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Alumni Newsletter, Spring 2019

  • By Maritza Villela


Our alumni played a featured role at the Awards for Excellence gala at Cipriani 25 Broadway on April 9, both as honorees and guests. Three Class of 2018 graduates, Claudia Irizarry Aponte, Reynaldo Leanos Jr., and Alexandra Semenova, along with 2016 alum Allen Arthur, received awards. And more than two dozen alums were in the audience cheering them on, sitting at either an all-alumni table or with colleagues from their media jobs. We even had two graduates, Skyler Reid, ’13, and Jessica Bal, ’15 , taking the official photos of the event.

The annual gathering celebrates journalism and technology innovators and provides scholarships for Newmark J-School students. In addition to the four alumni prizes, the school presented the Newmark Journalism Award to ProPublica President Richard Tofel and the Newmark Innovation Award to betaworks CEO John Borthwick.

Claudia Irizarry Aponte, ’18, received the Sidney Hillman Foundation Social Justice Reporting award. (Photo: ©Skyler Reid/, ’13)
Master of Ceremonies Ali Velshi, business correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, presented Reynaldo Leanos Jr., ’18, with The Newsweek Alumni Prize. (Photo: ©Skyler Reid/, ’13)
Alexandra Semenova, ’18, accepted the Frederic Wiegold Prize for Business Reporting. (Photo: ©Skyler Reid/, ’13)
Dean Sarah Bartlett posed with Allen Arthur, ’16, winner of the Stephen B. Shepard Prize for Investigative Reporting. (Photo: © Jessica Bal, ’15)

2019 Alumni Homecoming

Kick off the summer on Saturday, June 8 by celebrating Alumni Homecoming 2019, with special guest speaker Craig Newmark. Take advantage of this annual opportunity to reunite, catch up, and reminisce with your Newmark J-School family of alums, faculty, and staff. #newmarkjhomecoming

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2019 Latino Media Summit

On June 21 and 22 at the Newmark J-School, the Spanish-language Journalism Program is hosting the third edition of the Latino Media Summit, which brings together journalists, industry leaders, innovators, thinkers, product specialists, and digital news entrepreneurs to focus on Latino audiences in the United States. This year, the event will include the launch of a comprehensive State of the Latino News Media Report researched and produced by the Spanish-language Journalism Program.


Thirteen Newmark J-School alums and Acting Audio Program Director Amanda Aronczyk gathered where they all work, at WNYC, New York’s flagship public radio station, for our third Mugshot photo. STANDING, left to right: Dominique Jack, Brooklyn College ’18 and WNYC newsroom intern; Amanda Aronczyk, reporter for The Stakes; Gwynne Hogan ,’14, health reporter; KalaLea,’17, associate producer of the New Yorker Radio Hour; Mary Croke,’13, senior producer of The Brian Lehrer Show; Alana Casanova-Burgess,’10, producer of On The Media; Paula Moura,’18, newsroom intern; Joshua Christensen,’18, intern at The Takeaway; Rob Dozier,’18, intern at All of It; Danny Lewis,’14, associate producer of All Things Considered; Priscilla Alabi, ’17, freelance producer; Katherine Fung,’18, freelance producer. SEATED, left to right: Sean Carlson,’12,  news host; Brigid Bergin,’07, City Hall and politics reporter; Tanzina Vega,’07, host of The Takeaway. (Photo: ©Skyler Reid/

Alumni On the Move

Donna Airoldi, ’16, started a full-time job as senior lodging & meetings editor for Business Travel News.

Allen Arthur, Social Journalism ’16, was hired at the Solutions Journalism Network as the online engagement manager.

Ghita Benslimane, Social Journalism  ’17, was hired as a video producer at Brut.

Anna Brooks, ’18, was hired full-time as a health producer at Everyday Health after working there as an intern .

Morten Buttler, ’16, will join Bloomberg in August as a full-time reporter, where he will cover Danish politics and the economy in Copenhagen.

Laura Calcada, Social Journalism ’17, was hired at Núvol as head of community in Barcelona, Spain.

Paul DeBenedetto, ’11, recently joined the Houston Chronicle features desk as a producer.

Emily DeCicco, Social Journalism ’15, is now the audience development manager at Sports Illustrated.

Michael DeSantis, ’18, started working at Patch as field editor of Long Island sites.

Anastasia Economides, ’09, was promoted to copy desk chief at LendingTree.

Molly Enking, ’18, was selected as a 2019 New Fellow for Grist.

Jillian Eugenios, ’13, was promoted to senior producer at Great Big Story.

Ben Foldy, ’18, has been hired as a full-time reporter for the Detroit bureau of The Wall Street Journal to cover autos.

