Alumni Newsletter, December 2020

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Kristine Villanueva, SocialJ ’17, at her graduation from Newmark J-School. In January, she will join Resolve Philly as the project editor for Equally Informed.



The Newmark J-School Alumni Office wishes you Happy Holidays! The next issue of the Alumni Newsletter will be published on Feb. 3, 2021. Please submit your news to us by Jan. 27, 2021. We’d love to hear from you!

Alumni can now register for January Academy, a series of enrichment workshops unique to the master’s degree programs of Newmark J-School, at this link. We have a great lineup, including such first-time offerings as “10 Incredibly Useful Little Tools for Journalists” with Jeremy Caplan, “How to Run a Podcast” with Mia Lobel, “Reporting on Race” with Lisa Armstrong, “Remote Photography Techniques” with John Smock, and “Ghost Writing” with Tim Harper. In this all-remote year, alumni pay a special fee of $19 for any class.

Dec. 18, live stream starts at 11:00 a.m. 
Look for the live stream link on our Commencement 2020 web page.

Deadline: Dec. 31, 2020
Established in 2016, the Stephen B. Shepard Prize for Investigative Reporting honors a deserving graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. This prize will be awarded to a Newmark J-School alumnus/a who has produced the best investigative work in 2020. This year’s honoree will receive $5,000 in the spring, generously funded by The Tow Foundation. The award is named for Founding Dean Emeritus Stephen Shepard. Questions? Email:

Feb. 3, 2021, 6:00 p.m.
New York’s economy has suffered through depressions and recessions before and rebounded. But with unemployment high, hunger soaring, small businesses failing daily and the health care system under extraordinary pressures, we know this time will be different. And this time will call for new solutions. Panelists include Greg David, director of the Business and Economics Reporting program and NY1’s Errol Louis. For more information and to register, click here.


Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, chancellor of The City University of New York (CUNY), wrote an Op-Ed for amNY noting that Newmark J-School students are “part of the future of journalism at a time when fact-based reporting has never been more important” and the school is “an important hub for creating a sustainable future for high quality, high impact journalism.”

Greg David, director of the Business & Economics Reporting Program, was profiled by SUM: Research, Innovation, and Creativity at CUNY.

The Center for Community Media’s (CCM) Black Media Initiative has created a map and directory of nearly 300 community media outlets across the U.S. that primarily serve Black communities across the diaspora.


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

Jessica Firger ’08 starts her new job on Dec. 7 as a senior editor on the CNN health desk.

Clark Merrefield ’08, a reporter at at Harvard University, wrote a feature and deep dive into research estimating more than 1 million Americans lack piped water in their homes with a surprisingly high percentage of them in metropolitan areas, plus a roundup of recent academic research on racial disparities in access to running water and five tips for other journalists who want to investigate water insecurity in their coverage areas.

Yudith Ho ’11 becomes Jakarta bureau chief for Bloomberg News in December. This is a homecoming for Yudith after an exciting three years as the Kuala Lumpur bureau chief.

Orie Givens ’13 was promoted to the newly-created role of digital content partnerships manager for Spectrum News Midwest. In this role, Givens will work to build collaborative best practices and editorial/content strategies among linear and digital teams and external content partners in Ohio, Kentucky, and Wisconsin in support of the new Spectrum News app.

Ilie Mitaru ’13 documented the devastation of the Oregon fires for The New York Times through his photography in “Overwhelmed: First by Fire, Then by Kindness.”

Sierra Leone Starks ’13 wrote “Why Millennial Women in Beauty Are Embracing Bitcoin” in November’s issue of Allure magazine.

Mia Garchitorena ’15 has joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville as communications consultant for the Department of Biomedical Informatics. She will oversee writing for the department and assist hospital leadership with communications around important initiatives, including VUMC’s research partnership with IBM Watson Health to advance the science of artificial intelligence (AI) and its application to major public health issues.

Guglielmo Mattioli ’16 photographed National Geographic’s “How Art Helps Us Make Sense of COVID-19’s Incomprehensible Toll” and shot a 360 video on a massive COVID memorial in Washington, D.C. National Geographic also featured Mattioli’s work on its Instagram account, posting two videos with captions.

Monica Cordero ’17 won the important Premio Ortega y Gasset for work that started as a collaborative class project between Newmark J-School’s bilingual masters program and Columbia Journalism Investigations.

Jesenia De Moya Correa ’17 moderated a public conversation with Gabriel Escobar, the new top editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who discussed managing the rapid and sometimes tumultuous transformation at the Inquirer, his career path, and his perspective on being one of the highest-ranking Latinos at a U.S. news organization. De Moya Correa is the Latino communities reporter for the Inquirer.

Reynaldo Leanos Jr. ’18 has joined Latino USA.

Dominic McKenzie ’18 was nominated and shortlisted for the Prime Minister of Jamaica’s Youth Award for Excellence — the highest national honor a Jamaican aged 15 – 29 can receive from the government. Since 1998, 165 awards have been conferred. The winners will be announced on Dec. 12.

Moises Mendez II ’19 will begin as a fellow for Insider’s Digital Culture Team in January 2020. 

Evelina Nedlund ’19 is moving to Stockholm to join the Swedish financial newspaper Dagens Industri as a tech reporter.

Shantal Riley ’19 wrote “Toxic synthetic ‘forever chemicals’ are in our water and on our plates” for NOVA PBS on the PFAS chemical contamination of food and water.

Michael Tashji ’19 has moved to northern New Mexico and started as a reporter and multimedia producer at The Taos News. 


Kristine VillanuevaSocialJ ’17, will start off the new year with a new job, joining Resolve Philly as project editor for Equally Informed, a free service that aims to reduce barriers for residents who need trustworthy information to survive—and thrive—during COVID-19.

“Resolve Philly works really hard at trying to reach those people who are disenfranchised by the digital divide and to cover their community and what their information needs are,” Villanueva said. “That’s first and foremost a part of their mission.”

Villanueva has always been fascinated by the digital divide — the gap between those able to benefit from the Internet and those who are not — ever since her time at Newmark J-School and her experience in the engagement program, where she is currently teaching Community Practicum with ProPublica’s Rachel Glickhouse remotely. It was the engagement program, she says, that “taught me how to better identify community needs and to fill in those information gaps using collaboration and partnerships.”

“I made a zine, and it was offline,” Villanueva said. “It was a texting-based project and didn’t get as much traction as I had wanted it to, but I did learn a lot about what offline engagement was.  That kind of sparked an idea in my head that there is a huge swath of the population that’s missing.”

Until Nov. 25, Villanueva was the audience engagement editor at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., focusing on digital strategy and ways to solicit feedback for investigations. One project she worked on at Public Integrity reported on the coronavirus and hate/bias toward the Asian community, primarily through a partnership with Nextshark.

“It was very important to me as an Asian-American woman,” said Villanueva, a first generation Philippino-American. “I led this project and it got a lot of traction. Sixteen senators cited the project in a letter to the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, and a quarter of Congress wrote to Bill Barr, asking him to condemn bias incidents against Asians due to coronavirus. It was really fulfilling, because many investigations take years to see an impact.”

She acknowledges the challenge of separating her identity from the stories she covers. But, she says, once you recognize that “your experience has limitations and blind spots, you start to sharpen coverage that is more robust. That is my whole approach to reporting.”

By the end of the year, Villanueva will move from her childhood home in Fords, N.J., where she has been working since September, to Philadelphia for her new role in which she aspires to support access to information and opportunities for communities whose concerns have long been marginalized.