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First Cohort of “Niche Media Entrepreneurs” Selected for New Certificate Program

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

The Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism has chosen its inaugural cohort of 20 media entrepreneurs. They’ll start the virtual program on Oct. 13  to develop newsletters, podcasts, local sites, and other niche news products serving their audiences and communities. Participants in this 100-day program will focus on market and audience needs and will learn to build a sustainable business around their niche venture.

The new certificate program is aimed at a fast-growing trend among journalists striking out on their own with small businesses. The number of applications for the J-School’s new offering is evidence of that demand. More than 160 people from 56 countries wanted to be part of the first cohort. 

The 20 people accepted into the program are already building journalistic micro ventures in the United States as well as in Germany, Brazil, Tanzania, Hong Kong, Qatar, Switzerland, Singapore, Turkey and Mexico. They are telling stories of their communities with newsletters, substack blogs, youtube channels and podcasts – often working in news deserts or with underserved audiences. 

Read more about the cohort in program director Jeremy Caplan’s Medium post.

“I’m thrilled that we’re bringing together such a fantastic group of journalism innovators from around the world,” said Caplan.“The huge inflow of high-quality applications demonstrates how many journalists out there are looking to the future in creative ways.”

The program is supported by a generous grant from the Facebook Journalism Project. Additional support for scholarships has been provided by Substack, LION Publishers, and Media Lab Bayern.

Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program Cohort #1

Emmanuel Alexandre Jr.

Emmanuel Alexandre Jr.
Pronouns: He, him
Country of origin: Haiti
Current location: New York, N.Y.

Emmanuel “Mano” Alexandre Jr. is a Haitian-American filmmaker and instructor living in New York City. He has been a media creator for almost two decades. He earned a B.A. in media studies from CUNY’s Hunter College in 2002 and an M.F.A. degree from City College’s Media Communication Arts program in 2008. Alexandre Jr. was awarded the Albert Saperstein grant in 2007 to direct his first documentary film “Welcome to Batey 6.” He was also nominated for a New York Emmy for his work with the Transit Transit News television show. For the past eleven years he has been contributing to the broadcast team at the Newmark J-School where he creates short promotional videos as well as coaches students. Alexandre Jr. also serves as producer/cinematographer for short documentary pieces at Brooklyn’s BRIC TV network. For his project, he will build and scale the video platform “Manosalon,” featuring the stories, the discussions and the arts of people of color in America and in the African diaspora.

He received a Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship.

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Luiza Bodenmüller

Luiza Bodenmüller
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Brazil
Current location: São Paulo, Brazil

Luiza Bodenmüller works as a strategy manager at Aos Fatos, a Brazilian fact-checking initiative. She is in charge of Aos Fatos Mais, their membership program, and Fátima on WhatsApp, a chatbot developed to fight misinformation online. She also manages the Aos Fatos’ community on WhatsApp and in newsletters. Bodenmüller is the creator and publisher of Periódica, a newsletter on Substack that aims to build a space for conversations between journalists and communication scholars. Periódica – the project she will be focusing on scaling during the program – delivers a monthly curation of papers, thesis and other academic works to offer content that fosters reflection on journalistic practice.

She received a Substack Scholarship.

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Jessica Buchleitner

Jessica Buchleitner
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Munich, Germany

Jessica Buchleitner is a communications strategist, journalist, and innovative storyteller. She is the author/curator of the 50 Women anthology series – a collection of stories chronicling world events told by 50 women from 30 countries. She is also the co-editor of two other books. She has published with the Harvard Nieman Foundation, Women News Network, Reveal/ Center for Investigative Reporting, and is co-author of a Northwestern University Knight Lab case study on virtual reality journalism. Buchleitner  was a 2019 finalist for the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship, a 2017 European Union External Action EU press visitor, and IJNET’s Journalist of the Month in May 2015. During the program, Buchleitner will work on scaling her venture https://womennewsnetwork.net/, a platform covering global gender equality and women’s human rights.

