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Newmark J-School Newsletter Winter 2021

  • By Newmark J-School Staff


Student project envisions what’s ‘Next’ for New York …

Photo of Siobhan O’Loughlin dancing in front of a computer in a room with pink lighting.
Jo Constantz ’21 reported in her ‘Next’ video “Out of the Tub, Into the Zoom,” the struggles of artists to keep performing. (Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan O’Loughlin)

Students from the Classes of ’20 and ’21 teamed up this fall to chronicle a world upended by the pandemic in a special digital report, “Next New York.” With compelling stories and arresting photographs and videos, the project captures a “constant” about this city: “When faced with the bleakest of nights, New Yorkers always learn to see in the dark. This project shines a light on how they are innovating and adapting, focusing on the people determined to explore what comes next as they help rebuild the city they love.” Topics include neighbors expanding mutual-aid efforts through community fridges and innovative urban planning; organizations helping kids learn about music at a distance and others connecting to elderly folks to guard against isolation; and artists finding original ways to serve their audiences, in body, mind and spirit, including “immersion” performer Siobhan O’Loughlin (above) who went from letting audiences give her a bath in their homes to dating advice on Zoom.

Check out Next New York

… Report finds journalism disrupted — and transformed

Reporter Megan Harris from Pittsburgh’s NPR affiliate WESA-FM is wrapped in a mattress during a recording at home.
To get clean audio without sound bounce, reporters at Pittsburgh’s NPR affiliate WESA-FM, including Megan Harris (above), record tracks in their closets. They’re also wrapping their mics, and sometimes themselves, in mattress pads and blankets. (Photo: Jeremy Boren)

The pandemic sidelined traditional journalistic practices, especially those that increased risks by getting reporters too near sources. The economic collapse caused by the infection also led newsrooms to shutter, as well as furlough and lay off staff. Still, inspired journalists found ways to get and tell stories. In an in-depth report, “Zoom, Drones And ‘Live From My Closet’: How The Pandemic Changed Journalism,” Newmark J-School discovered how journalists are adapting. Broadcasters are converting home closets into sound booths and rigging kitchens and backyards for set-like video. Producers are tapping viewers’ smartphone video to document subjects’ lives. Journalists in all media are pulling in story ideas, tips, sources, and background information from social media, newsletters, and online community forums. And, despite the physical distance that the virus enforced, news organizations are connecting with and being challenged by the public as never before. The report, based on interviews with dozens of journalists across the country, offers a portrait of the challenges and triumphs of newsgathering today.

Read the report


Tremain Prioleau II
Tremain Prioleau II

Long before he was named the 2021 Ida B. Wells Scholar at the J-School, Tremain Prioleau II ’21 was inspired by the legendary investigative journalist and social crusader. He even cited his favorite Wells quote in his 2020 application essay: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” That approach is exactly what Prioleau, a native of South Carolina, says is guiding him as he completes his master’s degree studies with a focus on arts and culture reporting.

Learn more about Tremain

A photo of a J-School classroom showing Alex Droessler in the foreground.
Since starting the J-School’s executive program last year, Alex Droessler, above left, has moved to a new company and helped launch a targeted newsletter to boost distant audiences’ connection to their hometown publication.


J-School on a mission to provide career-long learning

Alex Droessler, an editor and rising newsroom manager in Germany, has experienced it. So, too, have journalists in newsrooms of all sizes and locales around the globe. They are benefiting from the J-School’s mission to keep journalists at every stage of their careers at the cutting edges of their field. Droessler had worked as a reporter and editor. He had studied journalism at the University of Hamburg and in Missouri on a Fulbright grant. Still, as he described it, he hit a wall in his career when his bosses asked him to help develop a neighborhood news site. They wanted a hybrid — both local news and a social media platform. “Please, make it work somehow,” was the direction he got. To prepare for this new role, he was savvy enough to seek support as one of the first participants in the J-School’s new Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership, as reported in Medium. Droessler and colleagues, under program director Anita Zielina and Jeff Jarvis, the Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism Innovation, explored how to transform the news industry and change their organizations by developing successful products and sustainable business models. Participants in the year-long program look to redefine innovation, develop new revenue sources for newsrooms, transform legacy media outlets into digital first publications, rebuild trust in journalism, and promote a more inclusive newsroom.

The school also has launched its Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms program. The two-month, online staff development initiative seeks to teach journalists in small to midsize local news organizations to build, launch, and grow news products that serve audiences’ needs, said Marie Gilot, director of J+, the school’s professional development division.

Working journalists, freelancers, photographers, video journalists, and other communicators who want to advance in their careers, change jobs, or simply tell engaging stories with impact can dig into Newmark J-School’s online information about these two programs, as well as custom trainings and immersive courses offered by faculty and top professionals, not to mention events like the Feb. 19th look at Redefining Journalism Entrepreneurship – Run The World.


The school is playing an essential role supporting community media in every corner of New York City and in 37 languages —  as well as leading conversations around the ‘21 political races.

