Meet the 2017 Cohort of Tow-Knight Entrepreneurial Journalists

Jeremy Caplan
Journalism Innovation
13 min readMay 1, 2017


Our seventh cohort of Entrepreneurial Journalism Fellows at the CUNYJSchool’s Tow-Knight Center

Say Hello to Our 7th Cohort of Entrepreneurial Journalists

Come join us this May to see the latest results in our little experiment in entrepreneurial journalism. This spring we’re hosting our seventh class of entrepreneurial journalists at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Our 16 fellows are spending four months with us developing their own startups. While developing their ventures, they take classes and workshops together in business fundamentals, new models for news, and entrepreneurial skills.

This year’s startups include:

Fader by Vragments, an easy-to-use virtual-reality editing tool

•, a social media verification platform for Arabic news, a weekly newsletter covering the intersection between politics and technology

ZNews Africa, an app and newsletter covering news across Africa

  • @StreetMusicMap, a project mapping street musicians across the globe —nominated for a 2017 Webby

… and many others.

On Fridays we visit hubs of innovation around New York. This year we’ve visited the NYTimes Beta team, the WSJ social media team, a social innovator at Reuters and team leaders at Facebook, McKinsey, Quartz, Vocativ, Kickstarter and Buzzfeed. We’re visiting IDEO and the TED Residency program this month. And along the way we got a peek at the Looking Glass Factory in Brooklyn, focused on amazing next-generation three-dimensional displays. From each visit we take away some ideas, questions and inspiration.

Soon our fellows will have their own opportunity to demo. If you’d like to see what they’re up to, you’re invited to meet them one-on-one at our free Tuesday, May 16th open-house showcase, from 12:30–3pm at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. You’re also invited to join us for the fellows’ public presentations on Wednesday, May 17th at 6pm, all at the CUNYJSchool.

Meanwhile, here are brief bios and startup project descriptions for the fellows who make up our current cohort. They come from 9 countries: Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Germany, Peru and the United States.

Daniel Bacchieri

Rio Grande, Brazil | @bacchieridaniel

Listen to Daniel’s 30-second introduction to his startup venture, covering street musicians across 93 countries

Daniel Bacchieri is a journalist, music curator, filmmaker, producer and the founder and curator of StreetMusicMap, the worldwide collaborative channel about street musicians. His most recent work is focused on documentaries and branded content. Daniel has produced for NBA Entertainment, Fusion Network, Chicas Poderosas, Zeppelin Filmes, VICE Brasil, Spy Films, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Sony, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble.

Project: StreetMusicMap amplifies the daily music lineup of street corners around the globe. The project features more than 1,100 artists documented on videos in 93 countries, filmed by more than 700 collaborators. The numbers are growing daily. StreetMusicMap aims to be the most complete platform about street music in the world. StreetMusicMap promotes exchange between musicians, fans and the music business. It’s the platform where bands can connect with fans and a place for everyone who wants to find the next big thing.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Eri Sánchez

Patagonia Argentina| @erisanchezweb

Erica Sanchez is a journalist and digital content specialist. She is a former contributor and translator at BuzzFeed and the founder and director of Tiempo Patagonico, a hyperlocal media startup in Patagonia Argentina where she helps more than 250K readers a month to be informed, especially during the last two volcanic eruptions that the area experienced. She started her career in journalism working for the biggest Argentinian newspapers, like La Nación magazine and Diario PERFIL, where she received a prize for the best article of the year in 2008 for her work as a crime reporter.

In addition to having been part of the Made in New York Media Center Creative Founder Lab in 2016, she is also an alum of the Y Combinator Startup School 2016 in Cupertino. Erica is a Member of the Women Techmaker Program at Google. In 2012 she was selected for a fellowship at the FNPI — Fundación Gabriel García Márquez para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano. /

Project: is a media platform and weekly newsletter to educate citizens, help them understand climate change, and bring solutions for the climate change crisis.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Barbara Marcolini

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | @babimarcolini

Barbara Marcolini is a multimedia journalist currently based in New York City. She worked at O Globo newspaper, in Rio de Janeiro, and was part of a team that created O Globo a Mais, an award-winning publication for mobile devices. She is a Master’s candidate at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and works at social media news agency Storyful.

