Knight-Wallace Fellows 2024-2025

About the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists

The Knight-Wallace Fellowships provide accomplished journalists an academic year of study, collaborative learning and access to the resources of the University of Michigan to pursue ambitious journalism projects, tackle challenges facing the journalism industry and participate in weekly private seminars with journalism leaders, renowned scholars, media innovators and social change agents. This cohort marks the 51st class of Fellows in the program’s history.

Knight-Wallace Fellows and Their Journalism Projects

Dieu-Nalio Chery is a freelance photojournalist from Haiti who is now based in Michigan and recently completed a fellowship with City of Asylum in Detroit. His work has been published in The New York Times, Reuters, The Washington Post, The Haitian Times and The Associated Press. He received the 2019 Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club for photographic reporting that required “exceptional courage and enterprise.” He was also a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news photography. Chery grew up in Haiti and began working in his uncle’s photo studio in Port-au-Prince in his twenties. From 2010 to 2021, Chery worked for The Associated Press, documenting the profound beauty, searing pain and upheaval in his homeland. Many of his images have become iconic records of Haiti in the 21st century.

Documenting the Diversity and Resilience of the Haitian Diaspora

The language, art, culture and religious practices of Haitian-American communities have endured, grown, struggled and thrived across generations. Chery will continue to photograph Haitian-American communities in the U.S., crowd-sourcing family photos as well as curating images found in attics, basements, churches and universities. His work will illuminate the larger story of the Haitian diaspora and combat common stereotypes.

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Baktygul Chynybaeva is a journalist from Kyrgyzstan with more than 20 years of experience covering healthcare, environmental and human rights issues. Fluent in five languages, she currently serves as a correspondent for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s Central Newsroom in Prague. Her investigative reporting on the dire condition of children’s cancer care in Kyrgyzstan inspired significant reforms in the country’s policies. Chynybaeva is also actively involved in organizing training sessions and capacity-building programs for journalists across Central Asian countries.

Unshaking Media Independence in Central Asia

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, media restrictions and arrests of writers, bloggers and independent investigative journalists have increased throughout Central Asian countries. Chynybaeva will explore avenues for achieving media independence in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan despite economic and media dependencies on Russia.

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Denise Guerra is an audio journalist focused on breaking news and narrative storytelling. She co-founded popular news podcasts such as “The Times: Essential news from the L.A. Times” and NPR’s “Up First” weekend edition. Guerra’s career spans broad beats — including interviewing lawmakers, studying climate change from a boat along the Colorado River, following the leaders of #MeToo and covering migrant stories at the southern border. In 2023, her audio work was included in the Los Angeles Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning package of leaked racist remarks made by members of the L.A. City Council. Guerra has also worked for LAist and Marketplace, covering economics and health. She hails from Moreno Valley, California.

Harnessing the Power and Potential of Short-Form Video

There is still much to learn about how short-form videos — such as TikToks, Reels and Shorts — are affecting news consumption. Using the 2024 election cycle as a backdrop, Guerra will examine the science behind digital engagement, attention management and learning retention. Her research will focus on how both news consumers and news creators can best utilize this evolving medium.

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Cassie Haynes, J.D., M.P.H., is a journalism strategist with a range of executive experiences across government, corporate and nonprofit sectors. She is co-founder of the nonprofit journalism organization Resolve Philly, which has transformed local news through collaborative initiatives that bridge the gap between journalists and marginalized communities. Haynes’ diverse portfolio includes journalism philanthropies, impact investors and both investment seekers and recipients looking to design impactful strategies for leveraging resources. She is a national speaker and thought leader, garnering recognition from organizations including the Institute for Nonprofit News, the National Press Club and the Online News Association.

Measuring the Impact of Local News on Social Narratives

Many newsrooms, specifically those at the forefront of community-driven journalism, aim for outcomes associated with narrative change: shifting the stories that we collectively tell ourselves in order to advance broader social change. Haynes will research mechanisms that will enable newsrooms to quantify and predict the impact of their reporting on the evolution of social narratives.