Maria Fraschilla, Social Journalism ’17, will work on the Wounded Warrior Project‘s social media team in Jacksonville, Fla.

Oscar Gonzales, ’17, is working at CNET as a staff reporter.

Anna Halkidis, ’12, started a new job in March as features editor at 

Janae Hunter, ’16, was promoted from associate producer to producer at NY1 News. 

Georgia Kral, ’07, will join the faculty at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ this fall as an instructor in the Department of Communication and Media Culture.

Jennifer Lehman, ’15, was hired as a news associate at the Associated Press east desk in New York.

After six years at Barron’s, Ben Levisohn, ’07, was named deputy editor.

Jessica Simeone Lowery, ’09, started a job as news editor at NBC News.

After more than 10 years at The Wall Street Journal, Kathryn Lurie, ’08, joined Reuters as social media manager on April 29.

K. Dominic McKenzie, ’18, is the executive director of JournoCollective, a Jamaican non-profit offering students interested in journalism an exclusive platform to learn from journalists through mentorship and extensive training.

Clark Merrefield, ’08, joined Harvard University’s Kennedy School as an economic research reporter for Journalist’s Source.

In addition to being the weekend morning producer at WCBS-TV, Annais Morales, ’11, will be teaching News Video Reporting at Hunter College in the fall.

Laura Ratliff, ’11, started working at TripSavvy as an editorial director.

Ashley Rodriguez, ’14, joined Business Insider as Senior Future of T.V. Reporter, where she will cover Disney, Netflix, and advertising businesses of companies.

Formerly managing producer of podcasts at WAMU in Washington, D.C., Daisy Rosario, ’12, was hired as the new executive producer for Stitcher in New York City.

Willa Rubin, ’18, will join the new WSJ/Gimlet podcast team as an associate producer.

In addition to her freelance role as homepage and audience engagement editor with the New York Daily NewsAlyxaundria Sanford, Social Journalism ’17, will be the Newmark J-School’s Social Journalism program coordinator.

Besides serving part-time as an editor for the Daily News Editorial Board’s Voices of the People page, Clarissa Sosin, ’17, is working as a photographer for WNYC and contributed to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE).

Divya J. Verma, ’13, joined CNBC’s Digital Video team as a digital video producer focusing on livestreams and OTT programming.

Kristine Villanueva, Social Journalism ’17, was hired as an audience engagement fellow for Politico in Washington, D.C.

Zach Williams, ’16, is the state legislative reporter for City & State.


Left to right: Chris Vaccaro, vice president, digital news, Altice USA, and chair of Region 1 Mark of Excellence awards; Naomi Yane, ’17;  K. Dominic McKenzie, ’18; and Jane Primerano, SPJ Region 1 coordinator, at the Society for Professional Journalists Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards on Saturday, April 6 in Boston.

Society for Professional Journalists Region 1 Mark of
Excellence Awards 

Work produced by Newmark Graduate School of Journalism outlets won
six awards:

Sex, Apps — and Bingo (Online Feature Reporting)

Avi Scher, ’18, “Climate Grief” (Radio Feature)

Josh Christensen, ’18, “Sleep Paralysis” (Radio In-Depth Reporting)

Rikers and Beyond (Online News Reporting)

Food Plight (Best Use of Multimedia)

NYCity News Service (Best Independent Online Student Publication)


Newsday reporter Aisha Al-Muslim, ’09, contributed to “Pathway to Power,” the winning investigative piece for the Society of the Silurians’ Excellence in Journalism contest.

Allen Arthur, ’16, has been organizing an event series, The Art of Return, a space for formerly incarcerated people to share their creativity and art.

2014 alum Melanie Bencosme’s documentary, “The Last Doctor’s of the Santa Fe School Shooting,” made it into the NYC Short Documentary Film Festival and the San Francisco DocFest. It also won a Los Angeles Film Award and a Sigma Delta Chi Award.

2018 alum Lea Ceasrine’s capstone, “Dozens of ICE Detainees Have Been Placed on Suicide Watch in a New Jersey Facility,” was published by Documented.

Molly Enking, ’18, was selected as an American Association of Healthcare Journalists of New York fellow.

Class of 2018 alums Ben Foldy and Eliana Perez won $5,000 New York Financial Writers scholarships for their work at the J-School and on their internships.

Simon Galperin, Social Journalism ’16, was on a the “Public Funding for the Media in the 21st Century” panel at the International Journalism Festival in Italy and was featured in the Gather Newsletter.

2015 graduates Rachel Glickhouse and María Sánchez Díez contributed to ProPublica’s Pulitzer Prize finalist series “Zero Tolerance”.