Project: Do Rio is a platform of solutions journalism for Rio’s residents. Do Rio helps residents with similar interests to gather solutions for the problems they see in the city, and also points out interesting initiatives that are already out there.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Valerio Bassan

Milan, Italy | @valeriobassan

Valerio Bassan is a journalist, editor and digital strategist focused on technological innovation and media sustainability. Before moving to New York City, he worked in Italy as a senior editor at VICE, where he coordinated a newsroom of in-house reporters and external contributors. Valerio previously lived in Berlin where, in 2012, he co-founded and directed the first digital news outlet for Italians in Europe, Il Mitte. Valerio’s writing has been featured in VICE News, Wired,, Linkiesta and the European Journalism Observatory. He has given talks at the International Journalism Festival, news:rewired and Google’s News Impact Summit and is the author of two ebooks, Tutta un’altra notizia and Next Journalism.

Project: Techtivist is a tech and media platform that connects tech workers who want to have an impact with forward-thinking organizations and politicians working to build a more equal, democratic society.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Michael Rain

New York, NY | @michaeljrain

Michael Rain is the co-founder of ZMedia Tech Group, a media + tech company that builds tech products for the global market of the African diaspora. He serves as the head of product and content of the company’s flagship brand ZNews Africa. Michael is a visual + textual creative, content developer and product manager with a background in strategic communications. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and best-known brands including Time Warner, Toyota and The Wall Street Journal. He is Ghanaian-American, a lifelong New Yorker and a Brooklyn native.

Project: ZNews Africa creates and curates cool stories about the global Pan-African community through our mobile app, newsletter and websiteproducts. We craft original content on ZNewsletter, our weekly email of curated stories, reaches 4,000+ readers across the world. Produced and developed in-house, our full-featured ZNews Africa mobile app has garnered over 80,000 downloads and provides the latest news across Africa from more than 170 global news sources, in both English and French. ZNews Africa is a selected member of Facebook, Google, Microsoft’s accelerator programs for mobile tech startups.

Listen to Michael’s brief audio introduction
Photo: Skyler Reid

Brittney M Walker

New York, USA | @brittneymwalker

Brittney Monique Walker is a travel and social justice journalist and photographer born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Now, New York is now her home, where she freelances and works on, a site she created after taking her first international trip to Ghana.

Brittney started her career as a journalist in college where she covered local and national social justice issues like the Jena Six and police brutality. Some of her most strenuous work involves issues regarding oppression against and injustice within the black American community. She’s currently interested in exploring news topics in travel and sexuality among black women.

Project: Beyonder, a bespoke travel itinerary curation service and platform centered around the black experience. Beyonder’s goal is to make the world feel more local through beautifully constructed, unconventional and off the beaten path trips that immerse travelers into local culture. Check out our landing page here.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Binoy Prabhakar

New Delhi, India | @binawy

Binoy is a journalist who loves the thrill of chasing a good story. Committed to journalism, passionate about storytelling, focused on aviation and curious about everything, he has worked with the biggest media houses in India since 2001. A senior editor with The Economic Times, India’s biggest business newspaper, Binoy is now on a six-month sabbatical. Just before that, he oversaw the features team at the newspaper. He was formerly Deputy Editor, The Economic Times Magazine, and worked at The Indian Express, The Times of India and Hindustan Times. Binoy has a Masters in Economics and a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism. Always looking to learn something new, he is at Tow-Knight to begin another exciting journey in journalism.

Project: Rede is a journalism-driven business intelligence platform providing news, information and insights useful to the commercial aviation community in India.

