Mzwandile Poncana – 2023

2023 CJF-IJB Black Journalism Fellowship Recipient - Mzwandile Poncana

During my experience at the Investigative Journalism Bureau, I worked on a long-term project about the infrastructure gap experienced by Indigenous communities in Canada. I conducted sensitive, trauma-informed interviews with Indigenous community members, gathered important data about spending on Indigenous communities, and contributed to writing and editing an in-depth investigative article that was eventually published in the Toronto Star.

The attention to detail that the investigative journalists at the IJB dedicate to their work, as well as their creative approaches to developing investigations, are both elements that I will take with me into my career and have grown me as a reporter.

I was trained in filing Freedom of Information requests, and had the opportunity to file some for the infrastructure gap story I was working on—this training is something I will take into journalistic projects I do in the future.

I also researched and pitched for the IJB’s podcast—Heliograph—and helped formulate interview questions for it.

The fellowship has exposed me to various, important professional contacts. The Investigative Journalism Bureau staff spent some days working at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and other days working at the Toronto Star. I have gained contacts and networking opportunities from both institutions: medical experts who I can interview for future articles at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and senior journalists/reporters who have agreed to mentor me in my early-career from the Toronto Star.

There is a law class that is often held at the Toronto Star—meant to teach students about the intersection between journalism and the legal world—IJB reporters are encouraged to sit in on these classes. I learned a lot from many of the well-detailed, interactive sessions.

Whenever I required guidance with a project or with an investigative methodology, some of my colleagues would happily provide it.

I will be spending the summer at the multiple award-winning, digital magazine, The Local, to work on an investigative, long-form feature there that I’m very passionate about—utilizing the skills that I gained from the Investigative Journalism Bureau. Following that, the sky’s the limit—I believe many opportunities have opened up for me following this fellowship.