WASHINGTON — The National Press Club, the world’s leading professional organization for journalists, has chosen Isidoro Rodriguez of Brooklyn, New York, as the recipient of its 2021 Shirley & Dennis Feldman Fellowship. The award for graduate students is a one-time scholarship of $5,000.
Rodriguez, who is attending the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, impressed the judges with his published stories about criminal justice and police abuse of people of color, including one titled, “Stop Turning Your Head: Black Cops Speak Out Against ‘Blanket of Racism.’ ”
Another story, “The Plight of the Police Whistleblower,” was based on deep reporting on police officers who have reported their peers for abuse of power and unequal treatment of black and brown people. Rodriguez wrote about an ever-present threat of retaliation by superiors, the rest of the force, and the system against those police who speak out.
“It wasn’t until I decided to go back to school in 2014, at the age of 31,” he said, “that I took my first steps toward what has become the hardest, most stressful, most educational, and most rewarding experience of my life: being a journalist.”
Since his graduation from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York in 2017, he’s written on probation, juvenile detention, and the bail system. “However, the work that has interested me the most, that I often consider my duty to write, has been on police reform,” he said.
Rodriguez grew up in Japan, Mexico, and Brazil.
“I believe that my early exposure to these cultures, and the international education I received while living in them, has benefited me with an open mind,” he wrote in his application. “My experiences and work in criminal justice reporting have taught me the importance of an analytical and questioning journalistic nature.”
Recommendation letters from his professors praised Rodriguez’s willingness to dig into difficult subjects, such as the research and writing on policing of the mentally ill.
“We applaud Isidoro’s commitment to the important work of reporting on criminal justice and police reform with a focus on some of our communities’ most vulnerable populations,” said Lisa Nicole Matthews, National Press Club president. “Isidoro’s work already has exposed important issues, and we look forward to the impact his journalistic work will have.”
This year’s runner-up is Kathryn Styer-Martinez of Oakland, California, who is attending the Berkeley School of Journalism at the University of California.
Rodriguez is one of four scholarship winners who will be honored at the National Press Club’s Annual Journalism Awards Dinner, to be held virtually from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on December 8, 2021. The National Press Club’s Journalism Awards celebrate the best in American broadcast and print journalism.
Scholarship winners and runners-up are also awarded one-year complimentary membership to the National Press Club.