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Alumni Newsletter, June 2022

  • By Salma Abdelnour Gilman
Photo: Gabrielle Tigan

Dear Alumni,

Anything happen in your life lately that you want to let fellow grads know about? A new job, a big story, a personal milestone? We always want to hear what our alumni are up to. Email alumnioffice@journalism.cuny.edu and cc me, and include links and photos if you have them. The updates below were sent in by alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the J-School.

Please note: This newsletter will go on break until September. Meanwhile, look out for the Jobs & Opportunities blast in your inbox every other week.

Happy summer!
Cheers,
Salma

Salma Abdelnour Gilman
Head of Alumni Affairs
salma.abdelnour@journalism.cuny.edu


UPCOMING EVENTS

Newmark J-School Homecoming 2022
Save the date: Homecoming will be on Saturday, October 15. We’re excited to host it in-person at the J-School this year. Join us and reconnect with classmates, meet other alumni, attend panel discussions with brilliant journalists, and toast over happy hour drinks. Look out for more details and registration info this summer. We can’t wait to see you there!

NABJ/NAHJ Convention
Planning to attend the NABJ/NAHJ Convention in Las Vegas, August 3-7? Newmark J-School’s Alumni Affairs and Admissions teams will be there. Let us know if you’re going, and we’ll be in touch with details about our booth and the reception we’re hosting. Email Salma: salma.abdelnour@journalism.cuny.edu.

5th Annual CUNY Multi-Campus Alumni Career Event
This hands-on webinar is designed to help you grow your LinkedIn network and showcase your skills as a professional. Fellow alumni from various CUNY campuses will discuss how they advanced in their own careers by using the networking tools featured in LinkedIn. The workshop will be presented by Sabrina Woods, international trainer and mindfulness advocate. All CUNY alumni are welcome to attend. The event is hosted by the CUNY School of Professional Studies in collaboration with Brooklyn College, City College of New York, The Graduate Center, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, Guttman Community College, New York City College of Technology and York College.
Date: Tuesday, June 28, 6-8 p.m. EST
Register here.

 

ALUMNI UPDATES

Win-Win

Newmark J-School alumni and faculty won big at the New York Press Club awards this year. Earning prizes for individual or team reporting are: Gabriel Sandoval ’19Caroline Lewis ’14,  Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky ’18Reece Williams ’19Aisha Al-Muslim ’09Brianne Barry ’13, and Greg David, director of the Business and Economics Reporting Program.

Alumni also earned multiple awards from the Silurians Press Club: Claudia Irizarry Aponte ’18 was part of a team that won a Medallion for “No Fair Shot at Vaccinations” in The CityPatrick Elliott ’21Jason Gonzalez ’21Griffin Kelly ’21 and Harry Parker ’21 won a Merit Award for in-depth reporting in the South Bronx for “On the Waterfront” in the NYCity News Service.

Claudia Irizarry Aponte ’18 won a James Beard Award for Investigative Reporting for a series she did with Josefa Velasquez for The City: “NYC Food Delivery Workers Band to Demand Better Treatment;” “Food Delivery Workers Toiling Through Historic Flooding Call Skimpy Wages and Tips ‘A Cruel Joke;’” and “New York City Passes Landmark New Protections for Food Delivery Workers.”

Brianne Barry ’13 won New York Press Club and New England Emmy awards this year.

Brianne Barry ’13 won a New England Emmy Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion News for “Malaga Island.” Under her lead, the Spectrum News Digital Video Production Team also earned a New England Emmy award for Light Feature, with their story “Trawls & Throttle: Lobster Boat Races of Maine.”

Florence Mafomemeh ’19 won awards in two different categories at the 2022 Brooklyn Free Speech TV – B Free Awards. Her mini-doc “Undocumented, Abused And Homeless In NYC” won both the George Stoney Award for Social Impact and the B Free People’s Choice Award. Mafomemeh is also a 2022 NYS Election Reporting Fellow at the Center for Community Media (CCM).

Kyle Mackie ’17— news director at KHOL/Jackson Hole Community Radio in Jackson, Wyoming—and her station recently won their first-ever Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Feature Reporting under her leadership. The winning story is about efforts to contain the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease among Wyoming elk.

Sarah Barrett ’14 produced two Spotify Studios Latam projects that have won awards at the first Premios Ondas Globales for podcast. Barrett’s team won a special mention for script for the podcast Uribe Acorralado: Una Investigación de Daniel Coronell, a 12-part narrative documenting the crimes of the former president of Colombia. Her team also won Best Host for Marion Reimers, who narrated the show Fútbol a Muerte, an eight-part series that tells the stories behind some of the biggest crimes in the world of soccer.

