Blaze Lovell will look into procurement practices during the year-long program.

Civil Beat state government reporter Blaze Lovell has been selected for the inaugural class of The New York Times Local Investigations Fellowship.

Lovell is one of seven journalists picked for the first class of investigative fellows, a program being led by recently retired Times executive editor Dean Baquet.

Lovell was chosen from about 200 applicants, according to a Times spokesman.

Civil Beat reporter Blaze Lovell and Kevin Dayton participate in Civil Cafe 2022.
Civil Beat reporters Blaze Lovell, left, and Kevin Dayton interview lawmakers as part of a Civil Cafe panel.

“There was so much talent out there and so many good ideas. These were hard choices. But this is a remarkable group of reporters. And their work will have an impact on their communities,” Baquet said Thursday in a press release about the program.

The fellowship gives journalists “the opportunity to produce signature investigative work focused on their state or region,” according to the release.

The Times will publish Lovell’s work and make it available to Civil Beat for co-publication.

The year-long fellowship requires Lovell to leave Civil Beat for that period, although he will remain in Hawaii and report from here. He plans to focus on emergency and no-bid contracts awarded by the state and counties, building on his work in the bribery and corruption case involving former lawmakers J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen, and local contractor Milton Choy.

Other fellows in the inaugural class are, according to the press release:

Shalina Chatlini, a reporter for States Newsroom in New Orleans. Chatlani, who was raised in Mississippi, will live in Jackson for a year to examine the state’s health care system.

Ilyssa Daly, a reporter for Mississippi Today. Daly will report on local law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Callie Ferguson, a reporter for The Bangor Daily News in Maine. Ferguson will write about the state’s juvenile justice system. 

Sarah Fowler, a freelance journalist based in Jackson, Mississippi. Fowler will investigate the ongoing water crisis in Jackson, where crumbling infrastructure has routinely left the capital city without drinkable water.

Mario Koran, a reporter for Wisconsin Watch. Koran will examine the state’s Department of Corrections. 

Alissa Zhu, a reporter for The Baltimore Banner. Zhu will report on the state’s opioid crisis. 

Reporter Blaze Lovell has been covering state government and the Legislature for Civil Beat for the past several years. Last week he sat in on a Civil Beat Editorial Board session with Gov. Josh Green. (Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2023)

Lovell joined Civil Beat as a summer intern in 2017 and then returned full-time in 2018 after earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Lovell was born and raised on Oahu and graduated from Pearl City High School.

For the past several years, Lovell has been a state government reporter for Civil Beat, covering the Legislature as well. He has been an adjunct professor for the University of Hawaii journalism program, mentoring dozens of students who help cover the legislative session as part of a senior reporting class.

Lovell is expected to return to Civil Beat when the fellowship ends.

The Times fellowship was introduced to help develop the next generation of reporters to produce accountability journalism at the local level, the press release says. In addition to producing signature investigative work, fellows will be provided with frequent training opportunities to learn investigative reporting techniques and make trips to New York for additional training and mentorship. Times editors will also visit fellows in their reporting regions. 

“The hard and expensive work of investigative reporting at the local level is rarer and more needed than ever. We’re excited to play our part by helping these journalists tackle consequential questions in their communities and learn valuable new skills that will serve them for years to come,” A.G. Sulzberger, chairman and publisher of The Times, said in the news release.

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