She received a Bayern Media Lab Entrepreneurial Scholarship.

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Makeda Easter

Makeda Easter
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Los Angeles, CA

Makeda Easter is an award-winning journalist who writes about the intersection of art and identity for the Los Angeles Times. She got her start in journalism while working as a science writer for a university supercomputing center. A Texan at heart, she received her bachelor’s degree in science, technology and international affairs at Georgetown University. During the program, Easter wants to launch a journalism venture focused on resistance art in unexpected places – such as for the Black queer poet in rural Illinois, or the radical mutual aid group in West Virginia that uses memes to build a community in Appalachia. Easter wants to tell stories about artists who are doing work in places that desperately need it.

She received a LION Publishers Aspiring Entrepreneur Scholarship.

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Karen Given

Karen Given
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Boston, MA

Karen Given has worked in radio since she was 16 years old, getting her start at a small commercial music station in Joshua Tree, California. Given spent more than two decades at NPR’s “Only A Game,” a nationally syndicated sports radio show produced at WBUR in Boston. GIven held every position on the show from technical director to executive producer and interim host. “Only A Game” ended its 27-year run in September 2020. Given has twice won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for Sports Reporting. She also holds a master’s degree in gastronomy from Boston University. Now, she is on a mission to “save” “Only A Game” by rethinking it as a new podcast with a distinct marketing strategy and a functioning business model.

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Tabea Grzeszyk

Tabea Grzeszyk
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Germany
Current location: Berlin, Germany

Tabea Grzeszyk (Gsche-schik) is co-founder and CEO at Hostwriter.org, an award-winning network that helps journalists to collaborate easily across borders. It connects 5,500 people from more than 150 countries for cross-border collaboration and mutual exchange. Grzeszyk started her journalistic career in 2009 at the German National Radio, where she was part of a team of managers on duty for the daily six-hour live show “Radiofeuilleton.” She has a background in cultural studies and has researched how cross-border investigations can drive diversity when reporters with different backgrounds collaborate. She will spend the program building a journalistic product around her book project https://unbiasthenews.org – a field guide to removing bias from newsrooms and a launchpad for a new kind of journalism that looks more like the society it serves.

She received a Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship.

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Ani Hao

Ani Hao
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Hong Kong

Ani Hao is a freelance journalist, editor and media consultant based in Hong Kong. Her area of research is feminist organizing and movements, young feminist activists, and the role of gender in contemporary social movements. She identifies as a young feminist media activist, and has been published in Teen Vogue, The Guardian, Zora Magazine, VICE, Open Democracy, and more. During the program, Hao will work on developing a business model for her newsletter New Wave – a biweekly newsletter that features essays and  interviews with young feminists of color from around the world.

She received a Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship.

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Justin Hendrix

Justin Hendrix
Pronouns: He, him
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Brooklyn, NY

Justin Hendrix is cofounder and CEO of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab and founder of RLab, a new center for spatial computing and emerging media technologies. He spent more than a decade at The Economist in roles including as vice president for Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at N.Y.U.’s Tandon School of Engineering, and holds a B.A. from the College of William & Mary and an MSc in Technology Commercialization from the University of Texas at Austin. His project will be to further develop “Tech Policy Press.”

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Betsy Ladyzhets

Betsy Ladyzhets
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Brooklyn, NY

Betsy Ladyzhets is a data journalist and science writer. She currently works as a senior research associate at Stacker, a data journalism publication, where she manages science, health, and lifestyle content. She also volunteers for the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic. Her newsletter, the COVID-19 Data Dispatch, brings together her experience from both of these roles with news, resources, and original reporting on COVID-19 data sources. During the program, Ladyzhets hopes to grow it and make it a better ressource for her readers. Ladyzhets graduated in 2019 from Barnard College in New York City, where she studied biology and English. She’s a member of the National Association of Science Writers. Her past work has appeared in outlets including Science News and The Open Notebook.

