Alumni Newsletter, June 2020

  • By Newmark J-School Staff
Luis Miguel Echegaray ’15, producer and head of Latino-Hispanic audience for Sports Illustrated, interviews Olympic gold and silver medalist gymnast Laurie Hernandez on his “Coronavirus + Sports” podcast about the pandemic’s effect on gymnastics and the Tokyo Olympics (see story below).


Wednesday, June 3, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST
Director Menin will discuss the importance of the census as well as her office’s COVID-19 pivot, in terms of outreach. She will be joined by Amit S. Bagga, Deputy Director NYC Census 2020. Register here.

Thursday, June 4, 3:00 p.m. EST
A conversation on how Black media are covering the protests against police brutality. Register using the link, but please don’t share it more broadly (to avoid Zoom-bombing). Confirmed speakers include Glenn Burkins (QCity Metro, Charlotte), Sara Lomax-Reese (WURD radio, Philly), Elinor Tatum (Amsterdam News) and, as the moderator, Aaron Foley (Detroit, formerly BLAC magazine and TheNeighborhoods). It will be recorded for later viewing.



Four distinguished alumni accepted their 2020 Awards for Excellence from Newmark J-School in a video introduced by MSNBC host Al Velshi. The awards recognize achievements in investigative, business, social justice, and general reporting.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Future Journalist Fund campaign in support of the Class of 2020. Because of your commitment to journalism education and the matching gift challenge from our anonymous donor, the school not only met but exceeded its goal of $505,000. Gifts ranged in size from $10 to $50,000 and came from alumni, faculty, staff, parents, board members, friends, corporations, and foundations.

Newmark J-School will launch a new online Entrepreneurial Journalism program in January: a 100-day curriculum for independent journalists aiming to build their own sustainable newsletters, podcasts, and local and niche sites.

We’re trying to understand how Newmark J-School reporters have updated and adapted their news-gathering techniques in response to COVID-19 and social distancing. We’re interested in all media: print, broadcast, radio, and more. Can you share what you’ve done or good examples you’ve seen? Fill out this quick Google Form or send a short note to Matt MacVey at

Alex Robinson ’12, editor, Modern Farmer Media; and Rachel Sapin ’12, Americas reporter, IntraFishMedia, discussed the global supply chain and how sourcing, transportation, processing, storage, and distribution have been impacted by COVID-19.

Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to a charity of your choice, and one of the options is the “Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism CUNY Foundation Inc.” If you are an Amazon customer, please consider it!



The news below was submitted by faculty, staff, and alumni. Send your items to

Three 2019 graduates of the Business & Economics Reporting program won $3,000 scholarships from the New York Financial Writers Association: Orla McCaffrey, now at The Wall Street Journal; Hannah Miller, now at; and Olivia Raimonde, now at Bloomberg News.

Cristina Alesci ’08 of CNN has been shooting segments in and around New York City during the pandemic, with the camera crew ensuring she is a safe distance from them and bystanders.

Clark Merrefield ’08 wrote Alternative financial services in the time of coronavirus: What you need to know for the Journalist’s Resource at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center.

Ben Fractenberg ’09 won the top award from the Silurians Press Club in the feature photograph category for a series on homeless in the subways.

Carla Murphy ’09 is a 2020-2021 visiting fellow in Boston College’s journalism program where she will teach about “class” in journalism. Her recent work focuses on journalism reform, including editing Lewis Raven Wallace’s “The View From Somewhere” podcast or surveying former journalists of color for the News Integrity Initiative. She has moved into personal essay writing with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and is the new-ish vice president of the Journalism & Women’s Symposium (JAWS).

Joel Schectman ’09 and Chris Bing of Reuters won The Drum Award for Best Investigative Reporting for PROJECT RAVEN, which also received an honorable mention by the Gerald R. Ford Foundation.

