Alumni Newsletter, September 2020

  • By Newmark J-School Staff


A newly established Alumni Board will be chaired by Walter Smith-Randolph ’10 (bottom row, third from left), with Simone Sebastian ’10 (to the right of Walter) as vice chair. (See story below.)


Sept. 3, 2020, 3:00 p.m. 
A conversation with leading experts on misinformation and disinformation in Black communities and how the Black media can take a stand. Click here to register.

Sept. 15, 2020, 12:30 p.m.
Linda Villarosa has long been a compelling national voice about how Black Americans suffer persistent racial inequities in their health and health care. She will be interviewed by Solutions Journalism Network CEO David Bornstein. Click here to register.



Award-winning broadcast journalist and author Soledad O’Brien will deliver the keynote address at the Newmark J-School’s 14th commencement ceremony on Dec. 18, 2020.

The Newmark J-School is launching a 100-day, online-only program to help independent journalists develop newsletters, podcasts, local sites, and other niche news products serving their audiences.

research report released Aug. 18 by Newmark J-School’s Center for Community Media (CCM) shows surprising gaps and biases in news coverage by the Spanish-language media in the United States.

The Career Services Office has partnered with Handshake, a modern career development platform. To use Handshake, you must register here (using either your personal or email). For alumni seeking career counseling, adjunct faculty member Salma Abdelnour Gilman will be available by appointment the first Wednesday of each month, from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. EST, starting October 7. To make an appointment, please email her at



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

Sophie Cocke ’09 wrote “Obama and the Beach House Loopholes” for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as part of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. Although Hawaii has laws meant to preserve disappearing shorelines, beachfront property owners have been able to bypass them. That’s what happened at an expansive coastal estate where officials say the Obamas will reside.

Carla Murphy ’09 published results from Leavers, a survey of 101 former journalists of color conducted February – March 2020 to understand when and why they left the journalism industry. Funded by the J-School’s News Integrity Initiative, it’s meant to be a resource for current students, early and mid-career journalists of color, and newsroom managers.

Collin Orcutt ’09 is the producer/director/showrunner of “Home” on Apple TV, which just received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score).

Walter Smith-Randolph ’10 was elected treasurer of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). Founded in 1975, NABJ is the largest organization of journalists of color. While a student, Smith-Randolph served as president of Newmark J-School’s student chapter. He will also serve as the inaugural chair of the Newmark J-School Alumni Board.

Lauren Friedman ’11 has been promoted to content development team leader, Health & Food, at Consumer Reports. She was previous deputy health editor.

Amy Kraft ’11 has been busy during the coronavirus pandemic. She wrote a book for Scholastic on the science of rainbows as part of Klutz Maker Lab’s DIY Rainbow Catcher and her feature on how recovering from a traumatic brain injury and drug addiction has helped her to empathize with a relative who is suffering from schizophrenia was published at Everyday Health, where she works as a senior editor; And her second child, Delphine Noemie Fortas, was born at 1:07 a.m. on Aug. 26.

Eli Chen ’12 has joined National Geographic as senior editor of the science podcast.

María Villaseñor ’14 produced “What We Learned About Paid Sick Leave in the U.S. From the H1N1 Outbreak” for Retro Report, in collaboration with Time magazine. 

Reed Dunlea ’15 produced, directed, and edited “The Faces of Deportation,” about lives disrupted by the Trump administration’s punitive and unpredictable immigration policies. Dunlea is a producer at Rolling Stone.

Andrea González-Ramírez ’15 published a yearlong investigation into Puerto Rico’s epidemic of intimate partner violence. The day after her piece ran, Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez signed a measure into law expanding domestic violence training to municipal police. Andrea also appeared on CBSN, MSNBC Live, WNYC’s The Takeaway, and In The Thick to discuss her findings. She’s currently a senior writer at GEN.

Bianca Silva ’15 was featured on Bronxnet’s TV show “OPEN BXRx” on Aug. 18 to speak about  “What It’s Really Like to Live with Anxiety and Depression in a Latinx Household,” She wrote the story for HuffPost as part of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.

