Early Childhood Reporting Fellowship: Inequality and COVID-19 in Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia

March 15 - August 31, 2021

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Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced new stressors upon children and their caregivers, especially those people living in environments of economic insecurity and social adversity. In households where parents are unable to shelter in place or work from home, many children have watched their caregivers struggle financially, get sick or die. Too many young people live in a state of heightened anxiety amid mounting challenges. Children have been removed from the structure of the school environment and the observation of teachers, and many are going without the education – academic, social and emotional – critical for brain development, good health and social welfare.

While the pandemic has made it impossible for journalists to travel to professional workshops and increased the risks associated with reporting on the ground, it has not slowed down the news cycle or eliminated the need for the coverage, illumination and analysis media outlets provide.

To that end, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of the Columbia Journalism School in New York, is launching a project-based virtual Fellowship for journalists based in Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia which will be focused on illuminating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on young children’s growth, development and wellbeing.

Projects about children under age five and their caregivers will be given priority.

The Fellowship will take place from March 15 to August 31, 2021. 

Each Fellow will be awarded $1,500 USD to use towards their project. In addition, Fellows will be assigned an experienced story mentor and will convene for monthly webinars featuring experts in the fields of science, education, public health, and journalism.

Applicants may propose single stories, multi-part series, longform narratives or investigative reports in print, online or broadcast formats. Freelancers, contract and staff journalists are welcome to apply. All program activities will be conducted in Portuguese and English, so applicants should speak at least one of these languages with facility.

Two journalists may apply together with a joint project. If selected, both journalists would be named fellows and both would be awarded the $1500 USD stipend.

Applications will be evaluated on the relevance of their topic; soundness of their approach; the project’s potential impact; previous experience reporting on early childhood issues at local, regional, national or international level; and the applicant’s likelihood of contributing positively to a Fellowship cohort.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Any journalist living and working in Brazil, Colombia or Venezuela who has a demonstrated interest in and commitment to reporting on young children and their caregivers.

  • Applicants must propose a project about young children and/or caregivers that can be completed and scheduled for publication or broadcast by August 15, 2021.

  • Applicants must be fluent in Portuguese and/or English to participate.

  • Applicants must attend at least four monthly webinars during the Fellowship period (March 15-August 31, 2021) and participate in monthly conversations with an assigned story mentor.

 Application Information 

  • The application deadline -- February 9, 2021 -- has passed.

  • A committee will review applications, and applicants will be notified with a decision on February 23, 2021. 

  • The Fellowship will officially begin with a webinar on March 18, 2021.

  • If two journalists are applying with a joint project, it must be made clear in the proposal why the project would benefit from a collaborative approach.

  • Click here to submit your application

The Fellowship will be led by Fábio Takahashi, an editor at the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, where he runs the data journalism desk. Takahashi previously worked as an education reporter at Folha from 2003 to 2016, and helped create Folha’s University Ranking, Brazil’s most comprehensive evaluation of college-level institutions. Takahashi was a Spencer fellow at Columbia University 2016-2017.

He is also the founder and current president of the first association for education reporters in Brazil, the Education Reporters Association, which launched in 2016. In 2013, he was the first journalist to attend the Executive Leadership Program in Early Childhood Development, a short course at Harvard University.


Mariana Kotscho will serve as a story mentor for the Fellowship. 

Kotscho has 30 years experience as a reporter and television host, and has worked for several major TV Stations in Brazil, including TV Cultura and TV Globo.

She is the winner of the Vladimir Herzog Award for coverage of human rights issues.

Kotscho created and now presents the program "Papo de Mãe," which covers topics related to education, behavior and child health.



Daniela Tófoli will serve as a story mentor for the Fellowship. Tófoli is an editorial director at the Brazilian publishing house Editora Globo, where she oversees work on Marie Claire, Quem, Crescer, Galileu, TechTudo, Casa e Jardim and Monet. She is a member of Associação Nacional de Editores de Revistas, the Brazilian National Association of Magazine Editors. Her work has focused on the areas of parenting, family, health and education. She has been an invited speaker on the subjects of maternity for fathers, as well as mothers and businesses. She is a weekly columnist for Rádio CBN and author of the blog “Mãe de Tween,” about pre-teens, on the website of the newspaper O Globo. She is author of the book "Pré-Adolescente: Um Guia Para Entender Seu Filho” (“Pre-adolescent: A Guide to Understanding Your Child”). Tófoli is a graduate of the faculty of communication at Casper Libero College, a private university in São Paulo, and completed a magazine publishing course at Yale University. She is also the mother of 11-year-old Helena.

This Fellowship program is part of “The Early Childhood Reporting Initiative: Covering Trauma, Resilience and the Developing Brain,” a multi-year Dart Center training program to improve news coverage of early childhood development around the world.

This initiative has been underwritten by the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation (Brazil), the Bernard van Leer Foundation (Netherlands), the Jacobs Foundation (Switzerland) and The Two Lilies Fund (United States).