When Ann Marie Awad graduated from our journalism school in 2013, she never imagined that six years later she’d be covering the marijuana beat at Colorado Public Radio. Who ever heard of such a job back then? In the latest Alumni Spotlight below, Awad enlightens us on her life as a cannabis reporter and talks about an episode of her new podcast on weed culture that is making its debut this summer.
The rest of the spring edition of our Alumni Newsletter is budding with updates on J-School friends and colleagues you know or may want to meet. Read on to applaud alumni achievements in Kudos, smile at the babies who make up the newest generation of our extended alumni family, and learn about upcoming Newmark J-School events.
Of course, our biggest event is just around the corner. Please join us on Saturday, June 8 for Alumni Homecoming,featuring a Q&A with special guest Craig Newmark and a panel of ’09 alums celebrating the 10th anniversary of their graduation this year.
Top image: Newmark J-School alums surround Alumni Services Director Brooke Stachyra (center) at the 12th Annual Awards for Excellence on April 9. Left to Right: Laura Olivieri Robles,’18; Annie Byrnes Yarbrough, ’10; Ben Foldy, ’18; Melissa Rose Cooper, ’10; Kimberly Chin, ’17; Katie Honan, ’10; Naomi Yané, ’18; Samantha Stark, ’10; Cesar Bustamente, ’11; Bianca Seidman, ’11; Brooke Stachyra, Natalia V. Osipova, ’12; Zach Kussin, ’11; Teresa Tomassoni, ’10; Tasia Jensen, ’18; Eliana Perez, ’18; Reynaldo Leanos Jr., ’18; Skyler Reid, ’13; and Claudia Irizarry Aponte, ’18. Photo: Jessica Bal, ’15
THE 12TH ANNUAL AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
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.
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
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.
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 News, Alyxaundria 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.
Society for Professional Journalists Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards
Work produced by Newmark Graduate School of Journalism outlets won
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.
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.
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 podcastOn 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.
1. What led you to become a cannabis reporter?
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.
2. What’s the most interesting topic you’ve written about on the cannabis beat?
Well, I would argue marijuana legalization has paved the way for our recent vote to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms here in Denver. And now that I’m making On Something, I’m getting to explore a lot of stuff I wouldn’t normally get to on the radio. We’re working on an episode focused on understanding spiritual cannabis use.
3. Is there a special experience at the J-School that you’ll always remember?
I’ll never forget at the end of my Urban Reporting class, shaking hands and saying goodbye to Prof. Doug Muzzio. He looked at me and said “You’re a pisser, Awad. I like you.” I really loved Muzzio’s (and [Dean Sarah] Barlett’s) class, especially the really spirited discussion. To me, that was a high compliment. I still smile when I think about it.
4. What would you say to current J-School students that you wish someone would have told you?
I remember being told that this program would make me cry at some point, and that was correct. So yeah – that. Pay your dues, yes. Put in the work, yes. But don’t let anyone take advantage of you. Never work for free. Exposure can’t pay your bills. Stand up for yourself. Constantly challenge the things you believe. Feedback is a gift, not a demand for change. And finally – take a damn break.
Faculty and Staff News
Kelsey Arendt, a senior market strategist for Parse.ly, 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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