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Fatemeh Jamalpour is an Iranian journalist who has been interrogated, arrested and jailed by the Iranian government because of her human rights-focused reporting. Over the past 18 years, she has worked as a BBC World newsroom journalist in London, as a freelance documentary filmmaker and as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times in Tehran, where she lived when the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement began in 2022. Now in exile in the United States, Jamalpour is co-authoring a book about the women-led uprisings. Blending traditional reportage with cultural memoir, the book looks at the political upheaval in Iran following the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, also known as Jîna Amini, in the custody of the morality police.

Examining Iranian Society’s Move Towards Secularism

Through interviews with scholars, experts and protesters from the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the 2022 “Women, Life, Freedom” movement, Jamalpour will expand her reporting and first-hand observations of anti-government uprisings. Her intimate analysis of protest slogans, trends and symbols will demonstrate how and why ordinary Iranian society is moving away from theocracy and towards secularization.

Kwanseok Jang is a political reporter with the Seoul-based daily newspaper Dong-A Ilbo. He has 15 years of experience in journalism, including three years covering presidential and administrative policy-making processes. He specializes in highlighting the intricacies of governance and decision-making. Jang has experience in legal and prosecutorial corruption investigations, as well as legislative and presidential election coverage. He and his team received the Korean Association of Newspapers Award in 2016 and the Korea Journalist Award in 2019.

Analyzing Media Coverage and Misinformation During Presidential Elections

Widespread misinformation has significantly eroded public trust in the media. Journalists face challenges in deciding what information is worthy of public reporting, especially when their scrutiny of those in power invites partisan criticism. Jang will explore tensions between the public’s right to information, individual privacy rights and political partisanship, with a focus on the U.S. presidential elections.

Ally Jarmanning is a senior reporter at WBUR in Boston, where she focuses on stories about accountability using data and public records. She is host and reporter of the podcast “Last Seen: Postmortem,” where she digs into the thefts of donated human remains from the Harvard Medical School morgue. Her recent investigation into a flawed state law designed to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence won a national Edward R. Murrow Award, was a semifinalist for the Goldsmith Prize and a finalist for the duPont-Columbia Awards. Before working in public radio, she was a reporter at the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts, the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio and

Creating a Guide to Care for Vulnerable Sources

Journalists are guided by the adage: “Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” But what should “comfort” mean in practice for reporters working with people who have experienced traumatic events? Based on her work with victims of police brutality and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, Jarmanning will explore how to create a set of standards for working with vulnerable sources.

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Kunāl Majumder serves as the India Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, where he documents and researches press freedom issues and advocates for journalists’ safety. Additionally, he advises Impulse Model Press Lab, which supports reporters covering human trafficking, and served as a visiting faculty member at the Mass Communication Research Centre of Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi. Majumder has held leadership positions in news organizations, including Tehelka, Indian Express Group, Rajasthan Patrika Group and Zee Media Corporation. Recognized with the UNFPA-Laadli Award for Gender Sensitivity and the Statesman Award for Rural Development, Majumder’s reporting spans politics, business, foreign affairs, human rights, culture and conflict.

Exploring Public Policy and the Role of the Media

The state of the news media in India and elsewhere is greatly affected by economic factors, geopolitical dynamics and ongoing challenges to democratic values. Majumder will engage with diverse experts in public policy, democracy and media studies, exploring ways to advance protections for journalists.

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Zahra Nader is the founding editor-in-chief of Zan Times, a nonprofit news outlet that covers human rights in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, with a focus on women and gender-based issues. Nader’s journalism journey began in Kabul, where she reported for local and international media, including The New York Times, on sensitive issues such as honor killings, virginity tests, single women-headed households and the social stigma of being a divorcee or a widow. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from Time and Foreign Policy to The Guardian, The Daily Mail and Deutsche Welle. She publishes Zan Times from Canada, working with a group of mostly women journalists and editors, both in Afghanistan and in exile.

Creating a Roadmap to Sustainability for Nonprofit Media in Exile

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, more than half of its media outlets were forced to close. As Afghan journalists try to rebuild their lives, many are committed to continuing to tell the stories of their country, their people and the new Afghan diaspora. Nader will study business models and management strategies tailored to the needs of entrepreneurial journalists in exile.

