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Newmark J-School Newsletter Fall 2021

  • By Newmark J-School Staff


(Photos: Paul Stremple ’20 and Geraldine Baum)

With health precautions aplenty, students, faculty, and staff have streamed back into the Newmark J-School. Between the Class of 2021 that never came to campus in its first two semesters and the incoming Class of 2022, almost 200 students are filling the halls with energy, laughter, camaraderie, and curiosity, enlivening the place with a much-missed, in-person electricity. In a note to the Class of 2022, Dean Sarah Bartlett told students they are “smart, enterprising, and diverse. You went to a wide variety of schools — from top-ranked private colleges such as Tufts, Williams, and Georgetown, to impressive HBCUs such as Howard and Morehouse, to excellent public universities such as CUNY, SUNY, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin … [M]any of you have worked or interned at newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, or websites. But your class also includes an anthropologist, a grape cultivator, an illustrator, and several musicians.” Much will be expected of these lively scholars, so hang on to the notebooks, cameras, and recorders, and let’s go…



Creating a path for tomorrow’s talent

Since graduating from the Newmark J-School as an urban concentration student in 2009, Aisha Al-Muslim has been on a roll. After starting at the Queens Courier and El Correo de Queens, she landed at Newsday, where she was a 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist for an investigative series on police misconduct. She went on to The Wall Street Journal in 2017, distinguishing herself as a spot news and bankruptcy reporter. As accomplished as she became at crafting news and feature stories, she has risen to a new and heady role — helping to design the Journal’s very future. Named senior editor for newsroom internships in May, she now has the monumental task of scrutinizing thousands of applications and deciding with colleagues which of tomorrow’s talents will get a big, early career boost. Want to impress her in a job interview? Be ready to talk not just about yourself but also about story ideas.



Aspiring investigators get a model view of tenacity and commitment required to be a top digger

In the almost 15 years that Andy Lehren has taught and developed his investigative reporting course, it has become a signature offering for the journalism school, which designs its programs around hands-on experiences. Throughout their last semester at Newmark J-School, his students put what they’ve learned in other research and reporting classes into practice to produce major investigative stories. With his seemingly boundless support and assistance, Lehren’s students right wrongs, find systemic problems, get their stories published, and win prizes. They also get an eye-opening, close-up look from Lehren, an investigative reporter at NBCNews, and the pros he brings in, who drill them in the prize-winning qualities they will rely on for a career: diligence, commitment, collaboration, and the capacity to look at the obvious and see something’s askew. “We need more diggers,” he says. “We need more people who will have the tenacity to come up with the stories that our society is not seeing, that may just be lying there in plain sight.”



No summer slough: Our faculty file, teach…

Emily Laber-Warren, a Tow professor and director of the Health and Science Reporting Program, reports that she has launched her latest, free, email-delivered course, “How to Pitch Science Stories That Sell,” for The Open Notebook and funded by the Kavli Foundation. The course is geared to health and science journalists and offers an eight-day, worksheet-based, self-guided approach to developing a pitch useful for journalists working in any subject area. More than 1,000 aspirants have signed up so far. Laber-Warren also wrote a story about black athletes in medicine.  “To Boost Black Men in Medicine, Advocates Turn to Sport” ran in Mother Jones, Undark, Smithsonian, and Popular Science.

The New Yorker magazine recently showcased the deeply reported article by Graciela Mochkofsky, executive director of the Center for Community Media, into the rising anger at Harvard University’s decision to deny tenure to  Lorgia García Peña, a professor of Latinx studies. As students in higher education grow ever more diverse and non-white, “there has been mounting pressure from [them] to have their communities represented among their teachers. But the composition of the faculty has been much slower to change.”

The New Yorker also featured the work of Tom Robbins, the school’s Investigative Journalist in Residence, who profiled Curtis Sliwa, the Republican mayoral challenger to Democrat Eric Adams. Sliwa “has little chance of being elected mayor of New York City, where there are roughly seven times as many registered Democrats as there are Republicans. But his candidacy is a radical shift in city politics. Republican mayoral nominees are usually corporate types or those with backgrounds in government or law enforcement. Sliwa’s experience with government and law enforcement mainly stems from his fights at City Hall and his many arrests over the years.”