Listen to Binoy’s quick audio summary of what he’s working on
Photo: Skyler Reid

Barbara Yang

Hang Zhou, China | @YangLiyun1

Barbara Liyun Yang is a journalist at Ming Pao Daily, a major Chinese newspaper in Hong Kong, covering political news and social news in Mainland and Taiwan. She was the winner of Best Young Reporter award from The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong in 2015. Barbara has also focused on women and LGBT issues since graduating from the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a Master’s Degree in Gender Studies.

Listen to Barbara’s 30-second summary of her startup project for the Chinese LGBT community

Project: PinkPower, a news startup focusing on the LGBT market in China. PinkPower is the social media bridge between business owners — those who want to reach the LGBT Chinese market — and the LGBT community.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Romina Mella

Lima, Peru | @romina_mella

Romina Mella is senior investigative reporter and founding member of IDL-Reporteros, an independent investigative media outlet in Peru. Over the last 10 years, she has specialized in covering political and corporate corruption, money laundering, organized crime, drug trafficking, and political violence, among other sensitive issues.

She was a fellow of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in 2014; and a speaker at the Latin American Congress on Investigative Journalism in 2010 and 2013. She participated in three of the biggest investigations conducted by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ): Panama Papers, Swiss Leaks and Offshore Leaks.

Project: IDL-Reporteros is the first digital, non-profit media outlet in Peru wholly dedicated to investigative journalism. Founded in 2010, IDL-Reporteros has published more than 1,400 stories about corruption at the top levels of government and corporations, drug trafficking, organized crime, extractive industries and violations of consumer rights. Its goal is to support well-informed decision-making by citizens and to demand government accountability.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Linda Rath-Wiggins

Berlin, Germany | @lynda420

Linda is the co-founder and CEO of Vragments, a Berlin-based VR startup that develops a VR tool for journalists and that produces immersive VR projects in cooperation with newsrooms around the world. Since 2008, Linda has worked for Germany’s international public broadcaster Deutsche Welle as an innovation manager, looking for the latest developments in the media landscape and managing projects co-funded by the EU evolving around topics like data journalism, cloud computing and social media content verification. In 2015, Linda successfully defended her PhD dissertation in media sciences. Since 2009, she has conducted seminars at the University of Bonn, Germany.

Project: Vragments. Vragments is a VR startup currently developing a VR tool called Fader, which allows journalists to create and publish VR stories easily and fast. Journalists can already sign up to try out the prototype. Vragments produced a first use case in cooperation with the Center for Investigative Reporting. Vragments has received funding from Google’s Digital News Initiative to build Fader.

Linda’s 30-second audio hello
Photo: Skyler Reid


NY, NY| @whydidieatthat

Writer, producer, and multimedia journalist, KalaLea has worked as a freelance photographer and digital producer for more than 10 years in the advertising and publishing industries. As a storyteller and documentarian, she produces stories about human behavior, relationships and health. Most recently, KalaLea produced a few audio stories for NPR’s Latino USA. She also received her Master’s degree from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2016.

Project:​ Why Did I Eat That? (WDIET) is a community for busy creative professionals who want support with eating better and living a more balanced life. Its portfolio includes a website, health coaching, podcast and upcoming book project.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Peter Green

NY, NY |@PeterGreenNews

Peter Green is a reporter, editor and news entrepreneur. A veteran foreign correspondent, he has covered wars, revolutions and the transformation of the former Communist world for UPI, the Times of London, the International Herald Tribune and the NY Times. He’s also been a senior editor at the New York Post, Metro and Crain’s New York Business, and has won awards for investigative reporting, feature writing and branded content.

Project: FoodMakers.NYC is a business-to-business newsletter for New York’s food-making and food-selling community.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Brandon Sugiyama

Brooklyn, NY | @invibe

Brandon Sugiyama is a motion graphic designer and art director with a passion for connecting people with the world around them. With more than eight years of experience working in San Francisco and New York, Brandon has produced graphics for TED Conferences, HBO, The Food Network, The New York Times, and numerous documentary films. He volunteers as a mentor and operations director for Voices, the Asian American Journalists Association’s student project.