Senior editor Amy Goldstein, ’07, built and launched ESPN’s in-house domestic violence style guide.

Patrick Hickey, ’11, did story editing and lead voice over on The Padre and The Kaiju Offensive video games, which were released in April.

KalaLea, ’16, reported a two-part feature for the New Yorker Radio Hour about two married Black Panthers who fled the United States in 1970 and have been living in exile since.

Kat Long, ’15, won a reporting grant from the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources (IJNR) which will allow her to report on a program that reconnects indigenous children to their cultural traditions through cutting-edge science in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Long was also chosen as a judge in the science features category for the National Association of Science Writers’ Science in Society Awards.

2018 alum Richard Loria’s capstone documentary ‘The Land Is Ours” was awarded a 2019 CUNY Film Festival Prize for best editing.

Thiago Medaglia, EJ ’16, will join The Knight Science Journalism program at MIT.

P.E. Moskowitz, ’12, was chosen as a 2019 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow.

Paula Moura, ’18, published her first feature for WNYC as part of her internship.

Sindy Nanclares, ’18, won the LGBT Image Award at the CUNY Film Festival for her documentary capstone.

Annie Nova, ’17, appeared on WNYC’s The Takeaway to talk about Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to wipe out student debt and how education loans shape American life.

Founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts, Jeanne Pinder, EJ ’11, is part of Crain’s New York Business’ inaugural Notable Women in Tech list. 

In September, Michael Rain, EJ ’17, will be a John S. Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University.

2009 alum Mike Reicher’s story, “Special report: Amid Nashville’s housing boom, safety rules are ignored and more workers die,” won the Tennessee AP’s Malcolm Law Investigative Reporting Award.

Thanks to 2017 alum Kayla Rivera’s story in the Marietta Daily Journal on two Georgia teachers fighting cancer, the Atlanta Braves and Kohl’s Department store donated money towards the teachers’ medical bills.

Ana Maria Rodriguez, ’15, will receive a Gracies Award for best news page for her project, “When abortion is a lifeline,” about reproductive rights in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.

Alyxaudria Sanford, ’17, published “Black History Now: How Topeka K. Sam Is Carrying On Harriet Tubman’s Legacy,” in Essence.

Avi Scher, ’18,  wrote an episode of “Still A Mystery,” a true crime documentary show, airing June 14 on the Discovery Channel.

Emily Siegel, ’16, was part of the NBC Investigative Unit’s winning team of the Overseas Press Club of America Awards for best investigative reporting in any medium on an international story. The project also won the Scripps Howard Impact Award.

Clarissa Sosin,’17, won two grants: one from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to continue her investigative work in Louisiana and the second from Solitary Watch to work on a documentary project in Pennsylvania on the challenges and impact that the Miller Decision has had on a juvenile behind bars.

Nadia Sussman, ’10, and adjuncts Adriana Gallardo and Terry Parris Jr. contributed to ProPublica’s Pulitzer Prize winning series, “Trapped in Gangland,” by Hannah Dreier.

On his podcast At the End of the Day, Anuz Thapa, ’17, interviewed fellow alum Ghita Benslimane, ’18,  about her experience moving to the U.S. from Morocco and how she helped make the J-School’s master’s program a STEM career.

Selly Thiam,’11, was profiled in Forbes about her digital organization None on Record.

2018 alum Max Zahn’s capstone, ‘Colony of Hell’: 911 Calls From Inside Amazon Warehouses,  was published by the Daily Beast.


