Our fellowship program provides journalists at the beginning of their career with regular advising on story development, investigating cases, finding sources, and navigating a complex topic on often tight reporting schedules.
Each of the 15 fellows in our first cohort will be paired with an experienced journalist as a mentor, on call through the year. The program will also include an in-person gathering, hosted at American University School of Communication, in the Spring.
2022-2023 FELLOWS WILL BE ANNOUNCED/ADDED EARLY OCTOBER 2022
Staff Writer, The Marshall Project
Connect at @keribla
Keri Blakinger is a Texas-based investigative reporter for The Marshall Project, where her work focuses on prisons and jails. She previously covered criminal justice for the Houston Chronicle, and her work has appeared in the Washington Post Magazine, VICE, the New York Daily News and The New York Times. She is the organization's first formerly incarcerated reporter. Her memoir, "Corrections in Ink", published in June 2022.
J. BRIAN CHARLES
Deputy Editor, Baltimore Beat
Connect at @JBrianCharles
J. Brian Charles is Deputy Editor of Baltimore Beat, a black-led nonprofit print and digital news outlet focusing on stories about Baltimore's Black community. Previously, he was a staffer at The Trace, The Hill, Chalkbeat, Governing, and Pasadena Star-News.
His work has appeared in Slate, Vox, Wired, Baltimore Magazine, Baltimore City Paper, and many other publications. Brian’s recent reporting has been about violence interrupters in Baltimore City for The Guardian, police reform in Newark, New Jersey, for The Trace, and the murder of rapper Nipsey Hussle for Playboy.
Linda J. Coombs is an award-winning journalist with 40 years of radio news experience. Coombs began her career as a summer relief anchor at WFAS in Dobbs Ferry, New York. After a brief stint as the “Contest Lady” at WDRC in Hartford, Connecticut, Coombs moved on to anchoring, reporting, and editing positions in Monticello, New York and Charlotte, North Carolina where she did all three of those jobs in one shift. Arriving at 4AM, Coombs would edit the morning news block on WSOC-AM while anchoring news briefs on WSOC-FM. Once morning drive ended, she went out to cover stories and leave packages for afternoon drive.
Coombs credits her time in Charlotte as preparing her for New York. She landed a writing slot at RKO Radio Networks before making the move to CBS as a per diem writer. During her time at CBS News Radio, Coombs did everything from writing and editing network broadcasts to producing special programming and coordinating breaking news coverage. Coombs was a staff editor when she was tapped for a management position in 2001.
As Director of Operations, Coombs managed a staff of domestic and international anchors and correspondents as well as writers, editors, and news desk associates. It was a talented crew that dominated the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards across all categories for several years, including the coveted award for Overall Excellence in Radio.
A graduate of Emerson College, Coombs served on its Alumni Board of Directors recruiting and mentoring aspiring journalists. She was also a member of the Journalism Advisory Board at York College. Coombs retired from CBS News in 2018.
Justice & Injustice Staff Writer, Philadelphia Inquirer
Connect at @MensahDean
Mensah M. Dean is a staff writer on the Justice & Injustice team at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he focuses on gun violence, corruption and wrongdoing in the public and private sectors. This September will mark his 25th anniversary with the company.
During the first decade of his career in Philadelphia Dean covered the city's financially and academically-challenged school district for the Philadelphia Daily News, the Inquirer's sister publication. During these years, Dean was a regular panelist on, "Reporter's Roundtable," a program on the school district's public television station. In 1999, he covered the federal government's sweeping Welfare Reform Act's impact on Philadelphia. Twice, in 2000 and 2015, Dean covered the inner workings of Philadelphia's government as a City Hall reporter. From 2009 through 2014, he reported exclusively on criminal justice as the Daily News' courthouse reporter. In January 2016, Dean's work began appearing in the Inquirer and Daily News after the staffs merged.
