PHOENIX—AZCIR announced Tuesday that it has hired reporter Shaena Montanari to expand data-driven coverage of health disparities across Arizona. She starts on June 1.

Montanari joins AZCIR as a corps member with Report for America, a national program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities. AZCIR is one of 200 newsrooms across the U.S. to host Report for America corps members, who work as full time staff reporters under the sole editorial direction of the local news organization.

A paleontologist-turned-journalist, Montanari recently completed a master’s degree in investigative journalism from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication where she was a Roy W. Howard Fellow. Before graduating in December 2020, Montanari held reporting fellowships at National Geographic and The Arizona Republic, and produced freelance science and health journalism for publications such as Popular Science and Atlas Obscura. 

Photo by Lidia Terrazas

“Shaena has a fascinating background that will provide tremendous value to our newsroom and our readers. We’re thrilled to have her join our growing team of investigative journalists,” said Brandon Quester, AZCIR’s Executive Director and Editor. “Thanks to the support of innovative national service programs like Report for America, our newsroom is better positioned to provide deeply reported, precision-based health reporting to our state—and it couldn’t come at a more important time.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought critical health disparities around the state to the forefront, and I am thrilled to join AZCIR and be able to dig deeper into these issues for all residents of Arizona,” Montanari said.

AZCIR was selected as a host Report for America newsroom in 2020. The program covers a portion of a reporter’s salary, and the host newsroom must raise the remainder. The cost share is designed to help newsrooms hire reporters while simultaneously growing local philanthropic support for journalism. If you want to help support this position, you can make a tax-deductible donation below. Mention AZCIR’s Report for America journalist within your online donation or in the memo of a check:

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Prefer to send a check? Mail it to AZCIR: PO Box 3665, Phoenix, AZ 85030

Montanari switched her career from science to journalism in 2017 following work as a mass media fellow with National Geographic for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, also known as AAAS. 

As a scientist, Montanari also was a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation, a Newton International Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and a Columbia Science Fellow at Columbia University. She earned a doctorate in comparative biology at the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History. Montanari also holds a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.