Christina Thornell ’16 produced the following two videos for Vox: The British Museum is full of stolen artifacts and Why the US has so many Filipino nurses.

Allyson Escobar ’18 will join The Press-Enterprise as a reporter in September, covering Riverside County in southern California.

Juan Bernardo Garcia ’18 worked with a group of Newmark J-School colleagues on “No Crystal Ball : The Uncertain Path Forward for U.S.-China Decoupling for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). It is about the tensions between the U.S. and China and how catastrophic it could be for their economies if the two superpowers decouple.

Claudia Irizarry Aponte ’18, who covers Brooklyn for The City, was named the Nellie Bly Cub Reporter for 2020 by the New York Press Club.

Willa Rubin ’18 and her team won a New York Press Club Award for best podcast for “The WeWork Trilogy,” produced by The Wall Street Journal and Gimlet Media, where Rubin is an associate producer.

Vanessa Swales ’18 worked on “Solitary Voices,” which won the 2020 New York Press Club Award for Best Online Political Coverage. The project, a collaboration among NBC Investigations, The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Univision, and a number of outlets across North and Central America, investigated the widespread use of solitary confinement for immigrant detainees in ICE custody under the Obama and Trump administrations.

Carolyn Adams ’19 produced “It’s My Party” for WNYC’s “The United States of Anxiety,” exploring what it means to be a Democrat in a party divided.

Noah Lewis ’19 started a new role as associate producer with  Business Insider. He remains on the team that produces daily news features for Facebook Watch and YouTube.

Karina Meier ’19 started a job as an associate producer for the Axios show on HBO.

Shantal Riley ’19 wrote “Appeals Court: Amazon Was “Pivotal” in the Sale of Exploding Battery” for Frontline, about a California Appeals Court ruling that Amazon can be held liable for defective products on the marketplace.

Netsanet Negussie ’19 produced a short film for Mother Jones. Directed by Emmy Award-winning KWEENS Kristi Jacobson and Angela Tucker, it profiles Satana Deberry, the district attorney of Durham County, NC., who is part of a new generation of prosecutors across the nation aiming to reform the criminal justice system.

(Clockwise from top left: Rebecca Bratek ’14, Erin Brodwin ’13, Cesar Bustamante Jr. ’11, Kara Chin ’16, Kimberly Chin ’17, Katie Honan ’10, Matt Townsend ’08, Chester Soria ’12, Simone Sebastian ’10, Walter Smith-Randolph ’10, Helina Selemon ’15, and Ben Levisohn ’07.)


A newly established Alumni Board of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY will represent fellow graduates and partner with the school to encourage lifelong connections among alumni, engage alumni in the life and financial health of the school, and advance the reputation of the school, its students, and graduates. In the 14 years since the school was founded in 2006, it has graduated nearly 1,000 alumni.

Walter Smith-Randolph ’10,  a reporter with WKRC Local 12, the CBS affiliate for Cincinnati, will serve as chair of the inaugural board and Simone Sebastian ’10, deputy America editor for The Washington Post, will be vice chair. They are joined by:

  • Rebecca Bratek ’14, senior editor at Factal
  • Erin Brodwin ’13, San Francisco-based health-tech reporter at STAT News
  • Cesar R. Bustamante Jr. ‘11, Media Monitoring Manager, 72Point Inc.
  • Kara Chin ’16, video producer for Voices of Color at Insider
  • Kimberly Chin ’17, reporter, The Wall Street Journal
  • Katie Honan ’10, reporter, The Wall Street Journal
  • Ben Levisohn ’07, deputy editor, Barron’s
  • Helina Selemon ’15, audience development lead, The Associated Press
  • Chester Soria ’12, communications manager at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice
  • Matt Townsend ’08, section editor for Bloomberg News

The 12-member board will meet three times each year, and each director will serve a three-year term, though some inaugural director terms may be shorter to allow for a staggered board.