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Newmark J-School Newsletter Summer 2021

  • By Newmark J-School Staff


NY1 partners with J-School to showcase our programs and honor Errol Louis

(Photo: via Faith Holland on GIPHY )

Newmark J-School and cable news channel NY1 are teaming up to honor their shared commitment to local journalism and to celebrate Errol Louis, the NY1 political anchor who has taught urban reporting at the school for more than a decade.

As part of the unique content partnership, NY1 will produce a one-hour show that will premier at 8 p.m. on July 20. The program will showcase the J-School, which is marking the 15th anniversary of its founding this summer.

Louis will host the special that will star current students and alumni, and the bilingual, documentary, and broadcast programs. The special will report on a drone journalism class, two newspapers in the South Bronx owned by the school, and its entrepreneurial “Journalism Creators Program.” The segments will air separately on the cable network until mid-August.

Louis also will moderate a panel discussion on The Clemency Project. This initiative, involving the J-School and CUNY Law School, seeks to hold police, the courts, and prosecutors accountable by correcting false convictions and excessive sentences. A second panel moderated by Louis will delve into the school’s pioneering Engagement Journalism program.

Some 15 alums work for NY1, along with Louis and Juan Manuel Benítez, another longtime Newmark J-School adjunct faculty member. As part of the month of programming about Newmark J-School, the news channel has agreed to air a text-to-give campaign to boost the school’s scholarship fund, which has proven essential to ensuring more diversity in newsrooms.

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Lots of it…

Lisa Hagen ’11 won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for audio reporting.

Lisa Hagen ’11 goes in the honor rolls for some impressive firsts. She is the first J-School alum to win the Pulitzer Prize, as part of the National Public Radio investigative team that reported on gun-rights activists. The 2021 Pulitzer for audio reporting that she shared was also the first won by NPR. Hagen, interviewed by colleagues, said that one of the most meaningful congratulatory calls she received came from Alex Goldmark, senior supervising producer of the “Planet Money” show: “He was my radio professor from CUNY journalism school and I felt so proud to be his student. He’s super happy.” Hagen shared the award with Chris Haxel, Graham Smith, and Robert Little for their investigative podcast series “No Compromise.”

McGraw Fellows Margie Mason and Robin McDowell racked up a grand list of awards for “Fruits of Labor,” their series for the Associated Press on labor abuses in the palm oil industry. It was a 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist in the investigative reporting category. It won the Overseas Press Club’s Joe and Laurie Dine Award, the top prize in the print/online division 1 category of the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual awards, the 2020 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism, the 2021 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, and a 2021 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights journalism award in the international print category.

Newmark J-School alums were prominent among those honored with 2021 National Magazine Awards. Sophie Cocke ’09 (right), of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, won the Digital Storytelling award for “Hawaii’s Beaches Are Disappearing,” with Ash Ngu of ProPublica. In the Community Journalism category, the winners were ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News for “Unheard,” by Adriana Gallardo, a J-School adjunct professor; Nadia Sussman ’10 and Agnes Chang, ProPublica; and Kyle Hopkins and Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News. The American Society of Magazine Editors, which presents the magazine honors annually, gave their award for Coverage of Race in America to two works, including “Black Men Have the Shortest Lifespans of Any Americans,” produced by Sussman and Joe Singer. And, Andrea González-RamĂ­rez ’15, senior writer, GEN, won an ASME NEXT Award for Journalists Under 30.

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) presented its Personal Finance Award, medium division, to Tobias Salinger ’13 (right) for “A conflicted question: What is fiduciary advice?” In SABEW’s Financial Planning awards category, Karina Hernandez ’18 was part of CNBC’s investigative team that won for Personal Finance reporting for “Where’s the Money?”  Willa Rubin ’18 was part of the Gimlet/Wall Street Journal team that received an honorable mention for the podcast “Race and Business,” and Nico Grant ’16 was part of a Bloomberg team that won an honorable mention for the story “Silicon Valley’s Racial Reckoning.”

