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Alumni Newsletter, May 2021

  • By Irena Choi Stern
Josh Keefe '16

Josh Keefe ’16, an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News, is on the team that received the New England First Amendment Coalition’s 2021 Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award for its investigation into the misconduct of police and corrections officers in Maine. Its reporting led to at least three legislative proposals to institute more oversight over law enforcement in the state.

UPCOMING EVENTS

FOUR HONOREES TO RECEIVE NEWMARK J-SCHOOL’S 2021 AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
Tuesday, May 18, 2021, 12 noon EST
This year’s alumni and student winners will be celebrated at a virtual event. Register here.

SAVE THE DATE: FOUNDER’S DAY/NEWMARK J-SCHOOL TURNS 15!
Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021
Details forthcoming.

SAVE THE DATE: HOMECOMING
Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021
It’s looking better and better for an in-person reunion at 219 West 40th Street — and a special happy hour with the Dean for the 10th reunion classes of 2010 and 2011!

FEATURED NEWS

NEWMARK J-SCHOOL AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE ANNOUNCED
Allison Dikanovic ’20Dalvin Brown ’20, Valen Iricibar ’21 and Roxanna Asgarian ’11 are this year’s Awards for Excellence honorees.

DEI LEADER TO TAKE OVER BLACK MEDIA INITIATIVE
Cheryl Thompson-Morton, known for promoting diversity and equity in the news industry, has been named Black Media Initiative Director for the Center for Community Media, effective June 1. She comes to Newmark J-School from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism in Philadelphia, where she headed up several initiatives to increase equity in the media.

J-SCHOOL STUDENTS TAKE TOP IRE, SPJ AND ACP AWARDS
Newmark J-School students have been honored in national and regional contests recognizing outstanding investigative journalism, audio reporting, news writing, multimedia projects and COVID-19 coverage.

EXECUTIVE PROGRAM SELECTS NEW CLASS OF MEDIA LEADERS
The Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership at Newmark J-School announced its second cohort of 20 media leaders who will push for transformation in the news industry and change their organizations by developing resilient strategies, successful products, and sustainable business models.

CELEBRATING ENGAGEMENT JOURNALISM
Seven alumni recently participated in an Engagement Journalism half-day event to celebrate the program’s new nameKristine VillanuevaEngageJ ’17, and Jesenia DeMoya Correa ’17 took part in the panel “How journalists are engaging with diverse communities in Philadelphia.” Engagement Journalism alumni Beatrix Lockwood ’19Mekdela Maskal ’19Alyxaundria Sanford ’17 and Isadora Varejão ’19 participated in the session “So what does an audience engagement job look like?” And Allen ArthurEngageJ ’16, moderated the panel “Movement Journalism - What does it mean to engage communities in service of liberation?”.

TEACHING NEWS RESEARCH GIVES YOUR STUDENTS A SUPERPOWER
Barbara Gray, Newmark J-School Chief Librarian, wrote for Poynter’s new monthly column that walks professors through the specifics of teaching news research.

ALUMNI NEWS

The news below was submitted by faculty, staff, and alumni. Send your items to alumnioffice@journalism.cuny.edu.

Nicole Nola (Turso) ’09 has joined the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office as deputy communications director.

Melissa Rose Cooper ’10 joins New Jersey PBS as a correspondent for NJ Spotlight News.

Vishal Persaud ’10 has started a new role at Insider as Startups and Venture Capitol Editor.

Walter Smith-Randolph ’10 joins Connecticut Public Broadcasting as Investigative Editor for CPTV (PBS) and WNPR. Walter will be the lead reporter and editor for The Accountability Project, a new investigative unit.

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

Ajai Raj ’12 joined the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory as science and technology writer/content creator.

Jessica Glazer ’13 is a creative producer on the branded audio team at Vox Media, and her son, Oliver, was born July 28, 2020.

Andrew Welsch ’13 is now a reporter at Barron’s covering wealth management. Previously, he was managing editor at Financial Planning magazine.

Emilia David ’14 has started a new job as a reporter for Venture Capitol Journal.

Chinwe Oniah ‘14 co-directed, wrote and produced an episode of KQED’s web-series “If Cities Could Dance,” focusing on jam skating in L.A., its renewed popularity, Black skaters criticism of skaters who exploit the dance form and how it has changed during the pandemic.