Walter Smith-Randolph ’10 proposed to LeAnne Armstead on May 23 at the foot of the Roebling Bridge in Cincinnati, which is the prototype of the Brooklyn Bridge. He met his fiancée, who is from Brooklyn, at Villanova University.

Paul DeBenedetto ’11, senior producer for Houston Public Media (Houston’s NPR affiliate), has been working on telling stories from inside the Harris County Jail in downtown Houston.

Rebecca Lee Douglas ’11 is the senior producer of No Stupid Questions on Freakonomics.

Selly Thiam ’11 is executive producer of None on the Record, a media company she started in Nairobi, Kenya. One of its shows, AfroQueer, was nominated for two Webby Awards, is a finalist for the One World Media Awards, and is one of the highly selective cohort of the Google Podcast Creators Program. Thiam’s work was also featured in the most recent episode of How Sound.

Kizzy Cox ’12 looked at how Hollywood stars are responding to lockdown for April’s edition of BBC Talking Movies (and doing the stand-up from her living room — shoes optional!).

Cara Eisenpress ’12 wrote “Unemployed New Yorkers Cling to Fragile Pandemic Safety Net” for The City through the Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program at Newmark J-School.

Jenny Marc ’12 moved to Abu Dhabi in March to join CNN’s Features team as a senior producer.

Alexander Tucciarone ’12 and his wife welcomed their first child, a son named Leo Moses Tucciarone, on February 16.

Jillian Eugenios ’13 was selected as a grantee by The Sundance Institute and The Marshall Project in support of her short doc “Zoe Riding Horses,” about incarceration and criminal justice.

Áine Pennello ’13 co-produced ABC’s new primetime show, The Genetic Detective, about the changing landscape of cold-case crime solving. The show follows CeCe Moore, an investigative genetic genealogist, who uses crime scene DNA and family tree building to reveal the identity of violent criminals and help bring them to justice. The show airs 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT on Tuesdays through June 30.

Sophie Rosenbaum ’13 and Melissa Bykofsky ’12 are co-teaching a summer course at their alma mater, Binghamton University: an introduction to journalism focusing on the basics of reporting and how to be a smart consumer of the news.

Sierra Leone Starks ’13 has been helping out her old station KTVA in Anchorage, AK during the COVID-19 crisis from Seattle, where she now lives. She has been working remotely to report stories, including an on-air piece.

Oliver Morrison ’14, environment and health reporter at, won awards for three series he led or was part of last year. His latest article is “Despite widespread efforts, the Pittsburgh area faces hurdles to address food insecurity amid pandemic.”

Justin Joffe ’15 is editor of Publications and Research at Muck Rack.

María Sánchez Díez ’15, an adjunct at Newmark J-School, was a member of The Washington Post team that clinched the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.

Aaron Simon ’15 is the managing editor of Greenpointers, which recently received a $100,000 grant from the Facebook Journalism Project’s relief fund for local news.

Simon Galperin ’16 was featured in Nieman Lab’s “Could New Jersey be the home for a new solution to the local news crisis?” for his work launching Community Info Coop, an organization that wants to create what it calls “community information districts” nationwide. These districts would collect tax-like funding from residents and use it to support local journalism and other information sources.

KalaLea ’16 produced “The Pandemic Is Wreaking Havoc in America’s Prisons and Jails” for the New Yorker Radio Hour, where she is an associate producer.

Samantha Lee ’16 produced “How Epidemics Made NYC Better,” a seven-minute video on epidemics/COVID-19 for New York magazine, where she is a video producer.

Sabrina Schmidt Gordon ’16 received the Working Films Impact Kickstart Award for her film, Sounds Like Thunder, which follows civil rights leader Reverend Dr. William Barber as he revives Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. Now in its third year, the award recognizes documentaries that hold great promise to catalyze action to address critical issues of our time.