Project: Developing motion graphics resources for journalists, news organizations and documentary filmmakers and empowering them to create engaging visual storytelling.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Dawn Kissi

NY, NY | @dawnkissi

Dawn Kissi is an award-winning multilingual journalist, international correspondent and executive producer covering global markets, finance and business. Throughout her career she has interviewed and profiled some of the world’s most prominent individuals and businesses, landing exclusives with countless newsmakers. In 2015 she was awarded one of the first Made in NY Entrepreneur Innovation grants via the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment (MOME) after a competitive process administered by the Made in NY Media Center and the City of New York’s Economic Development Corporation.

In December of 2015 she formed Emerging Market Media, a new media and technology firm dedicated to reporting, producing and telling the stories of the world’s emerging markets. The firm is also developing artificial intelligence tools to aid publishers to deliver the most timely and relevant news and info on specific sectors/markets. She currently serves as the founding Editor-in-Chief of Emerging Market Views, the firm’s flagship website, which formally launched in October of 2016. She is first-generation American and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Project: Emerging Market Views, a single-topic multimedia platform focused solely on the world’s emerging and frontier markets.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Husain Marhoon

Manama, Bahrain |@marhoon

An independent Bahraini journalist, Husain has worked as a reporter and coordinator for the cultural pages for the Bahraini daily newspapers Al Waqt and Al Ayam. He covered the events of the 2011 Bahraini uprising for several media outlets, and his articles have been published in a variety of Arab newspapers and periodicals, including Al-monitor, Al-Akhbar, An-Nahar and Al-Jazeera Documentary. He has a BA in Journalism from the University of Bahrain. He practices Arabic calligraphy as a hobby and makes collage art that features Arabic writings. His blog:

Project: Alkunnash, a fact-checking service focused on news shared on social media and messaging platforms in the Arab Gulf States Region. The project uses visual memes to publish verified stories.

Photo: Skyler Reid

Rajan Zaveri

New Delhi, India |@rajanzaveri

Rajan is the Co-Founder, Project Director at HELM Studio and freelance 360° videographer for the New York Times. He uses mixed media reportage to focus on the social and cultural interests of a community and has covered issues internationally with projects in the UK, Croatia, Bosnia, Egypt and India. Rajan’s work has been featured by various publications and organizations such as Al Jazeera, Wall Street Journal, Ford Foundation, Save the Children, Guardian, Telegraph, BBC, Storyhunter, Vocativ and Vice Magazine.

Project: HELM Studio partners with human rights defenders and their organizations to ideate, fund and build social design solutions that promote human rights and access to justice. This approach combines grassroots experience-based expertise with legal, media and technology proficiency. Together, we use cutting-edge education, legal and media tools to magnify human rights violations and support marginalized communities to claim their rights and access justice.

Our EJ17 cohort is looking forward to sharing their ventures this May

Join us this May to meet the fellows!

Showcase Day: Tuesday, May 16th, 12:30–3pm, Meet the Fellows One-on-One (No Presentations)

Demo Night: Wednesday, May 17th at 6pm Final Four-Minute Presentations from All 16 Fellows

Looking Back and Looking Forward

In 2010, with the support of the Tow Foundation, the Knight Foundation, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism founding dean Stephen Shepard and the school’s faculty and staff, we launched the Tow-Knight Center and invited in our first group of fellows.

Since then we have selected and worked with more than 100 journalists from countries all over the world, many of whom now run outstanding projects such as Skillcrush,, NK News, Coda Story, How India Lives, Big Girls Small Kitchen, The Edge, Mandara Online and many others.

If you’re interested in applying for next year’s program, which begins in January, 2018, please visit to find out more.



Jeremy Caplan
Journalism Innovation

Director of Teaching and Learning @NewmarkJSchool; Former @Time Reporter | My Newsletter: