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Newmark J-School Newsletter Summer 2020

  • By Newmark J-School Staff
As seasoned pros struggle with COVID-19 lockdowns and funding cuts, citizen scientists like Manhattan College student Liam McGrath (above) are stepping in to fill the void by collecting water samples, for example. Maddie Kornfield ’20 reported on (and photographed) this trend during her summer internship at Inside Climate News.


Newmark J-Corps program sustains invaluable summer internships

The COVID-19 pandemic and an upended economy could not disrupt a hallmark of the Newmark J-School: the required summer news internship. This summer, 90 students from the Class of 2020 are working at more than 60 outlets, the vast majority supported by full or partial $4,000 stipends as part of the school’s innovative response to difficult circumstances.

Much of this success was tied to an ambitious initiative dubbed Newmark J-Corps, which was launched to fill coverage and engagement gaps for media outlets stretched thin by COVID-19 while also ensuring that our students gained important experiences in productive news internships.

The program has allowed our students to report in text, audio, and visuals, as well as create interactives and work on social-engagement projects. They have made an impact from coast to coast and around the world.

Read more and see the list of where they’re working

This double-page spread in the June 8-21 issue of New York magazine featured a striking photo taken by Julius Motal ’14 during a Black Lives Matter protest. Motal recently joined NBC News as photo editor.


Authorities’ excessive use of force. Black Lives Matter. Racism. Street protests worldwide. Police reform. A momentous time galvanized the Newmark J-School community, and our students, faculty, and alumni excelled at covering a relentless cascade of news.

Our Students

Annie Todd joined Gothamist colleagues to detail the brusque treatment dispensed against protesters by New York authorities. Arno Pedram covered growing French anger and unrest over police abuse for the AP in Paris. Christina DeRosa reported for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange on a package of six bills that bans chokeholds, prevents officers from shielding their badge, and introduces a “disciplinary matrix” to the NYPD.

Our Faculty

Errol Louis, the NY1 host who teaches urban reporting, wrote for CNN Opinion that “America must not forget the deadly health crisis still afflicting the nation — another crisis that reflects deep patterns of racial difference.” Peter Beinart, our political reporting professor, wrote in The Atlantic how civil rights protests strengthen America’s moral authority globally.

Our Alumni

Gustavo Martinez Contreras ’16, a reporter for the Asbury Park Press, described his recent arrest and experiences with federal authorities for the U.S. House subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which focused on First Amendment violations at Black Lives Matter protests. Kara Brown ’19 reported for Well+Good on books, movies, and podcasts to assist aspiring anti-racist allies for the Black communityTat Bellamy-Walker ’19 interviewed experts to help Business Insider audiences better cope with traumatizing and repeated images of police brutalityNatalie Fertig ’14 interviewed street protesters in Washington, D.C., about “the role that drug criminalization has played in racism, policing, and mass incarceration.”


New horizons open for culturally attuned innovator in Virtual Reality

When Keishel Williams was in our graduate program, she concentrated in print journalism and reporting on fashion, art, and culture, including Caribbean society in New York. Her goal was to sharpen her writing and editing skills. She also took an independent study in virtual reality journalism, learning — with Matt MacVey, who runs the school’s emerging tech lab, and Bob Sacha, associate professor of video storytelling — to work with new immersive tools and formats including 3D- and 360-video. A key result from her study was her video on Moko Jumbies. As she explains, Moko Jumbie is “stilt dancing with origins in the Caribbean and a cultural background that can be traced back to Africa.” In Brooklyn’s Tropical Fete group, which Williams spotlighted, “women are taking the lead” in carrying on this spiritual art form.

Her innovative storytelling has impressed audiences and experts, opening new horizons for Williams, who is freelancing and building her client roster. She was invited to present her VR work as part of an event at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. She joined a project working with mentorship from The New York Times R&D team as part of the Spatial News Challenge. This opportunity came through the AR/VR journalism community of which the Newmark J-School lab is a part.


The Center for Community Media publishes key research on immigrant and Latino news media

The Newmark J-School recently expanded its efforts to support news outlets serving millions of people nationwide whose voices and issues too often get overlooked by mainstream media. Our Center for Community Media (CCM), as part of this work, has published its distinctive research on immigrant news organizations. They have employed innovative tools and techniques to share vital information about the COVID-19 pandemic and global anti-racism protests, CCM reported among its many findings. The center followed up its work on 50 news outlets, publishing in more than 30 languages and located in 23 states, by hosting a forum on the immigrant media and its pandemic coverage.

CCM — which has launched a study on the Black news industry —  reported last year on the State of the Latino News Media, filling a void of data and information about this important sector, including with a precision interactive display. This summer, the second part of the research in this area will be published with a detailed analysis of more than 1 million news stories published by Spanish-language outlets since President Trump took office.

Recognizing and supporting immigrant, Latino, and Black news outlets and the role they play in their communities is part of the Newmark J-School’s mission — both to educate and mentor journalists at every stage of their careers as well as to ensure the industry is inclusive.

After a months-long national search, Aaron Foley (right) recently was appointed founding director of the Black Media Initiative at CCM. In this new post, made possible by grants from several journalism foundations, he will seek to help Black press outlets nationwide grow, innovate, and become sustainable. Foley is a journalist from Detroit who has had an extensive freelance career and was the city of Detroit’s first chief storyteller (2017-19).