Allison Dikanovic ’20, Dalvin Brown ’20, Valen Iricibar ’21, and Roxanna Asgarian ’11, have won the Newmark J-School’s annual Awards for Excellence. Dikanovic, who now works at THE CITY, won the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for Social Justice Reporting, while Brown, a reporter for The Washington Post, was the winner of the Frederic Wiegold Prize for Business Journalism. (Brown also was awarded a 2021 New York Financial Writers Scholarship worth $3,000.) Iricibar was presented with the Newsweek Magazine Alumni Prize, and Asgarian won the Stephen B. Shepard Prize for Investigative Reporting. Iricibar stayed for a fourth semester to finish a capstone project on how NYC’s budget addresses the city’s trans, gender-nonconforming, and non-binary community. Asgarian is writing a book on failures of the Texas child welfare system for Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

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. “When Colleges Fail On Mental Health,” by Abigail Napp ’20 and Harsha Nahata ’20  — an in-depth review of public data and court filings showing how schools fall short on providing psychological support — was named the best story in its student division in the national Investigative Reporters and Editors 2020 awards.


For tenure and the red carpet…

Dean Sarah Bartlett has returned to the list of City & State New York’s 2021 Higher Education Power 100. She was praised for helping build the reputation of the Newmark J-School by founding the Business and Urban subject concentrations and the Center for Community Media (CCM), helping raise millions in endowments, and championing the Advertising Boost Initiative in 2020, which brought $10 million in city ad dollars to local media outlets. Others in the ranking connected to our school were CUNY Chancellor FĂ©lix Matos RodrĂ­guez,  No. 1 on the list; Craig Newmark; and Emily Tow. To those interested in learning more about CCM’s ad-boost initiative, Bartlett and Julie Sandorf, president of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, co-wrote a May 20 guest essay in The New York Times explaining how New York City municipal ad funds helped sustain small community newspapers and websites.

Yoruba Richen, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and the founding director of the Newmark J-School’s Documentary Program, had the in-person premiere at the Tribeca Festival of her work, “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show.” The work, which can be streamed on the Peacock platform, was a nominee for the 2021 Peabody Awards. It details how in 1968, entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte took over Johnny Carson’s seat on “The Tonight Show” for one historic week, honestly confronting a fractured country through legendary guests like Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. months before their assassinations.

Also at the Tribeca Film Festival, adjunct faculty member Michèle Stephenson, along with Joe Brewster and Yasmin Elayat, won Best Immersive Narrative for episode 1 of “The Changing Same, An American Pilgrimage,” a virtual reality experience on racial justice. Through elements of time-travel, participants are invited to traverse 400 years of racial inequality in the U.S. while projecting forward to a joyful Afrofuturist world of possibilities.

Travis Fox, an award-winning television documentary maker who leads the Visual Journalism department, has earned tenure. His new academic status was approved in May by the CUNY Board of Trustees. Fox also recently spoke about aerial photographs from his book, “Remains to be Seen.” The pictures were featured in a show at the Wired Gallery in High Falls, N.Y. Fox’s artist talk was moderated by faculty member, Susan Farkas, a High Falls resident.

The CUNY trustees in July approved Carrie Brown as an associate professor with tenure. Brown had given up a tenured position seven years ago at the University of Memphis to come to the J-School to start its M.A. in Engagement Journalism program. Brown, who earned her Ph. D. at the University of Missouri, has focused her research primarily on how newsrooms can adapt to the rapidly evolving digital, mobile, and economic climate. She and Jonathan Groves published the findings in their book, “Transforming Newsrooms” (Routledge 2020).

Barbara Gray, the school’s chief librarian and an associate professor, started a monthly column in about news research.

Kalli Anderson, director of the Audio Journalism program, produced a short audio doc called The Night Swimmer that aired on the BBC.

And đź‘Ź for three new appointments

Jennifer Wilson has been named director of the J-School’s Arts and Culture Reporting Program. A frequent contributor to a wide range of publications from Vogue to The Paris Review and The Guardian, Wilson succeeds longtime faculty member Janice Simpson, who retired in June. “One of the many aspects of Jennifer’s background that impressed the search committee was the breadth of her cultural coverage,” Dean Sarah Bartlett wrote in her announcement to the J-School community. “… She is particularly proud of her ability to connect arts and culture to ongoing news stories about topics as wide-ranging as Europe’s migrant crisis, anti-Asian racism during the pandemic, and racial politics.” Wilson holds a B.A. in Russian Literature and Culture from Columbia University and earned her Ph. D. in Russian Literature from Princeton. There, she also earned a Graduate Certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Eight years after earning a master’s degree at the J-School, Linda Villarosa will join the faculty this fall as a journalist-in-residence. A contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, Villarosa is one of the top journalists in the country covering inequality in health care for Black Americans. Among her many outstanding pieces was an essay about medical myths in the magazine’s 1619 project and a groundbreaking story about the racial disparities of the coronavirus. She is the author or co-author of three books. Her latest, “Under the Skin: Racism, Inequality and the Health of a Nation,” will be published by Doubleday next May. In her new role, Villarosa will be on the faculty of both Newmark J-School and City College, where she has been teaching since 2008.The J-School will become her primary home.