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Katie O’Brien is a two-time Emmy Award-winning producer at ABC News who has worked on both long-form documentaries and live breaking news coverage for “Good Morning America,” “World News Tonight with David Muir,” “Nightline” and “20/20.” She has reported from more than 30 U.S. states and covered dynamic and pivotal stories, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, the Uvalde school shooting, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, indictments of former U.S. President Donald Trump and the East Palestine train derailment. O’Brien is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she majored in English and communications.

Mitigating and Detecting Media Influence on Juror Biases

To preserve the democratic right to an impartial jury, it is essential to understand how juror biases are formed and maintained, and how the media can play a fair and responsible role in nurturing citizens’ democratic values. O’Brien will explore multiple facets of this complex issue, including studying juror selection processes and cutting-edge strategies for detecting juror biases through artificial intelligence algorithms.

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Sarah Rahal is the lead city reporter for The Detroit News, where she covers developments within Detroit City Hall and spotlights important local issues — from the struggles and successes of local refugee communities to the impact of scrapyards on public health, crime and the local economy. Her 2023 investigation into the lack of support for kinship caregivers was recognized for “best enterprise reporting” by the Michigan Press Association. A daughter of Lebanese immigrants and a fluent Arabic speaker, Rahal is the Michigan chapter president of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). She and her husband own a family falafel business in Detroit’s Eastern Market.

Tracking Michigan’s Refugee Resettlement

Michigan is the fourth-largest refugee resettlement state in the country. Amid declining federal resources and support, the state is expecting a 42 percent increase in migrants in 2024. Rahal will research the challenges and successes that municipalities are facing as they support refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the impact of growing refugee communities on local politics, economics and culture.

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Nada Rashwan reports on the Middle East and North Africa with a focus on politics and society in Egypt. She has worked for The New York Times, the BBC and Ahram Online, Egypt’s largest English-language news site. Her reporting career was shaped by witnessing the broad social and political transformation following the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Since that period, she has worked across print, radio and television, covering major events in the region, including wars in the Gaza Strip, the rise of ISIS, the Sudanese uprising and the conflict in Yemen.

Assessing How Quality Journalism Can Best Engage Youth and Thwart Censorship

Young people across the Middle East are turning away from tightly controlled traditional media and actively seeking alternative sources of information, particularly in the heavily surveilled and misinformation-filled realm of social media. Rashwan will investigate strategies for producing nuanced journalism under repressive governments, particularly in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East that actively censor the media.

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Holger Roonemaa manages the investigative and fact-checking team at the daily news site Delfi Estonia. He is also an editor with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). He has covered money laundering, corruption and evasion of sanctions, as well as topics related to national security, espionage and propaganda. In recent years, the majority of his investigations have focused on Russian security threats in Baltic countries. He led and coordinated the “Kremlin Papers” project, a high-profile investigative collaboration that detailed election interference, information manipulation and territorial aggression by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Modernizing Toolkits for Baltic and Central European Investigative Journalists

Some of the most vital problems facing nations in the Baltic Sea region—security, climate change, the spread of far-right populism and disinformation—transcend national borders. Yet journalists lack resources to make use of high-tech investigative methods, including satellite imagery, that can facilitate effective cross-border collaborations. Roonemaa will develop an investigative journalism hub designed to bridge these gaps and bolster data-driven regional partnerships.

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Davy Rothbart is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, journalist, bestselling author, creator of Found Magazine and a frequent contributor to public radio’s “This American Life.” His documentary film, “17 Blocks,” spans two decades and illuminates a nation’s ongoing crisis of addiction and gun violence through one family’s raw, stirring and deeply personal saga. His previous documentary, “Medora,” follows the down-but-not-out varsity basketball team in a rural Indiana community fighting for its survival. Rothbart’s work has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The California Sunday Magazine, GQ and Grantland, while his stories on “This American Life” have amassed more than 30 million listeners. Rothbart is the author of the bestselling essay collection “My Heart Is an Idiot,” and he contributed writing to the Oscar-winning short “The Neighbor’s Window.” He is also the founder of Washington To Washington, an annual hiking adventure for kids from underserved communities.

