Executive Program Selects First Class of Media Leaders

  • By Melissa DiPento

The Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism has chosen its inaugural cohort of 15 media leaders who will start in January 2020. They will explore how to transform the news industry and change their organizations by developing successful products and sustainable business models.

Members of the cohort are looking to redefine innovation, develop new sources of revenue for newsrooms, transform legacy media outlets into digital first publications, rebuild trust in journalism, promote and sustain a more diverse newsroom to serve audiences and communities effectively, give space to voices that are silenced by traditional media, and much more.

The participants speak many languages and represent 10 countries, including Chile, Egypt, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela.

“This diverse and visionary group of leaders will work on driving change and redefining leadership in the news industry, and we are proud to include them in our community,” said Newmark J-School Dean Sarah Bartlett.

Participants will spend three one-week residencies and one two-week residency with classes and workshops at the Newmark J-School in New York City during 2020, supplemented by digital interaction, self-paced learning, and personalized coaching over the course of the year.

“We are very excited about the impact this first cohort of leaders will have on the news media industry,” said program director Anita Zielina.

Support for scholarships has been provided by the Facebook Journalism Project and Media Lab Bavaria.

EXECUTIVE PROGRAM CLASS OF 2020

Susanne Amann
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Germany
Current location: Hamburg, Germany
Role: Managing editor, DER SPIEGEL

Susanne Amann has served as managing editor and been in charge of human resources, budgeting, and change at DER SPIEGEL since 2019. She has held various positions at the SPIEGEL group since 2010. Prior to that, she trained at “taz – die Tageszeitung” and worked at the Financial Times Deutschland.

Amann is cofounder of Dverse Media, a non-profit organization aimed at seeking more diversity in business media. She was born in southern Germany and studied political science and journalism in Leipzig and Madrid, Spain. She lives with her husband and sons, ages 9 and 5.

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Ana Arriagada
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Chile
Current location: Santiago, Chile
Role: Cofounder and Executive Director of El Soberano

Ana Arriagada is a journalist and co-founder of El Soberano, an independent digital medium that covers social movements and organizations. El Soberano uses the Newspack platform, created by WordPress (Automattic) to help small and medium-sized news sites focus on what they do best: serving their communities. El Soberano is also part of the CIVIL Registry, an initiative that seeks to support quality journalism using blockchain.

Arriagada teaches digital media at Diego Portales University in Santiago. She is also an ambassador for Chicas Poderosas, an international organization that promotes female leadership to ensure that women’s perspectives are represented in the media.

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Thierry Backes
Pronouns: He, him, his
Country of origin: Luxembourg
Current location: Munich, Germany
Role: Managing Editor, Süddeutsche Zeitung

Thierry Backes is a digital strategist at the leading German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ). As a managing editor assigned to special projects, he co-led an interdisciplinary team that developed a digital subscriptions first strategy for the company.

Backes also works on developing a content management system designed to support digital first workflows. He has a background in print, but dedicated himself to digital journalism when he joined Süddeutsche Zeitung as a reporter in 2013.

He led a crowdsourcing project for the bike community in Munich and won the German Local Journalism Award with an analysis of a social-media-triggered panic after a shooting at a shopping mall. Backes has worked on editorial strategies to maximize the impact of SZ stories and planned the distribution of projects like the Pulitzer Prize-winning Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers reports.

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Lauren Berry
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United States
Current location: New York, New York
Role: Global Managing Editor for Data-Driven News and Deputy NYC Bureau Chief, Bloomberg LP

Lauren Berry leads a global team of editors at Bloomberg looking to use technology to build the newsroom of the future. Under her direction, Bloomberg has built out automated and semi-automated workflows for everything from earnings stories to local language content. As deputy bureau chief, Berry works to develop talent, direct news coverage, and host major newsmakers at Bloomberg’s global headquarters in New York.

