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 InquireFirst.org.

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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