Reed Dunlea ’15 of Rolling Stone recently produced the following two stories: “The Corpus Christi Water Wars,” about a coalition of residents trying to halt the region’s rapid industrial sprawl. The fight is now centered on the water supply for a massive new Exxon SABIC plastics plant in the drought-prone Texas city; and “Houston’s Mosquito-Killing Superhero Takes on the Climate Crisis,” about how climate change is altering the patterns and prevalence of infectious diseases as vectors like mosquitoes migrate to new regions. In Houston, a man named Max Vigilant is helping to protect the city against new outbreaks.

Rachel GlickhouseEngageJ ’15, recently began her new role of senior project manager at News Revenue Hub, where she’ll work with newsrooms all over the world to help them grow their audiences.

Vicki Adame ’17 is headed to Minnesota to work for MPR News as a reporter covering the Hispanic community throughout Minnesota as a Report for America corps member. Most recently, Adame spent two years in Mexico City freelancing, doing translation work and editing.

Sofia Cerda Campero ’18 wrote “Get to Know the Newsrooms Focused on Elevating Latinx Voices in the U.S.” for Nieman Reports, and the article featured Jesenia De Moya Correa ’17 and Frances Solá-Santiago ’17.

Itzel Castro ’18 has moved to Steinbeck Country, joining the nonprofit news organization Voices of Monterey Bay. She recently published “A Shot in the Arm: Essential workers in the ‘Salad Bowl of the World’ are now being vaccinated.” 

Vanessa Colon Almenas ’18 will help lead an award-winning team of CIP reporters cover government accountability in the wake of hurricane Maria as a Report for America corps member.

Ivan Flores ’18, a photojournalist for the Texas Observer, will cover Indigenous tribes in Texas as part of a new Indigenous Affairs team as a Report for America corps member.

Ariama Long ‘18 will join the Amsterdam News this June as a Report for America corps member.

Brenda Millicent León ’19 covers undercovered Latino communities for Connecticut Public Radio as a Report for America corps member.

Sean Sanders ’19 is an associate producer at ABC News’ Good Morning America.

Karla ArroyoEngageJ ’20, recently began her new role community manager at SJR, an award-winning global innovation consultancy. In this role, she’ll be leading social media content production, strategy and audience development for various brands.

Christine DeRosa ’20 has joined Hearst Connecticut Media as a Shoreline reporter, covering education in the east shore region of Connecticut.

Jackie Harris ’20 is working at NEPM producing the new show And Another Thing.

Holly DeMuth ’20 the spring editorial fellow at the Intercept.

Ana Lucía Murillo ’20 is a reporter for Money magazine.


Josh Keefe '16

In January, Josh Keefe ’16 and colleagues at the Bangor Daily News won the Sidney Award for “Lawmen Off Limits,” a series that exposes a severe lack of oversight and accountability of county law enforcement in Maine. In April, it also won the New England First Amendment Coalition‘s 2021 Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award.

The series focuses on a former Maine sheriff who sent explicit photos of himself to his employees and others, and solicited them for sex, but no one had authority to place the sheriff on leave while he was investigated. The team, which included his colleagues Erin Rhoda and Callie Ferguson, reported previously untold stories of people who had experienced the sheriff’s unwanted advances, with thousands of pages of records requested under the Maine Freedom of Access Act. The investigation expanded to all 16 sheriff’s offices in the state, providing the first-ever statewide look at misconduct at the county level.

“It fell to me to go over records,” Keefe said. “I had to build a database, try to break it all up by type of offense, how long they’d been suspended. What I figured out, after a while, was the more serious the offense, the more likely it was that there was no actual information about what happened.”

Keefe had a circuitous route to journalism after graduating from Skidmore College in 2008. Faced with dismal employment prospects during the economic downturn, the Maine native traveled the world and worked in restaurants, eventually landing a gig writing travel blogs, then leading resume workshops. A piece he wrote for Slate, “I Was the Worst High School Quarterback Ever: Lessons from a Winless Career,” didn’t jumpstart his journalism career, so Keefe decided to consider journalism school.

“I thought I could apply for jobs with that piece,” Keefe said. “I didn’t understand you can’t get a job off one piece.”

He only applied to Newmark J-School, using his article in Slate, because he “looked at other schools and they were way too much money — I wasn’t going crazy in debt.”

While at Newmark J-School, Keefe had his work published in the New York Times; he credits his Craft professor, Wayne Svoboda, for massaging the piece that was published. When he landed the investigative reporter job at the Bangor Daily News, he took it, joining the paper in 2018.

“I remember talking to Tim Harper about it,” Keefe said. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to move back to Maine, and my parents don’t live there anymore.  He said something like, ‘Your chances of winning a Pulitzer are higher in Bangor, Maine, than here in NYC.’”