She is a 2008 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was also an adjunct professor in the journalism school this past fall. In her spare time, she likes to travel, practice yoga, and volunteer with animals. She lives with her husband and two dogs in Queens.

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P. Kim Bui
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Phoenix, Arizona
Role: Director of Audience Innovation, Arizona Republic

A native Iowan, P. Kim Bui has focused her career on leading real-time news initiatives and creating new storytelling forms for digital, print, and broadcast companies catering to local, national, and global audiences. At the Arizona Republic, Bui is creating and running strategy for the breaking news and audience teams, as well as developing innovative new storytelling techniques.

Previously, she was editor-at-large for NowThis News, focusing on original, breaking news reporting. She was also deputy managing editor for reported.ly, a digital startup focused on social journalism.

She has spoken on digital journalism and leadership at universities and conferences worldwide and written about empathy in journalism for a number of research outlets. She writes a syndicated newsletter for emerging leaders and managers, The Middles.

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Styli Charalambous
Pronouns: He, him, his
Country of origin: South Africa
Current location: Cape Town, South Africa
Role: CEO and Publisher, Daily Maverick

Styli Charalambous co-founded Daily Maverick, a 10-year-old South African news startup focusing on political analysis, opinion, and investigative journalism. Daily Maverick won the 2019 Global Shining Light Award for work done on the GuptaLeaks investigations that helped unseat a corrupt sitting president, Jacob Zuma.

He oversees all the non-editorial functions of the business and, despite having a finance background, considers himself a fully-reformed accountant.

He is the architect of their membership plan, Maverick Insider, and works closely with the product and engineering team, helping drive innovation. Charalambous has also written for the publication on business, sports, media, and opinion.

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Jonah Comstock
Pronouns: He, him, his
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Role: Director of Content Developer and Editor-in-Chief, HIMSS Media

Jonah Comstock plays a leading role at HIMSS Media, which includes MobiHealthNews, Heathcare IT News, and Healthcare Finance News.

A Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he has written for Psychology Today and the Columbia Journalism Review. He’s also a Dow Jones Copy Editing Fellow and has worked on the copy desks at Newsday and the Tampa Bay Times.

Comstock has spoken at numerous industry events including Health 2.0, the Connected Health Conference, and the HIMSS Global Conference. He has also served as a judge for the GSMA Global Mobile Awards and the MEDinIsrael Innovation Awards. Outside of work, he’s interested in science fiction, strategy gaming, and politics.

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Alexander Droessler
Pronouns: He, him, his
Country of origin: Germany
Current location: Bielefeld, Germany
Role: Product Manager, Neue Westfälische

At the regional newspaper Neue Westfälische, Alexander Droessler is working with the startup Lokalportal to build a hybrid of a local social network and a local news site as third-pillar strategy for regional newspapers, in addition to paid content and third-party business.

Leading a team of four, Droessler is responsible for content, marketing, and strategic development. Previously, he was an editor for nw.de, the main news website of the publisher. He has a master’s degree in journalism and communications from the University of Hamburg and spent a year at the Missouri School of Journalism as a Fulbright grantee.

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Ethar El-Katatney
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Egypt
Current location: New York, New York
Role: Young Audiences Editor, The Wall Street Journal

Ethar El-Katatney is building a multiple-medium digital magazine at The Wall Street Journal aimed at 18 to 34 year olds. Previously, she was the senior executive producer who oversaw the digital newsroom at AJ+. She has over a decade of international journalism experience working on news, features, and investigative stories for print, online, and TV.

She has won a CNN African Journalist of the Year Award, a Samir Kassir Freedom of the Press Award, and an Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Journalist Award.

Author of a book on Sufism in Yemen, she has an MBA and M.A. in Television and Digital Journalism from the American University in Cairo.