Laura Calçada Barres ’17 has been commissioned by the Carulla Foundation to write the main article on their historical annual magazine. The title of the story is “Com les arts estan transformant el món? Polítiques i Programes que promouen el paper transformador de les arts i la cultura en l’educació. Una visió internacional.” (“How The Arts Are Transforming the World? Policies & Programs Promoting the Transformative Role of Arts and Culture In Education. An International Vision.”)

Viktoria Muench ’17 received an Emmy nomination for producing “Rise Above: How Amanda Nguyen Used Her Sexual Assault to Help Millions” for MONEY, its first-ever documentary and Emmy nomination. 

Max Resnik ’17 was recently featured in the American Press Institute newsletter for his work connecting communities in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. He recently published A Journalist’s Guide to Using Zoom for Community Engagement, which advises on how to use virtual meetings to build trust and grow engagement, even with people who may have been unable to attend live events.

Lea Ceasrine ’18 of KALW (San Francisco) produced “What Will It Take to Ensure COVID Treatments are Affordable & Accessible to All,” an interview with award-winning investigative journalist Gerald Posner about the race to create a vaccine.

Paula Moura ’18 produced the podcast, “A New Plan for the Amazon” for Foreign Policy, after her first solo trip to report in the region.

Janelle Little ’19 has joined “Late Night with Seth Meyers” as a script assistant. She started at NBC through the Newmark J-School NBC Future Media Leaders Scholarship, first as a summer intern at NBC News Now and then on the Weekend Update team on Saturday Night Live.

Hannah Miller ’19 had her capstone documentary, Finding Justice, screened at the 2nd Annual Film Festival focusing on Mental Health and Suicide Awareness on May 30.

Rosemary Misdary ’19 will begin a yearlong NPR Kroc Fellowship this fall that will have her reporting from the nation’s capital during the election.

Mallika Mitra ’19 is a reporter at

Benjamin Powers ’19 published a piece on how Citizen app has been moving into contact tracing while gathering a ton of data. He has been reporting regularly on contact tracing developments and the concerns around data and privacy they raise.


SPOTLIGHT: Luis Miguel Echegaray ’15

Picture of Luis Miguel Echegaray with a headset and speaking to a microphone. Host, Coronavirus + Sports, @lmechegaray. Sports Illustrated.

He is a long way from playing sidekick to Thomas Jane in the 2008 sci-fi film “Mutant Chronicles,” one of his roles during a 15-year acting career. Luis Miguel Echegaray ’15 is now starring in his own show as host of the Sports Illustrated podcast, “Coronavirus + Sports,” which he created in March when New York City went into lockdown.

“As soon as the outbreak happened, I knew, as an employee from a sports organization (during a time when sports wasn’t happening), that I had to think on my feet and remain involved and important to my employer,” Echegaray said. “How can I create content and continue to engage in my place of work during a pandemic?”

Echegaray, a producer and head of Latino/Hispanic audience for Sports Illustrated and Planet Fútbol, launched “Coronavirus + Sports,” with episodes ranging in length from 15 to 45 minutes and featuring conversations about how the pandemic has affected everyone from Olympic athletes to sports executives and Little League. It is filmed in his apartment, which he shares with his wife Jennifer who teaches 2nd grade through remote instruction.

“I wanted to do something that stayed relevant with what’s going on and, at the same time, make it super-engaging across all platforms, not only podcast, but video and embedded in different articles on the website,” he said.

He credits the Social Journalism program at Newmark J-School, led by Jeff Jarvis and Carrie Brown, for teaching him how social media can be used as a valuable source of reporting, the same lessons he now imparts as an adjunct in the program.

“Literally everything I learned about what I do now came through Social J that year,” Echegaray said. “Newmark J-School is better than anybody in that they don’t help you become a good journalism student, but they help you become a journalist and innovator. I tell my students that it’s got nothing to do with what you know, but rather what you want to learn the day after.”

A true sports journalist, he added an appropriate metaphor: “Don’t look where you have the ball, look where it’s going.”