Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship

Provides assistance to attend an IRE data journalism bootcamp, the NICAR conference and the IRE conference, and also provides IRE Data Services and a Mentor Network.


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About the fellowship | 2019 Fellow | 2020 Fellows | Support the program

Meet our 2020 fellows: Sameea Kamal, Josh McGhee and Monica Velez 

2020 Fellows Sameea Kamal (left), Josh McGhee (center) and Monica Velez (right).

Sameea Kamal is a news desk editor currently working for the Los Angeles Times. She previously led digital strategy at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative newsroom. Kamal has served in digital and reporting roles at the Los Angeles Times, Times Community News and the Hartford Courant, and reported on economic development, green energy and school construction. She is passionate about making news accessible through engaging reporting, digital strategy and design. Kamal received her bachelor’s degree from U.C. Berkeley in mass communications with a minor in public policy, and her master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. 

Josh McGhee is an investigative reporter for The Chicago Reporter covering criminal justice, labor, politics, culture and the legalization of cannabis in Illinois. Prior to the Reporter, he produced a radio docu-series on the Great Migration, served as an executive producer of the Cliff Kelley Show on WVON and reported on neighborhood change and homicides for DNAinfo Chicago. In 2016, his “Chicago Homeless Get Left Behind” series was awarded Best Feature Series at the Peter Lisagor Awards.

Monica Velez has covered issues in minority communities across California’s San Joaquin Valley for the past three years. She currently is an education reporter at The Fresno Bee, with a focus on early childhood and K-12 education. Before that, Velez covered immigration for the Valley’s NPR member station, Valley Public Radio. She got her start in journalism covering health at the Merced Sun-Star, a daily newspaper in Merced County. While at the Sun-Star, Velez was awarded a year-long fellowship with the Center for Health Journalism at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, where she examined how doctor shortages affected low-income populations. In 2016, Velez won a first-place California News Publishers Association award for her coverage on doctor shortages. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in creative writing from California State University, Sacramento. Velez, who is a first-generation Salvadoreña, was born and raised in the Bay Area and grew up with her mom, dad, older brother and German Shepard, Koda. 

Meet our 2019 fellow: Bracey Harris

2019 Fellow Bracey Harris

Bracey Harris of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, is IRE’s first Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellow. Harris, an education reporter, has been at the paper since September 2015. She previously worked at WLBT News in Jackson as an associate morning producer. She is a graduate of the University of Mississippi. As part of her fellowship, Harris explored the effects of school integration on black families in Mississippi.

Harris’s investigation published The Hechinger Report and The Clarion-Ledger in February 2020.

Read what Harris had to say about her fellowship:

Last year, I performed an audit of my work and identified missed opportunities where further digging could have created a greater impact. Going forward, I knew I wanted to approach my watchdog reporting with a hard focus on producing results rather than my previous “one-and-dones” that might have only caused a day of two or discomfort for their subjects, at best.

By providing me with a mentor network and training opportunities, the Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship has helped me make that goal a reality.

From walking me through how to map out a long-term investigation and balance my education beat duties to recommending hands-on training to take advantage of during IRE events, my mentors have been a lifeline as I report on the most challenging project in my journalism career to date.

This support, coupled with the training opportunities I received through attending IRE’s boot camp and NICAR, has made what was once an elusive dream project attainable.

About the fellowship

The fellowship began with generous donations from IRE members Mike Gruss, Meghan Hoyer, Megan Luther and Mike Tahani. The funding for the program has grown through continued funding from Gruss, Hoyer, Luther and Tahani as well as from many other individual donors. At the 2019 IRE conference, the fundraiser was dedicated to the IRE JOC Fellowship. In addition, the following news organizations have chosen to support the fellowship with generous contributions: CNN, Gray Television, ABC News and ESPN.

Overview: The program is intended to prepare and support a journalist of color for a solid career in investigative reporting. The program also provides an opportunity for the fellow’s news outlets to benefit from the fellow’s investigative skill-building. An underlying goal of the program is to increase the range of backgrounds, experiences and interests within the field of investigative journalism, where diverse perspectives are critically important. The fellow continues to work in the newsroom and carry the regular workload while also working on this investigative reporting project. 

Who is eligible?

  • U.S. journalists of color who want to improve their investigative skills 
  • Applicants should have at least three years of post-college work experience
  • Applicants should be currently working with a supportive news organization or working as an independent journalist
  • Applicants who can propose a well-developed project that would benefit from the training and mentoring the fellow would receive from IRE.
  • Students are not eligible

What would the fellow do?

The fellow would:

  • Obtain employer support
  • Create an investigative reporting project that benefits his/her community
  • Attend an IRE bootcamp
  • Attend the NICAR conference
  • Attend the IRE conference
  • Utilize IRE Data Services 
  • Receive a one-year IRE membership
  • Initiate contact and work with a mentor network made up of IRE members
  • Set up monthly video calls with his/her mentor network for one year, or until the project is complete, whichever comes first, to discuss the project’s progress

What does the fellowship provide?

    • Mentor network of IRE members who will guide the fellow through the proposed investigative project
    • One-year IRE membership/renewal ($70 value)
    • Complimentary bootcamp registration (up to $1,100 value)
    • Travel stipend for bootcamp ($1,000 value)
    • Complimentary NICAR 2020 conference registration ($305 value)
    • Complimentary NICAR 2020 hotel nights ($750 value)
    • Travel stipend for NICAR 2020 ($500 value)
    • Complimentary IRE 2020 conference registration ($315 value)
    • Complimentary IRE 2020 hotel nights ($900 value)
    • Travel stipend for IRE 2020 ($500 value)
    • Complimentary IRE Data Services ($1,000 value)

NOTE: Applications will be available in October 2020.

Support the program

Individuals can make a secure donation online. Please put “JOC” in the text box.

To become a corporate sponsor, contact IRE’s Director of Partnerships, Chris Vachon.


Thank you to our program sponsors!