The Center for Community Media reported on its initiative that helped direct nearly $10 million in local government advertising to 220 New York news organizations, sustaining them at a time when many would otherwise have gone out of business as well as providing vital information to communities of color and immigrants when they most needed it. The Center will also host a series of candidate forums, moderated by journalists from those community news outlets as part of the run-up to the New York’s June mayoral election. The first event this Thursday (Jan. 28) will showcase some of the race’s leading candidates, but the sessions that will follow will give audiences ample opportunity to learn the views of the 33 aspirants now seeking New York’s top job.

The J-School is also anchoring events focused on the most pressing issues — from financial to those facing the elderly — expected to be debated during the municipal campaigns. The first, on Feb. 3, will examine economic challenges that confront the city, especially due to the damage of the pandemic. The expert conversation, “What Will It Take For NYC To Recover…” will be hosted by NY1’s Errol Louis, who teaches in the Urban Reporting program. The discussion will open with a brief overview of the city’s experiences with financial crises by Greg David, director of the Business and Economics Reporting program and a contributor for THE CITY.


Richen documentary debuts

American Masters, PBS’ renowned documentary program, has premiered How It Feels to Be Free, Yoruba Richen’s examination of the lives of six trailblazing Black entertainers: Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson, and Pam Grier. These pioneering women “challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process,” PBS reports about the two-hour online program. Richen is director of the J-School’s documentary program and an award-winning director whose work includes The Green Book: Guide to Freedom, POV: Promised Land, and Independent Lens: The New Black.

Smock collaborates on Smithsonian exhibit

Photojournalism Director John Smock has been working with the National Museum of the American Indian in NYC since last fall on the exhibit Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the FieldThis month, he will begin work on the last phase of the project focusing on the Navajo Nation Reservation and how it has struggled with the coronavirus pandemic.

Our Founding Dean has penned another one!

Stephen B. Shepard has written his third book, Second Thoughts: On Family, Friendship, Faith, and Writers, a series of contemplations on the important things in his life, all from the vantage point of turning 80. “The pandemic allowed me the time to write this book, but now denies me the opportunity to invite you to a book party and give you a copy,” Shepard said in email to friends and family.

Honors for our students’ journalism

Multimedia journalism by J-School students has been recognized in national contests:

Three J-School projects were national EPPY finalists:

  • The NYCity News Service, for best college-produced community or niche website

  • South Bronx Acts, a multimedia look at hope and heroism amid the pandemic produced by Judy Watson’s and Amy Yensi’s writing and reporting class, for best feature story on a college website

  • 61 Days of Solitude, Life and Love, a Coronavirus Chronicles photo essay by Benjamin Chambers ‘20 that documented resilience and creativity in confinement, for best photojournalism on a college website

Students were honored in two additional ACP Awards categories:

A big 2020 for McGraw Center and Fellows

The McGraw Center for Business Journalism, now in its sixth year and led by Jane Sasseen, provided $60,000 in support to McGraw Fellows conducting in-depth, investigative business stories. McGraw Fellow Katherine Eban won this year’s Best Book award for Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom from the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) group. Fellows Nick Penzenstadler and Jeff Kelly Lowenstein won the top prize for investigative reporting in a national newspaper by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). The Associated Press published the third and final piece in a series on human rights and labor abuses in the palm oil industry, written by McGraw Fellows Margie Mason and Robin McDowell.

Our alumni: moving in, up and out — and winning notice

  • Ariel Goodman ’20 has received the 2021 audience engagement fellowship at The Marshall Project. The year-long position is funded by The Tow Foundation.
  • Fritzie Andrade ’08 is Insider Inc.’s first managing editor of diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Daniel Macht ’08 has moved to California to be the digital manager of KCRA-TV.
  • Cristina Alesci ‘08, a director of the J-School’s Foundation Board, moves from her life as a CNN correspondent to become Chobani’s chief corporate affairs officer.
  • Danny Gold ’10 produced One Week, a documentary short that premiered in September at the Woodstock Film Festival and that follows a young man in St. Louis for his last week of freedom before a jail sentence for selling fentanyl. Gold and journalist Sean Williams also started the Underworld podcast, examining organized crime.
  • Almudena Toral ’10 and the teams at Time and Univision News won an Emmy Award for the multimedia project: In El Salvador, Violence is Driving Girls to Kill Themselves.
  • Luis Miguel Echegaray SocialJ ’15 recently started at CBS Sports Digital as a presenter, host, and soccer content development strategist.
  • Beatrix Lockwood SocialJ ’19 and Nicole Lewis ’16 created The Marshall Project’s The Hidden Cost of Incarceration, which was a finalist for the Online Journalism Awards’ “Excellence in Newsletters” category.
  • Megan Myscofski ’19 started as a Morning Edition host and reporter at Montana Public Radio, where she interned when she was at the J-School.


2020 in Pictures

The year 2020 was a memorable one at Newmark J-School, as this video recap (created by J-School designer Rosaleen Ortiz ’08) reminds us. And, with the expectation that the pandemic will be better controlled by Fall ’21, the challenges of journalism education conducted online will give way to a return to greater normalcy — including enabling all of us to spend more time together on campus.