Puerto Rican alumni and students huddled for a group photo at the J-School’s Open House for admitted students on April 15. Left to right: Cristian Arroyo Santiago ’19; Natalia Rodríguez Medina ’19; Andrea González Ramírez ’15; Yolanda Rodríguez, Acting Director of Career Services; Claudia Irizarry Aponte ’18; Cristina Corujo Oruña ’19, and a prospective student for the class of 2020.
Kat Long, ’15, staff editor at Mental Floss, visited Tim Harper’s feature writing class. (Photo: Ennica Jacob, ’19)
Caroline Shin, EJ ’16, presented Cooking with Granny at the Apollo Theater alongside two Somali “Granny” master home chefs, Faduma and Safia.
Jeanette Moses ,’13, reviewed the work of Danielle Hyams ,’19, at the American Society of Magazine Photographers’ student portfolio review at the J-School on May, 4, 2019. (Photo: John Smock)
Kayla Rivera, ’17, is enjoying her job at CBS 46 in Georgia.
Last December, Mariana Keller, ’11, went to Tijuana to film a documentary called “Behind the Wall” on the plight of asylum seekers. 
Naeisha Rose, ’15, took a selfie with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at an education forum in Jackson Heights.
Mirva Lempiainen, ’09, husband Jean-François Antier, and daughter Lily stopped by the J-School on their visit to NYC from Guadaloupe, the French Caribbean, where she works as a freelance reporter.
Alumni Services and Career Services had their first “Mentoring Minutes,” a program that allows current students to prepare for job interviews with the help of alums.
13 alums and 11 members of the Class of 2019 participated in “Mentoring Minutes” on Tuesday, April 30 . (Left to right: Natasha Madov, ’14; Susie Armitage, ’13; Sophia Rosenbaum, ’13; and Rebecca Bratek, ’14)
Left to right: Anna Brooks, ’18, and Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, oncology reporter and author, interviewed Sterling K. Brown about his new cancer-surviving project for a soon-to-be-published Everyday Health article.
Melissa Rose Cooper, ’10, enjoyed a bite of the Pizzaritto during her News12 Westchester Tasty Tuesday shoot at Russo’s in Pearl River.


Dominik Wurnig, ’13, married Matthäa Ritter in August 2018 on a historic horse race track in Vienna, Austria. They are expecting a baby in July.

J-School Babies

Marcella Veneziale, ’09, and husband Dalibor Grudenić welcomed baby Eva on February 22 in Zagreb, Croatia.
Melisa Stumpf, ’14, welcomed Sienna Pearl on March 15.
Rose Itzcovitz, ’15, welcomed Rylie Bri Aponte on Dec. 4, 2018 in Fargo, ND.
Jordan Shakeshaft, ’10, and Collin Orcutt, ’09, welcomed London Peter Orcutt on Dec. 2, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA.

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT - Ann Marie Awad, ’13

While covering the education beat at KUNC in northern Colorado, Ann Marie Awad, ’13, found herself reporting on the connection between marijuana taxes and education funding. This led to her current beat as a cannabis reporter for Colorado Public Radio. On April 20, for the 4/20 cannabis celebration day, Awad co-hosted a national, three-hour call-in show with WNYC host Brian Lehrer to discuss the legalization of cannabis. Awad also recently completed the PRX Project Catapult accelerator program and will host and produce the podcast On Something making its debut this summer.

Awad is used to people’s queries about her job and was happy to answer Class of 2019 student Denise Cervantes’ questions about working as a cannabis reporter and her Newmark J-School experience.

Ann Marie Awad spoke at the PRX Project Catapult showcase in Boston. (Photo: Cristopher McIntosh)

Over time my interest (in the subject of cannabis) grew. I covered veterans who were fighting for the legal access to medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder. I covered several different research studies probing marijuana questions. I guess from there the geekdom grew and grew.

Cannabis is just so entrenched with American culture, no matter what anybody says. And this legalization thing is really highlighting all the ways it intersects with our politics, criminal justice system, popular culture, beliefs, and morals.

The process of making this podcast has probably been the most challenging and fun part of my career so far. I’d like to keep riding this wave.

Faculty and Staff News

Kelsey Arendt, a senior market strategist for, was at the J-School to co-teach the Social Journalism Metrics and Outcomes course.

Adjunct professor Vanessa Botelho enjoyed teaching the On-Camera class this spring, where students learned different types of reporting styles, how to do a live shot in the field, how to shoot a taped standup, and how to report in-studio.

Carrie Brown, Social Journalism program director, served as a judge for the National Magazine Awards.

Sandeep Junnarkar, director of Interactive Journalism, was one of seven winners selected in the AI and the News: Open Challenge competition. The $100,000 award to Newmark J-School will be used to launch a program that trains community media journalists to uncover and analyze machine learning systems and create news pieces about the impact of these technologies on immigrants and low-income communities.

Graciela Mochkofsky, Spanish-language program director, was named executive director of the Center for Community and Ethnic Media.  She also published the inaugural Spanish-language class’s interactive map of Latino news media in the U.S. and Puerto Rico with Cristina Maldonado.

Social Journalism professor Terry Parris Jr. joined Jere Hester, former director of the NYCity News Service, at The City as the engagement director.

Jan Simpson, director of the Arts & Culture Reporting Program, co-hosted a New York Emmy award winning episode of  “Theater Talk”. (Left to right: Darren Ryan, editor; Audra West, director; Sylvester Lukasiewicz; producer and senior editor; Jan Simpson; Tyrik Washington, musical director)

Malik Singleton, EJ ’12,  joined the Social Journalism Program as a data skills professor. He is a reporter in City Limits’ Brooklyn bureau.


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