2018 Inaugural Lipman Fellows in Journalism and Civil and Human Rights Are Monica Rhor of Houston Chronicle and Kira Lerner of ThinkProgress | Columbia Journalism School

2018 Inaugural Lipman Fellows in Journalism and Civil and Human Rights Are Monica Rhor of Houston Chronicle and Kira Lerner of ThinkProgress

Led by Jelani Cobb, the Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights is a new initiative by Columbia Journalism School 


The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism today announced the 2018 inaugural fellows, Monica Rhor, narrative writer of the Houston Chronicle, and Kira Lerner, political reporter at ThinkProgress. The fellows are selected from a diverse group of candidates who exemplify the center’s mission of informing and shaping the way we cover race, gender and civil and human rights.

“The fellows are breaking new ground by addressing issues of national importance that perpetuate the cycle of incarceration, poverty and inequality for black and brown Americans. The fellows’ coverage of these micro stories has macro implications that can easily be mapped out through the rest of country,” said the selection committee consisting of Dolores Barclay, Jelani Cobb, Sam Freedman, and Keith Gessen.

The focus of their year-long fellowships will be on underreported, but important issues dealing with the current justice system. Rhor, the senior fellow, will research and report a series of stories about the criminalization of black girls in Houston and how the juvenile system contributes to high incarceration and poverty rates for black women and their families. Lerner, the junior fellow, will examine the disenfranchisement law in Florida that prevents hundreds of African Americans from participating in the voting process.

Rhor and Lerner will each receive $10,000 and will work remotely with a faculty member throughout the duration of their fellowships. They will be invited to New York at the completion of their fellowship to conduct a public presentation of their work and engage students at the Columbia Journalism School.

The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights was created in 2017 with a gift from Ira A. Lipman to recognize and support the vital role of journalism in democracy, particularly as it relates to civil and human rights.

Monica Rhor, Senior Fellow; Narrative Writer, Houston Chronicle

Monica Rhor is a narrative writer covering gender, sexuality, spirituality and race issues for the Houston Chronicle.  She also has been a staff writer for the Associated Press, Boston Globe, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer and Orange County Register. She's covered economic inequality and hurricanes in Houston and the impact of English-only education in Boston; exposed serious flaws in California’s restraining order system; and documented stalled investigations of serial killings in South Florida. Monica, who was born in Ecuador and raised in New Jersey, has taught high school journalism and English.

Monica’s work has won numerous awards, including honors from the Association for Women in Communications, the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, the Associated Press California-Nevada Newswriting Contest and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2008, she was named AP’s Texas Writer of the Year. One of her stories is included in “The Best American Newspaper Narratives of 2012,” an anthology published in July 2014. In 2016, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists honored her with a Presidential Award of Impact.

Monica is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), IRE and the Journalism Education Association. She has served as a mentor on student projects for NAHJ, NABJ and UNITY for 15 years.

Kira Lerner, Junior Fellow; Political Reporter, ThinkProgress

Kira Lerner is a reporter for ThinkProgress, a news website based in Washington, D.C., where she covers elections and politics with a focus on voting rights. Her coverage of voting issues has helped to expose suppressive laws across the country, from Alabama and Georgia to the Native American reservations of South Dakota, Arizona and Nevada. She has covered elections since 2014, reporting from both Washington D.C. and the campaign trail on policy issues, including criminal justice reform, health care and immigration. Previously, she covered legal issues and in 2011, her investigative reporting helped to free a wrongfully convicted man from an Illinois prison where he was serving a life sentence. She graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and is a native of the Washington, D.C. area. 

To apply for the fellowship visit: https://journalism.columbia.edu/lipman-center

About Columbia Journalism School
For more than a century, the school has been preparing journalists in programs that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the school opened its doors in 1912 and offers Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science in Data Journalism, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Communications.  It houses the Columbia Journalism Review, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. The school also administers many of the leading journalism awards, including the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, the John Chancellor Award, the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Mike Berger Awards.

Chantal De Soto
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