MAY 2022

Three questions with...
2019 Fellow Melissa Segura

Your Fellows project will be a book based on your award-winning BuzzFeed News series “Broken Justice in Chicago.” What do you plan to expand on in the book?

The series mainly explained what happened: That a Chicago detective framed more than 50 people for murders they say they didn’t commit. Simply explaining the machinations of that scandal demanded so much of our readers. I figured the book format would expand to ask why and how the responsible parties and institutions failed to stop the largest framing scandal in American history. But my characters showed me this story is about so much more. Particularly, they showed how the criminal court system has mostly been run by men but fixed by women. Specifically, women of color. Secondly, the book seeks to expand the white/Black paradigm in criminal justice discussions to include Latinos. So little research explores Latino-police relations even though what little we do know shows that Latinos are disproportionately shot by police and are the least likely to have their murders solved.

Your original reporting led to the exoneration of wrongly convicted people. What goals do you have for the book, policy or otherwise?

Roughly a dozen men remain incarcerated based on the police work of this discredited detective. Dozens more have completed their sentences and still have “convicted murderer” show up on background searches when applying for jobs and apartments. Prosecutors, though, continue to fight exonerating most of these cases. On the most simplistic level, I’d hope that even more reporting will ease the path to exoneration for those convicted under dubious at best, preposterous at worst, police and prosecutorial practices.

On a structural level, I’m aiming to help readers think through the questions they should be asking of their own police departments and district attorneys. Are best practices used for  lineups? What’s the complaint process like for police? How do prosecutors treat jailhouse informant testimony?

On a narrative level, I’d also like to highlight the invisible work that’s been done for decades by mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts of those incarcerated.

How do you balance journalistic distance while still getting these deeply personal stories?

Clear communication has been key. I’m asking people to share some of their most personal experiences with me. With that request, often comes blurred lines and a sense of intimacy. Sources call just to chat and, per previous conversations, they know to tell me when they share something they don’t want to see published. Other times, I explain that as much as I’d like to help the source with, say, an overdue bill, that doing so could jeopardize the aims of the story we’re telling together.

It’s easier when it’s time to sit down at the computer. Vetting and corroborating information ensures that I’m not allowing a personal bond I may have with a source interfere with what appears on the page. Sometimes, when I know the facts of the story and the feelings of a source will collide, it’s back to open communication.

Hot Off The Press

The Mind and the Moon: My Brother's Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches

An important—and intimate—interrogation of how we treat mental illness and how we understand ourselves.

By: Daniel Bergner, Class of 2021

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Two Cents

We asked Fellows to recommend one of their favorite email newsletters.

1: Scot Nakagawa's The Anti-Authoritarian Playbook for big ideas on exploding the radical right's destruction of democracy. As a veteran organizer, Nakagawa draws from his four decades of grassroots work to steel us for the fight ahead. — Ellen D. Wu, Class of 2022

2: I love Marcia Chatelain’s newsletter, Your Favorite Prof, about intersections between fast food and American history! — Eve L. Ewing, Class of 2020

3: Jill Filipovic's newsletters are the best! Always worth reading. — Lisa M. Hamilton, Class of 2019


Vann R. Newkirk II and Keisha N. Blain were named 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellows. 

Keisha N. Blain has also been named a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow in United States History. Thomas Chatterton Williams was named in General Nonfiction.

Matthieu Aikins has won the American Society of Magazine Editors National Magazine Award in Reporting. Azmat Khan won in the Public Interest category. And Rachel Aviv won for Profile Writing. 

Andrea Elliott was awarded the 2022 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for her book Invisible Child. 

Two Cents
New America Events

The top 3 New America events we recommend you check out. Now.



New Research to Bridge the Gap: Dr. Tom Long

Join New America’s New Models of Policy Change Initiative and Bridging the Gap for the latest event in a series of conversations about new research in national security and foreign policy. Learn more


Strategic Foresight in U.S. Agencies

Join New America for a discussion of national security policy and strategic foreseight with Peter Scoblic and New America CEO, Anne-Marie Slaughter. Learn more


The Mind and the Moon

Join the Fellows Program for a conversation with Daniel Bergner about his new book. Learn more

Reading this month

It anchors our current climate crisis in the story of the nutmeg spice, and the history of a centuries-old colonial order. 
— Yi-Ling Liu,
Class of 2021

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Apart from being mordantly funny, poetic, and a page-turner, this book does a spectacular job at showing how major political and economic changes affect the intimate, daily, personal lives of a White family in South Africa. My mom calls it "a perfect novel.
— Anna Louie Sussman,
Class of 2022

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The book's lacunae are as eloquent as anything written. 
— Matthieu Aikins,
Class of 2017

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Sarah Baline + Awista Ayub

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