Read more about CCM


Two honored with Tow Professorships

Emily Laber-Warren and Alia Malek

Emily Laber-Warren (left), director of the Health and Science Reporting Program, and Alia Malek, head of the International Reporting Program, have been named Tow Professors for the 2020-22 academic years. The Tow Foundation established the professorships to enable the school to support the research of two teachers demonstrating exceptional leadership in their fields. Laber-Warren is a longtime science reporter and editor who took over the school’s health and science concentration in 2010. Besides her teaching and administrative roles, she has stayed active as a freelancer, covering human biology, psychology, behavior, and stewardship of the planet. Malek became director of the international program in 2018 after completing her second book of narrative nonfiction, “The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria.” A former civil rights attorney, she transitioned to journalism and went on to work both as a freelancer and on staff, most recently at Al Jazeera America, where she was a senior writer.


Stacy-Marie Ishmael, Tow-Knight ’12, a member of the school’s Foundation Board, was profiled in Glamour magazine as one of “8 Journalists on Reporting While Black, With the Weight of History on Their Shoulders.” Ishmael is editorial director of The Texas Tribune. After 35 years at Crain’s New York Business, including serving as editor, Greg David, director of the school’s Business and Economic Reporting Program, has joined THE CITY, as the Ravitch fiscal and economics reporter. His first story looked at the unprecedented slide in New York’s economy and the long road back. Margot Mifflin, who teaches Arts and Culture reporting, is eager for the August publication of “Looking for Miss America,” described as an “account of Miss America contestants, protests, and scandals — and how the pageant, nearing its 100th anniversary, serves as an unintended indicator of feminist progress.” Melissa DiPiento ’17, educational program coordinator, writes in Medium about the Newmark J-School-Columbia Journalism School student collaboration on “Missing Them,” a project in THE CITY that seeks to document stories of every New York life lost to COVID-19. Ryan Sutton, who teaches food writing at school and is’s New York restaurant critic, argues that the joys of eating out aren’t worth the health risk to workers. Anita Zielina, our director of strategic initiatives, contributed to newly published academic research, examining the state of media products and describing a leadership and talent crisis that impedes innovation with them. The Newmark J-School now has three faculty — all women of color — who are members of the documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science: Yoruba Richen, director of the documentary program, and Michele Stephenson, both 2020 invitees, join Sabrina Gordon in the film industry’s Oscar-voting elite.

Jobs, jobs, jobs, yes, thank you

Our ’19 class continues to land great opportunities, with this latest batch of students adding to the already impressive Newmark J-School roster of working press. Carolyn Adams signed on with WNYC as an associate producer for the “United States of Anxiety” show. Erica Anderson joined THE CITY as an engagement fellow. She is working part time, too, with Spaceship MediaChase Brush joined American Heritage as an assistant editor and Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism FellowRosemary Misdary this fall begins a year-long NPR Kroc Fellowship to report from the nation’s capital during the election. Mallika Mitra started at as a reporter. After an extended fellowship, Hannah Miller will work at the Financial Times’ Money-Media unit (joining ’18 alums Alex Semenova and Teddy Grant). Janelle Little joined “Late Night with Seth Meyers” as a script assistant after starting at NBC through our school’s Media Leadership Project (first as a summer intern at NBC “News Now” and then on the Weekend Update team on “Saturday Night Live.”) Bianca Rosembert and Stephanie Chukwuma completed Hearst fellowships and have launched into full-time jobs with the company. Rosembert is a weekend morning news live show producer at WGAL in Lancaster, PA. Chukwuma is now a weekday noon news live show producer at WPTZ in Burlington, VT.

Scholarships and awards

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. Orla McCaffrey (now at The Wall Street Journal), Hannah Miller, (now at and Olivia Raimonde (now at Bloomberg News) all were ’19 graduates of the Business and Economics Reporting Program and have won $3,000 scholarships from the New York Financial Writers Association. Ben Fractenberg ’09 won the top award from the Silurians Press Club in the feature photograph category for a series on the homeless in the subwaysCarla Murphy ’09 is a 2020-21 visiting fellow at Boston College to teach about class in journalism. Joel Schectman ’09 with colleague Chris Bing of Reuters won The Drum Award for Best Investigative Reporting for “Project Raven” about how former White House and NSA officials helped the United Arab Emirates crack down on dissenters, journalists, and whistleblowers.

A Master Class in Reporting: New Orleans Krewe illustrates how COVID-19 scourges Black lives

Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020
12:30 PM – 2:00 PM EST

Linda Villarosa

To grasp the enormity of COVD-19’s disproportionate toll on communities of color, and especially Black Americans, Linda Villarosa ’13 (right) dug deep for The New York Times Magazine into the “terrible price” paid by New Orleans’ Krewe of Zulu. They are part of the 110-year-old Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club — a brotherhood of about 800 men, “nearly all of them black, known for community service, civic pride, black excellence” and renowned for their exuberant celebrations in the city’s annual Mardi Gras parade, Villarosa observed. The novel coronavirus, however, has transformed a once-joyous fete into a source of infection, death, and recrimination. Why and how? Villarosa will be interviewed by Solutions Journalism Network CEO David Bornstein about this as they delve into how she reported and wrote the story. Villarosa — a compelling national voice about how Black Americans suffer persistent racial inequities in their health and health care  — directs the journalism program at CUNY’s City College of New York, teaching reporting, writing, and Black Studies.

Register here for A Master Class in Reporting


At the end of the spring semester, the entire Newmark J-School community — students, professors, and staff — got together on Zoom to review the journalism our students produced and how they excelled in the time of COVID-19. John Mancini, the school’s director of editorial projects, and our terrific team of broadcast associates condensed that lively 90-minute session into an eight-minute video. Take a look!