About Watchdog Writers Group

The Watchdog Writers Group is a nonprofit journalism fellowship program and teaching lab based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. The WWG has a dual mission: to financially support authors as they write a deeply reported nonfiction book in the public interest, while simultaneously training the next generation of young reporters.

The WWG’s centerpiece program is a top-tier fellowship for established journalists who are writing a book. The program will give fellows an annual stipend of at least $50,000 for two years, supporting them as they step away from their day jobs to conduct the type of time-consuming, onerous reporting that falls through the cracks in over-stressed newsrooms.

Watchdog Writers Group funds the type of deep investigative journalism that is no longer supported by the private marketplace. We do this by giving annual fellowships to authors, and by hiring students to be reporters alongside them. In doing this, the program hopes to revitalize newsgathering in the middle of the country about vitally important issues.

- WWG Director Christopher Leonard
Books Stacked

The WWG will also partner each fellow with a graduate student at the Missouri Journalism School. The student will be a reporting assistant to the fellow, conducting a year-long apprenticeship that teaches them the best practices and ethics of investigative reporting. During the second half of their year-long program, each student will write and report a story of their own under the fellow’s mentorship.

The Group was launched in early 2020 with a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the Schmidt Family Foundation. The WWG is also funded through the generous support of the William T. Kemper Foundation in Kansas City, Mo. Because it is based at the Missouri Journalism School, the WWG has access to world-class faculty and student reporters, making it a vitally important hub for print journalism and training in the heart of the Midwest.

The Team

THE AUTHORS, CLASS OF 2022

Sarah Smarsh

FELLOW

Sarah Smarsh

Sarah Smarsh is a journalist who has covered socioeconomic class, politics and public
policy for The New York Times, National Geographic, Harper’s, and many other
publications.

READ BIO
Alisa Roth

FELLOW

Alisa Roth

Alisa Roth is a contributor to Marketplace, NPR, and other outlets, who specializes in mental health, criminal justice and other social policy issues.

READ BIO

FELLOW

Shoshana Walter

Shoshana Walter is writing a book that builds on her award-winning reporting for Reveal on unpaid work camps masquerading as rehab. Her book, “Untreated,” will chronicle the many problems plaguing the country’s addiction treatment system, how it got this way and how we could do better for the millions of people in the US struggling with addiction.

READ BIO

FELLOW

Michael Grunwald

Michael Grunwald is working on a book for Simon & Schuster about how to feed the world without frying the world. It’s about the food we eat, the farms that make the food, the forests that get cleared to make room for the farms, and the search for technological and political solutions that can prevent us from eating the earth.

READ BIO

FELLOW

Mya Frazier

Mya Frazier is writing a book that expands on her recent investigation for The New York Times Magazine into America’s housing crisis and the credit reporting system. During the fellowship, she will research the relationship between class mobility and the credit system.

READ BIO

THE AUTHORS, CLASS OF 2021

FELLOW

Shoshana Walter

Shoshana Walter is writing a book that builds on her award-winning reporting for Reveal on unpaid work camps masquerading as rehab. Her book, “Untreated,” will chronicle the many problems plaguing the country’s addiction treatment system, how it got this way and how we could do better for the millions of people in the US struggling with addiction.

READ BIO

FELLOW

Michael Grunwald

Michael Grunwald is working on a book for Simon & Schuster about how to feed the world without frying the world. It’s about the food we eat, the farms that make the food, the forests that get cleared to make room for the farms, and the search for technological and political solutions that can prevent us from eating the earth.

READ BIO

FELLOW

Mya Frazier

Mya Frazier is writing a book that expands on her recent investigation for The New York Times Magazine into America’s housing crisis and the credit reporting system. During the fellowship, she will research the relationship between class mobility and the credit system.

READ BIO
Pamela Colloff

FELLOW

Pamela Colloff

Staff writer, New York Times Magazine
and Senior Reporter at ProPublica

Writing a book about the criminal justice system and jailhouse informants.

READ BIO

THE AUTHORS, CLASS OF 2020

Pamela Colloff

FELLOW

Pamela Colloff

Staff writer, New York Times Magazine
and Senior Reporter at ProPublica

Writing a book about the criminal justice system and jailhouse informants.

READ BIO
PATRICIA “P.J.” HUFFSTUTTER

FELLOW

Patricia “P.J.” Huffstutter

Agribusiness Reporter
at Reuters News

Writing a book about the farm debt crisis in rural America.

READ BIO

FELLOW

John Eligon

New York Times National Correspondent

Developing a book project about the Black Lives Matter movement.

READ BIO
Chris Leonard

DIRECTOR

Christopher Leonard

Executive Director
of the WWG

Writing a book about a company at the heart of American political and economic affairs.

READ BIO

THE STUDENTS, CLASS OF 2022

Mavis Chan

Mavis Chan

Mavis Chan is a senior majoring in journalism and
 political science at the University of Missouri.

READ BIO
Teghan Simonton

Teghan Simonton

Teghan Simonton is a graduate student at the University of Missouri studying investigative reporting.

READ BIO
Beatrice Bankauskaite

Beatrice Bankauskaite

Beatrice Bankauskaite is a Fulbright grantee and a graduate student at the University of Missouri studying documentary and photojournalism.

READ BIO
Claudia Rivera-Cotto

Claudia Rivera-Cotto

Claudia Rivera-Cotto is a graduate student at the University of Missouri in data and investigative journalism.

READ BIO
Jana Rose Schleis

Jana Rose Schleis

Jana Rose Schleis is a second year M.A. student in the Missouri School of Journalism. She’s studying investigative journalism, government reporting and public policy.

READ BIO
Regan Mertz

Regan Mertz

Regan Mertz is a graduate student studying Documentary and Photojournalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

READ BIO

THE STUDENTS, CLASS OF 2021

Cianna Morales

Morales is working with Shoshana Walter to investigate the shrouded rehab industry that has grown up around America’s opioid epidemic.

READ BIO

Mark Ossolinski

Ossolinski is working with Grunwald to investigate the relationship between agribusiness and climate change.

READ BIO

THE STUDENTS, CLASS OF 2020

STEVEN GARRISON

Steven Garrison

Working with Pamela Colloff to investigate the criminal justice system in Missouri and
other states.

READ BIO
PENG “FION” CHEN

Peng “Fion” Chen

Working with P.J. Huffstutter to build a unique, searchable database of farm debt and loan defaults across America.

READ BIO
KELLY KULLMAN

Kelly Kullman

Working with Christopher Leonard to research the modern history
of U.S. banks.

READ BIO
LEARN MORE

How to get involved

Learn more about our fellowship program

Learn more about donating to WWG

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“False Witness”

The New York Times Magazine