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Andrew Mills

Andrew Mills
Pronouns: He, him
Country of origin: Canada
Current location: Doha, Qatar

Andrew Mills is the co-founder of Jumpline, a community hub driving the transformation of journalism education. He also leads education projects as an associate at FATHM, a news lab and media consultancy. Previously, he helped establish Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism  on the university’s campus in  Qatar, and led the design of an overhauled curriculum for the campus. His teaching has focused on media innovation, international reporting and the use of emerging technology to gather news and tell stories. Originally from Canada, Mills has lived and worked in the Arab region for 14 years and has reported from more than 25 countries. Mills wants to build a smart, focused and trustworthy newsletter that reports, collects and checks the biggest stories shaping life in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and across the Arabian Peninsula.  

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Janet Otieno-Prosper

Janet Otieno-Prosper
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Kenya
Current location: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Janet Otieno-Prosper is an award-winning journalist with more than ten years experience in print and digital media. She served as features editor of The Citizen, Tanzania’s leading English publication where she helped launch a health magazine. Otieno-Prosper previously worked at Nation Media Group’s Digital and Africa desk in Nairobi as an editor in charge of the Southern Africa region. During the program, she will focus on African Ringer, a newsletter she co-founded that covers underreported stories about health, women and children in the continent. She is an ICFJ Fellow, Wan-Ifra Fellow and PesaCheck Fellow. She was born in Kenya and holds a master of arts degree in Communication Studies from the University of Nairobi. She lives with her husband and two sons, ages 1 and 5.

She received a Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship.

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Priti Patnaik

Priti Patnaik
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: India
Current location: Geneva, Switzerland

Priti Patnaik is an independent journalist. She is the Founding Editor of Geneva Health Files – a reporting initiative on the governance of global health. During the program, she hopes to build a sustainable venture with a paid newsletter connected to her initiative. In her 15 years in journalism she has worked in Geneva, New York and New Delhi reporting on global health, illicit financial flows and public finance. Outside of journalism, she has worked at a United Nations public health agency. Her qualifications include degrees in development studies, economics, and life sciences. Patnaik grew up in India, moved to the United States to study and later to Switzerland. She lives with her husband and her toddler in a Swiss town.

She received a Substack Scholarship.

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Francisco Javier Pazos Zarain

Francisco Javier Pazos Zarain
Pronouns: He, him, his
Country of origin: Mexico
Current location: Mexico City, Mexico

Francisco Pazos has served as a metropolitan and investigative reporter since 2010. In 2018, he transitioned to digital journalism and now leads the digital edition of Big Data News. Prior to that, he was a researcher for the Eje Central magazine and a reporter for Excelsior, a major newspaper based in Mexico City. Pazos is also a university professor. He studied communication science at National Autonomous University of Mexico and specialized in multimedia journalism at Complutense University of Madrid.  His coverage has included following corruption networks in Mexico and local stories in Mexico City. In the program, he wants to focus on community journalism that addresses the dynamic population characteristics of municipalities in the Bajío of Mexico

He received a Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship.

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Pallavi Sareen

Pallavi Sareen
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: India
Current location: Jammu and Kashmir, India

Pallavi Sareen is an Indian journalist working in Jammu and Kashmir. She is the founding editor of Straight Line, a news organization which aims to bring diverse voices to the forefront. Her venture focuses on hyper-local developmental and civic stories in regional languages that cater to the Dogra identity. During the program, she wants to work on the revenue model and audience growth of her venture. She has held various positions in media organizations in Jammu and Kashmir. Since the start of her career in 2018, Sareen has reported extensively on a wide range of political, economic and social stories from the area, often reporting live on big news stories. She has a master’s degree in Mass Communication and New Media from Central University of Jammu.

She received a Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship.