A native of Washington, D.C., Dean began his career at the Washington Times, where he was a staff writer from 1993 to 1997. His freelance work has appeared in People, Vibe and the World & I magazines. In 1999, Dean spent a month at Duke University as a fellow at the De Witt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism. In 2022, Dean and four colleagues were Pulitzer Prize finalists for explanatory reporting for their year-long chronicling of the impact of gun violence on Philadelphia.Among his other honors was being named the 2019 print journalist of the year by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, and receiving the 2017 Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence and $10,000 prize from Morgan State University's School of Global Journalism and Communication.
In 1993 Dean earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from Bowie State University, where he served as editor of the student newspaper for two years. As a student, he worked as a summer intern at the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Times.
National Criminal Justice Editor, The New York Times
Connect at @shailadewan
Shaila Dewan is the National Criminal Justice Editor for the New York Times. Shaila is from Houston, where she attended Rice University and began her career at the Houston Press, an investigative weekly.
She joined the Times in 2000 and has covered a variety of beats including the NYPD, the South and the economy, always with a special affinity for criminal justice issues. In the South, she wrote about all-white juries and prosecutors who refused to accept evidence of innocence, as well as civil rights-era cold cases and efforts to restore voting rights to those convicted of crimes. As a BizDay reporter, she wrote in depth about the case of Shanesha Taylor, charged with child abuse for leaving her children in a car while interviewing for a job. After Ferguson, she wrote a series of articles focusing on the vastly damaging effects of even low-level involvement with the criminal justice system, particularly for poor people, and an investigative project on a pay-to-play scheme known as pretrial diversion.
IR Professorial Lecturer, School of Communication, American University
Connect at @chalsne
AU’s first Investigative Broadcaster in Residence, Chris Halsne has been on television for 30+ years. He’s managed special projects units in Seattle, Denver, and Oklahoma City. Honors include the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for investigative reporting, multiple National Press Club awards, and a national Regional Edward R. Murrow for investigative reporting.
A documentary filmmaker, fiction author, and podcast creator, he takes a multi-media approach to every investigative news idea. Halsne is married to an accomplished ultra-runner who sells virtual-reality surgical teaching simulators. They have two adult daughters.
Chief National Affairs & Justice Correspondent, CBS News
Connect at @jeffpeguescbs
In 2021 Jeff Pegues was promoted to CBS News Chief National Affairs and Justice Correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He joined CBS News in July 2013 and reports for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Since joining CBS News, Pegues has led the Network’s coverage of some of the biggest stories of the last decade. From the January 6 th Insurrection, the Russia investigation to recent active shooter events and terrorist attack, Pegues is often at the top of the CBS Evening News. Pegues has also become one of the most visible and informed journalists on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. His latest book Kompromat: How Russia Undermined American Democracy investigates how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hackers poked into U.S. voter databases and what is happening now to shore up election systems in states across the country.
In addition, he has become one of the most informed voices on the conflict between the black community and police. Not only has he reported extensively on recent police actions and Justice Department investigations in Baltimore and Ferguson but he has also authored a book on the issue. Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between Police and the Black Community is available everywhere books are sold. Pegues is the recipient of three Emmy Awards, numerous local and national Emmy Award nominations, the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, and in 2017 was part of the CBS News team that earned an Edward R. Murrow Award.
Pegues has more than two decades of experience covering stories of national and international magnitude, including presidential elections, Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. His breadth of experience covering the news of the day is often called upon for radio interviews and speaking engagements. Prior to joining CBS News Pegues spent nearly 10 years at WABC-TV in New York. Previously, Pegues was a weekday anchor and reporter at WBAL in Baltimore. He also anchored the top-rated evening newscasts at WSVN in Miami in the late 1990s. He is a proud graduate of Miami University of Ohio where he was a scholarship football player and starting wide receiver in the early 1990s. In January 2020, he was named to the Miami University Board of Trustees.
Pegues went to high school in Westport, Connecticut where he was an All-State sprinter and All-Conference running back on the football team. Prior to moving to Connecticut Pegues lived overseas in France, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Zaire and the Philippines.