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Daisuke Furuta
Pronouns: He, him, his
Country of origin: Japan
Current location: Tokyo, Japan
Role: President, media-collab

Daisuke Furuta set up his own company, media-collab, in 2019 to support the digital transformation of Japanese media. Prior to that, he spent four years at BuzzFeed, where he was founder and editor-in-chief of the Japan edition. By the time he left, the number of staffers at BuzzFeed Japan had grown to 70.

He started his career as a news reporter at The Asahi Shimbun in 2002. After working in branch offices in Japan, Furuta became a Southeast Asia correspondent in Bangkok and served as bureau chief of the Singapore office. He then went back to Tokyo as digital editor.

Furuta is organizer of the Online News Association Japan and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Waseda University.

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Maye Primera
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Venezuela
Current location: Miami Beach, Florida
Role: Senior Editor for Latin America, Univision News Digital

Maye Primera is a bilingual multimedia journalist and author based in Miami. She has worked as a reporter and editor for more than 20 years, covering politics, immigration, borders, human rights, and violence issues in Latin America and the U.S.

Prior to joining  Univision News Digital, she was a correspondent in the Caribbean and Venezuela for the Spanish newspaper El País and editor-in-chief of the Venezuelan newspaper TalCual. She has published three books and a podcast about Venezuela’s recent history, and her narrative work has been featured in several non-fiction anthologies.

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Abbie Scott
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United Kingdom
Current location: London, England
Role: Deputy Managing Editor, Financial Times

Abbie Scott oversees global operations and management of 600 journalists in the editorial department at the Financial Times. She is focused on ensuring that the FT and its journalists thrive in an ever-changing industry.

At the last Awards for Excellence run by the National Council for the Training of Journalists, she won a prize for her outstanding work in promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in the media. Her career has involved a number of senior roles in editorial management including at The Telegraph and the FT. She is a member of the senior management of the FT Group.

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Almudena Toral
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Spain
Current location: Miami, Florida
Role: Head of Enterprise Video, Univision News Digital

Almudena Toral is a visual journalist and filmmaker currently based in Miami. Prior to joining Univision News Digital, she taught video storytelling at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, pursued her own projects worldwide, and worked at The New York Times and TIME. Her work has also been published by The Guardian, Al Jazeera, VICE, The Intercept, Canal+, NPR, PBS and other outlets.

A short documentary Toral produced on children who were separated at the U.S./Mexico border and are now living with PTSD was awarded the 2019 World Press Photo Online Video of the Year.

Her work has also received three News and Documentary Emmy Awards, two Edward R. Murrow awards, Pictures of the Year International, the Hillman Prize, RFK Human Rights Journalism Award, PDN Photo Annual, NPPA Best of Photojournalism, a Webbys award, the Gabo award, and the Ortega and Gasset.

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Graham Watson-Ringo
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United States
Current location: San Antonio, Texas
Role: Managing Editor, Rivard Report

Graham Watson-Ringo was named to her current position at the Rivard Report in 2018 after previously serving as the head of subscriber digital for the San Antonio Express-News. Watson-Ringo originally hails from Redlands, California, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she played soccer.

She has spent most of her journalistic life covering sports, including national championships, Final Fours, and the World Cup. She has worked for several major media outlets, including ESPN and Yahoo, and has experience in both the digital and print realm.

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Mary Willson
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Asheville, North Carolina
Role: Director of Engagement at EdNC

Mary Willson is the director of engagement at EdNC, a nonprofit news organization focused on covering North Carolina education and policy. Previously, she held a variety of engagement and management roles at 6AM City, a media startup which does hyperlocal editorial newsletters in the Southeast U.S. During her tenure, she helped the brand grow to have seven publications in four states. She worked to scale the network to new locations, lead social media strategy, creates processes, coordinate training, and oversaw the daily product with a team of local editors.

She is an active member of the Online News Association, has served on its conference social media team for three years, and was the inaugural Instagram digital host in 2019. She previously worked for USA Today Network as a digital producer in Fort Collins, Colorado – her hometown – where she graduated from Colorado State University.

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