Via STAT (Media Contact: Olivia Durr | firstname.lastname@example.org)
Boston, MA (August 5, 2021) — STAT, the nation’s must-read health, science, and medicine publication, and the Knight Science Journalism Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), today announced Isabella Cueto as the first recipient of the Sharon Begley-STAT Science Reporting Fellowship. The nine-month fellowship was established earlier this year with the goal of diversifying the ranks of science and health journalists and fostering better coverage of science that is relevant to all people. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is providing $225,000 to support the first two years of the program, named in honor of Begley, an award-winning science writer for STAT, who died in January 2021 at 64, from complications of lung cancer.
Ms. Cueto, a Cuban American journalist based in California, has worked as a reporter in South Florida, South Carolina, and California’s Bay Area. After graduating from the University of Miami, where she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, she worked at The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., where she exposed secretive contractors’ gifts to local school officials, documented a mayor’s plagiarized speech, and investigated a toddler’s death from a head injury at daycare. After the police killing of George Floyd, she and a colleague led an initiative to change the way the newsroom covered crime. They reached out to criminal justice advocates, attorneys and vocal critics to learn how the newspaper’s reporting was contributing to injustice and made recommendations to top editors.
“I believe in the fellowship’s mission” to diversify journalism, she wrote in her application, “and I have tried to live it, bringing new voices into the fold at every stage of my career.”
Most recently, Ms. Cueto covered the impact of the COVID pandemic on health care employees and patients and their families, and in the process gained new appreciation for the importance of accurate and empathetic reporting about health and science.
“In her career thus far, Isabella’s in-depth reporting, leadership, and passion for her subjects has already made a positive impact on the world around her and makes her an ideal candidate to be our first fellow,” said Gideon Gil, a STAT managing editor. “We are thrilled to have her join the team and look forward to working with her in the months ahead.”
The nine-month fellowship is intended for early-career U.S. journalists from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the profession and will prepare them for a successful career in science journalism. It combines a paid reporting position at STAT with an educational component provided through the prestigious Knight Science Journalism program.
“We are delighted to welcome such a talented journalist as Isabella Cueto, the first Begley-STAT fellow, into our program and look forward to an exciting year ahead,” said Deborah Blum, director of the KSJ Program at MIT.
Begley, STAT’s senior science writer, was one of the nation’s finest science journalists and was known for her enthusiasm for mentoring and teaching the next generation. She was especially eager to help other women advance in a profession that, when she began as a researcher at Newsweek in 1977, was unwelcoming. She later worked at The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, before joining STAT at its founding in 2015. Her legacy includes her powerful advocacy for people of color, exemplified by a series she wrote in 2016 and 2017 about the neglect by scientists, government funders, drug makers and hospitals of patients with sickle cell disease, who in the U.S. are predominantly Black. This fellowship pays tribute to her outstanding career while paving the way for the next generation of science journalists.
“I can visualize where I want to be — doing hard-hitting work that demonstrably improves the lives of those I cover,” Ms. Cueto wrote in her fellowship application. “The Begley-STAT fellowship would be the stepping stone I need to reach that next level and I can’t wait to get started on the work ahead.”