Probing Wrongful Convictions That Lack a Magic Bullet

While DNA evidence has emerged as a tool to help wrongfully convicted inmates clear their names and regain their freedom, another set of wrongfully convicted prisoners languish with diminishing hope, since their convictions stemmed from mistaken eyewitnesses, faulty and circumstantial evidence, misleading narratives, police misconduct or coerced confessions. Rothbart will explore the challenges facing wrongfully convicted inmates who lack DNA evidence and examine cases where innocence has still been established despite the obstacles.

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As a health reporter and coordinating producer for polling at “PBS NewsHour,” Laura Santhanam combines numbers with deeply reported narratives to tell stories with impact. Her data-focused work has explored the COVID pandemic, systemic inequities in health care and public opinion on consequential presidential elections. Prior to her work with PBS, Santhanam was a reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press and The Arizona Republic, as well as a media analyst at Pew Research Center. A native of Tupelo, Mississippi and a first-generation college graduate, Santhanam is motivated by a desire to empower underserved communities and help bridge social and political divides.

Gleaning Post-Pandemic Lessons on Journalism and Public Health Messaging

While COVID may have receded from the imaginations of policymakers and the general public, scientists and epidemiologists warn that pandemics will happen more regularly and with devastating effects. Santhanam will study what both health professionals and journalists learned about public health messaging from the COVID pandemic and how to more effectively combat misinformation and build trust going forward.

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Summer Sewell is an independent journalist who most recently worked as a contributing editor for special packages at Mother Jones. Previously, she was a senior editor at The Guardian US and part of a small editorial team that launched The California Sunday Magazine. As an editor, she has curated packages of stories ranging from educational issues faced by children with disabilities to the problem of colorism, a bias against people with darker skin tones within an ethnic or racial group. As a writer, she has written about racial injustice, American agriculture and the intersection of the two. Sewell has worked on farms in Central America and helps manage a community compost yard on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Exploring the Intergenerational Economic Impact of Black Americans’ Lost Farmland

The loss of black-owned farmland over the last century — often by way of coercion or violence — is a leading cause of economic disparities between black and white Americans today. Through narrative storytelling, Sewell will trace the trajectories of two families, one black and one white, who have farmed over generations — recounting the families’ setbacks and triumphs and directly comparing their lost and gained generational wealth.

Joseph Sywenkyj is an American photographer of Ukrainian descent who has lived and worked in Ukraine for approximately 20 years. His photography throughout Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Central Asia has been published regularly in The Wall Street Journal, as well as in The New York Times. His ongoing photographic series, “Wounds,” is an intimate study of Ukrainian activists and soldiers who were severely wounded during the Euromaidan Revolution and Russia’s current war against Ukraine. Sywenkyj has exhibited his photographs in numerous galleries and museums in both the United States and abroad. He was the recipient of two Fulbright scholarships, one as a student and the other as a scholar, and also received a W. Eugene Smith Grant and an Aftermath Project Grant.

Studying Sociological, Psychological and Journalistic Approaches to War Trauma

Sywenkyj will study how the psychology and sociology of war trauma changes the identity of individual Ukrainians as well as the shared identity of the nation. He will also create a guidebook for war correspondents and photographers on how to effectively and empathetically interact with traumatized people. He will be a joint fellow with the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia.

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Anastasia Tsioulcas is a correspondent on NPR’s Culture desk and also contributes as a classical music critic to The New York Times, the first journalist to hold such a dual role. Her reporting focuses on music at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity. Previously at NPR Music, she curated episodes of the “Tiny Desk” concert series, hosted live events and created video shorts. Tsioulcas has reported globally from Africa, Asia and Europe. Prior to NPR, she was a reporter and critic for publications including Gramophone and Billboard. A trained classical musician, Tsioulcas was formerly a judge and voting member for the Grammy Awards.

Charting Diversity Initiatives in Classical Music

In recent years, classical music institutions and presenters across the United States have worked to diversify their offerings in hopes of attracting new audiences and more accurately showcasing artists’ backgrounds, creativity and vitality. As a joint fellow with the University of Michigan Arts Initiative, Tsioulcas will research the effectiveness of recent diversity efforts, with a focus on Detroit and the surrounding region. She will also actively engage in the Arts Initiative, collaborating with artists-in-residence and arts organizations to enhance learning, arts research and the campus experience for students.

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Read the 2024-2025 Knight-Wallace Fellowship class announcement»