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Timi Siytangco

Timi Siytangco
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Philippines
Current location: Singapore

Timi Siytangco has 20 years of creative and commercial experience in digital media in Asia Pacific, holding positions in marketing, operations and sales management at Outbrain, Possible Worldwide and CNET. She is also a freelance travel writer. Siytangco is currently developing a podcast called Foolish Careers focused on elevating creative careers in Asia and improving reporting on the region’s creative economy – a project she will explore during her time in the program. She was born in Manila, Philippines and lives and works in Singapore.

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Paul Szoldra

Paul Szoldra
Pronouns: He, him, his
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Dana Point, CA

Paul Szoldra is a reporter and editor focused on national security issues, military service members, and veterans. Since 2018 he has been the editor in chief of Task & Purpose and written for Business Insider, Tech Insider, We Are The Mighty, and other outlets. He is also the founder of Duffel Blog, an influential military satire site. A veteran himself, Szoldra wants to help better inform the military and the American public about the role of the military. During the program, he will work on building a sustainable journalistic venture telling stories about military service, especially ones the Pentagon does not want told.

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Didem Tali

Didem Tali
Pronouns: she/her; they/them
Country of origin: Turkey
Current location: Istanbul, Turkey

Didem Tali is a multi-award-winning journalist and a filmmaker producing human rights and culture stories. She has reported for the New York Times, National Geographic, The Guardian, Financial Times, BBC, NPR and many more news outlets from her native Turkey and beyond. Stories that energize Tali tend to be about everyday heroes, solutions, and things that work. For the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program, she will work on an app (www.sanityfeed.com) to help news consumers to stay sane and counter the “angertainment” culture in news media, which she sees as a threat to global peace and democracy.

She received a Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship.

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Pauline Tillmann

Pauline Tillmann
Pronouns: She, her, hers
Country of origin: Germany
Current location: Constance, Germany

Pauline Tillmann is founder and editor-in-chief of the German digital magazine “Deine Korrespondentin” (Your Correspondent) with 10 female correspondents covering stories about interesting women worldwide. She holds a master’s degree in Political Science, Sociology and Psychology and completed a journalism traineeship at the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation (Bayerischer Rundfunk) in Munich. Between 2011 and 2015 she worked as a freelance foreign correspondent in St. Petersburg, Russia, mainly for German Public Radio and TV (ARD). From 2018 to 2020 she was project manager for media viability at DW Akademie. Currently, she works as a trainer, keynote speaker and moderator specializing in media startups. Her project for the program will be to work on scaling “Deine Korrespondentin” through new formats and initiatives.

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Troy Williams

Troy Williams
Pronouns: He, him, his
Country of origin: United States
Current location: Oakland, CA

Williams founded the San Quentin Prison Report, co-founded San Quentin’s Media Lab, San Quentin’s chapter of the NorCal Journalism Guild, and paved the way for the voices of incarcerated people to produce their own stories and reach the outside world via film/video and radio/podcasts. He is a pioneering restorative justice practitioner, media producer, community organizer, and activist. As a Soros Justice Fellow, Williams has launched Restorative Media, a non-profit and nationally focused multimedia platform and community engagement program that trains formerly incarcerated and system-impacted people to document their experiences and engage the public in open forums. This project is also going to be his focus during the program.

He received a Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship.

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Zakaria Zainal

Zakaria Zainal
Pronouns: He, him, his
Country of origin: Singapore
Current location: Singapore

Zakaria Zainal is a photographer and author. From projects on the Singapore Gurkhas to a multimedia documentary on living histories of displaced islanders south of Singapore, he is focused on telling stories about Asia. As a self-taught photographer, his images have appeared in MIT Technology Review, the Chronicle of Higher Education,.Financial Times, Anadolu Images, South China Morning Post and Malaysiakini. He was born and raised in Singapore where he lives with his wife. He studied communications and briefly taught  journalism to undergraduates at his alma mater, Nanyang Technological University. He will focus on creating a newsletter to tell visual stories around Asia.

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