Cheryl Thompson-Morton, former program director for the Lenfest Institute for Journalism in Philadelphia, has taken over the Black Media Initiative for the J-School’s Center of Community Media. She is leading the work to support Black media outlets through training, research, convenings, and connecting them to financial resources. At the Lenfest Institute, Thompson-Morton created, launched, and executed several initiatives to increase equity in news media including the Lenfest Next Generation Fund, the Community Listening and Engagement Fund, and the Philadelphia News Ecosystem Collaboration Grant Program. She earned a business administration degree from Drexel University, where she graduated summa cum laude.






Picture this: How do you get from street protests in Egypt to photographing Biden, Trump, the Obamas and more?

(Photo: Amir Alfiky ’18)

Amr Alfiky ’18 has undertaken a bracing personal and professional odyssey in the last decade. He went from a parent-pleasing medical student in Alexandria, Egypt, to a struggling, sometimes homeless exile in New York. His passion for photojournalism, however, kept pushing him forward. In a series of snapshots of his rising career, he describes in a conversation with Associate Dean Andrew Mendelson how hard work, optimism, and good fortune led to his journalism getting seen and talked up by prominent photo editors and photographers, as well as members of the faculty of the Newmark J-School. Since then, Alfiky has had his pictures published in The New York Times, Reuters, Time, The Guardian, The Atlantic, HuffPost, and other major international publications. He was recently named a photography resident at National Geographic. 

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Aisha Al-Muslim ’09 (right) has been appointed senior editor for newsroom internships for The Wall Street Journal, where she will help shape the next generation of journalists. Al-Muslim previously was a reporter on the Pro Bankruptcy team.

And speaking of the next generation of journalists, it’s heartening to see so many of our alumni from the Class of 2020, who graduated in December, already getting ahead:

Karla Arroyo, Engagement J ’20, recently began her new role as community manager at SJR, an award-winning global innovation consultancy where she will lead social media content production, strategy, and audience development.

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

Fiifi Frimpong ’20 has joined Streetsblog as a reporter. Until recently, he was a researcher at National Geographic and a multimedia journalist at Avant-Youth, an Atlanta-based news magazine.

Amanda Glodowski ’20 was hired as data editor at Crain’s New York Business.

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

Ali McPherson ’20 is an associate producer of Luminary’s podcast “Hear To Slay” and a freelance writer for WHYY. She covered the rise of eating disorders and treatment over the pandemic for WHYY.

Malique Morris ’20, who started as a fellow at The Information, was hired as a full-time reporter.

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

Madison Ruffo ’20 is a reporter/producer for WRVO News, the NPR member station out of Oswego, NY.

Jill Shah ’20, a few months after starting as an intern, was hired full time at Bloomberg News as a reporter.

Jake Wasserman, Engagement J ’20, has begun a new role at The Forward, where he’ll serve as engagement editor. The Forward has covered Jewish news, opinion, life, and culture since 1897.


Rubén Blades was among 50 Latinx journalists, media creators, and artists on the virtual stage at the fourth Latino Media Summit hosted by the J-School. (Photo: Graciela Mochkofsky)

During an interview with writer Carina del Valle Schorske, RubĂ©n Blades, a musician, singer, composer, actor, activist, and politician, described how he shared something in common with the hundreds of Latinx pros who gathered virtually for the Latino Media Summit 2021: They all know the importance of writing, specifically journalism, as well as art, culture, ethnicity, social class, economics, and politics .”In Latin America, we are all storytellers,” said the Panama-born Blades. “I found that what was around me was a fountain of inspiration.” Almost 850 pros participated in the three-day summit and many offered high praise for how it met its goals of fostering “ideas, innovation, and opportunity” for sometimes overlooked but increasingly crucial Latinx audiences.

Watch the Blades interview and other LMS21 sessions.