Sandeep Junnarkar, director of the school’s Data Journalism Program, trained Bloomberg journalists in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific on using Python programming for news investigations. Under a grant from the Knight Foundation, he also oversaw interviews with experts who confront the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms that adversely impact communities of color.

2 new appointments and a forthcoming farewell

Carmen Graciela Díaz has been appointed director of the bilingual subject concentration. Díaz has taught as an adjunct in the program for three semesters and earned high marks from students who praise her skills as a teacher, her empathy, and her commitment to bilingual journalism. Selected after a national search, she has covered Latinx communities in Spanish and English for 15 years, starting at Puerto Rico’s top newspaper, El Nuevo Día, and later moving to Miami, where she was the education section editor for Univision Digital. She has also worked as a freelancer and published a book in 2014 about Avance, a Puerto Rican magazine of the 70s known for its cutting-edge writing and artistic identity. She holds two master’s degrees, one from Columbia’s graduate journalism school and the other from Universidad del Sagrado Corazón.

Jennifer Wilson, the recently appointed director of the school’s Arts and Culture subject concentration, has been named a contributing essayist for The New York Times Book Review. In its announcement to readers, the Times described Wilson as “one of the smartest freelance literary critics working today.”

Dean Sarah Bartlett, in case you missed it, has announced that she will retire next June following the end of the academic year. By that time, she will have served nearly nine years as dean of the journalism school. Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez will be sharing details on the national search process to appoint Bartlett’s successor in the coming months.


“Sparring with Smokin’ Joe”: interview with author Glenn Lewis
Oct. 5 | 6-7 p.m. 

Glenn Lewis, veteran journalist and professor, will talk about his new book “Sparring with Smokin’ Joe,” a look at boxing champion Joe Frazier. Lewis will be interviewed by Beth Harpaz, communications manager at Baruch College and former AP reporter.


Commencement 2021
Dec. 17 | 11 a.m. to noon

Danielle Belton, editor-in-chief of the HuffPost, will be the keynote speaker at the Newmark J-School’s in-person commencement at The Times Center. Before joining the noted news and commentary website and aggregator, Belton served more than five years as the lead editor of The Root, the nation’s leading Black news website. She earlier had created and produced her own blog, was a writer for late-night television, and freelanced for numerous quality news organizations. She has lectured on race and journalism on college campuses, and appeared as a political observer and cultural critic on cable and network shows. In July, she was named one of “10 Women to Watch” by Editor & Publisher.

The alumni speaker will be Samantha Stark ’10, a director/producer for “The New York Times Presents” on FX and Hulu. The documentary she directed, “Framing Britney Spears,” won national acclaim. And this week, she released  “Controlling Britney Spears.” Stark served as an associate producer on one of Yoruba Richen’s award-winning films, “The New Black,” and as a video journalist for the Times. On the strength of her video skills, she taught as an adjunct at the J-School for four years and was a popular teacher of the Video Storytelling course.

Angela Palumbo 21, who hails from Long Island, has been selected by her classmates to represent them at our December ceremony. Palumbo graduated in May 2020 with a B.A. in Communications from SUNY Cortland, where she worked on the college newspaper. She is in the J-School’s Business and Economics reporting  concentration and, reflecting her interest in audio journalism, did her summer internship at WBAI. Palumbo, who co-founded the Women in Media club at the school, has distinguished herself with her strong, positive spirit during this past difficult year. Perhaps less well known is that she is trained in martial arts and has a second degree black belt in Jeet Kune Do.

Nov. 30

Set a reminder (with Alexa or Siri?) for #CUNYTuesday. On this day of supporting causes at CUNY and globally, the J-School will focus on raising support for our Ida B. Wells Scholarship Fund. Last year, the campaign enabled us to support 10 scholars in the Class of 2022. Our motto this year: Radical generosity can spark radical change!



Listen up: Great storytelling pulls listeners in by their ears as much as by any other of the five senses. Modern audiences have underscored this age-old reality — just think of the demand now for podcasts, radio broadcasts, internet streamed programming, and more. To build their capacities, journalists of tomorrow will need specialized talents to which the Newmark J-School’s Audio Program can give a big skill-building boost.