of Latin American journalists.

A two-person team, Alexa Vélez of Mongabay in Peru, and Fabiano Maisonnave of Folha de S. Paulo in Brazil, was selected for the first cross-border project, which will focus on the Amazon. InquireFirst has launched a new website on the initiative,

Gael Almeida, senior international director for Latin America for The National Geographic Society, talked with journalists about effective strategies for pitching story proposals to National Geographic as well as upcoming grant opportunities.

Elisabeth Malkin, correspondent for EcoAmericas and former correspondent for The New York Times in Mexico, spoke about collaborating across borders to conduct environmental investigative journalism in Latin America.

During an intensive training session, journalists worked on fact-checking and the use of data bases for collaborative journalism with Ronny Rojas, editor of Centro Latinoamericano de Investigacion Periodistica and adjunct profession at CUNY’s Craig Newmark School of Journalism.

Journalists also attended a half-day session with Jodi Upton, professor and Knight Chair of data and explanatory journalism at Syracuse University, on accessing data for science and environmental journalism.

During a day-long field visit to Celestún, a bioreserve for flamingos and hundreds of other bird species on the Yucatan Peninsula, journalists met with José Isaías Uh Canul, president of Guardianes de los Manglares, a cooperative which protects mangroves and ecosystems in the estuaries of Celestún.

They also talked with two conservation program directors at Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatán, Ernesto Gómez and Anuar Hernández, about the successful rescue of ecosystems in Celestún.

The visit to Celestún included a canoe trip through the mangroves that allowed journalists to witness firsthand the impact of conservation efforts.  This unique visit “gave us the opportunity to see the issue in situ,” one journalist said.

Journalists said the InquireFirst workshop prompted them to think about opportunities for collaboration on environmental projects and it suggested new approaches for environmental reporting.

“I have learned new things and I’ve made important contacts,” a journalist based in South America said at the conclusion of the workshop. “The workshop served as a stimulus for new ideas. I’m going home with recharged batteries.”