Michael DePeau-Wilson ’16 and his former team at McMahon Publishing won a Digital Health Award for a podcast series they produced, “The Etherist,” for Anesthesiology News. Ken Christensen ’12 was a major contributor to the project.

 

FEATURED NEWS

Starting in Fall 2022, Carla Murphy ’09 will be a tenure-track assistant professor at Rutgers-Newark in the undergraduate journalism program. She will also continue her work as part of a small team evaluating the MacArthur Foundation’s Journalism and Media portfolio. Murphy would like to hear from other J-Schoolers whose work overlaps with hers, or who can offer advice or contacts. Email: carla.m.murphy@gmail.com

Chris Prentice ’10 is spending the next few months hanging out with her newborn daughter. Prentice says she is “so grateful Reuters offers parental leave, a super-important benefit that is far from the norm in this country, but should be.”

Roxanna Asgarian ’11 published the story “Anna Borkowski Accused Three Men of Rape. Why Did Prosecutors Stop Her?” in New York Magazine.

Malgorzata Wojtunik ’11 is now a deputy chief producer for Central and Eastern Europe at Reuters.

Linda Villarosa ’13, associate professor and journalist-in-residence at Newmark J-School and faculty member at City College, just published a new book, Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation (Doubleday). The New York Times Magazine adapted a chapter as its June 12 cover story.

Linda Villarosa ’13 has a new book out, Under the Skin, published by Doubleday this month.

Catherine Featherston ’14, a freelance reporter based in Berlin, now also does media advising and connects European companies with journalists looking for news and expert sources from Europe.

Danny Lewis ’14 is now an audio reporter/producer for “The Future of Everything” at The Wall Street Journal, where he’ll be covering the stories behind new developments in science and tech.

Jacob Passy ’14 has started a new job as a travel reporter at The Wall Street Journal.

Rachel Glickhouse, EngageJ ’15, and Isadora Varejao, EngageJ ’19, are running a session at ONA, the Online News Association’s conference in Los Angeles in September. The event is titled “Let’s Create a Playbook to Make Audience Roles More Human.”

Glickhouse is also helping organize Democracy Day—a collaboration of U.S. newsrooms to cover democracy-related topics—on Sept. 15, the International Day of Democracy. She gave a lightning talk about it at the Collaborative Journalism Summit in May.

Derek Scancarelli ’15 started a new position as a senior communications specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Radiology in Nashville, TN.

Teddy Grant ’17 is now a digital reporter at ABC News.

Kalen Goodluck ’18 has joined Civil Eats as a senior reporter.

Virginia Jeffries ’18 published a piece in Foreign Policy: “Sri Lanka’s President is Girding Himself for the Long Haul.”

Sarah Matusek ’18 won first place in the religion feature category (extra-large newsroom division) at a regional Society of Professional Journalists contest. Her winning story ran in the Christian Science Monitor:  “From Knocking on Doors to Facebook Posts: Missionary Work Moves Online.”

Newmark alumni are going to newsrooms around the U.S. as Report for America Corps members: Monica Cordero Sancho ’17, Investigate Midwest; Vanessa Colon Almenas, Bilingual ’18, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI); and Gabriel Poblete ’21, The City.

Mankaprr Conteh ’19 wrote a cover story on Megan Thee Stallion for Rolling Stone.

Moises Mendez II ’19 published his first piece in the Atlantic: “The Teens Slipping Through the Cracks on Dating Apps.”

Kirk Cohall ’20 has been promoted to associate producer at Good Morning America.

Kirk Cohall ’20 moves up to associate producer at Good Morning America.

Jacquelyn Harris ’20 started a new job at Lemonada, where she is working on the public health news podcast “In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt.”

Ali McPherson ’20 covered the 64th Annual Grammy Awards for BET.

Peter Senzamici ’20 is now doing freelance reporting and photography for Hell Gate.

Jake Wasserman, Engage J ’20, and Emily Dzioba are now engaged.

Shehzil Zahid ’20, weekend editor for The Toronto Star’s daily newsletter First Up, has also started freelancing as a fintech and financial content writer for ForwardAI, Finalis, The Clearing House, Tearsheet Studios LLC and other outlets.

Audrey Carleton’ 21 has been selected as Covering Climate Now’s Student Journalist of the Year for 2022.

Griffin Kelly ’21 is now a metro reporter at the New York Post.

Jacqui Neber ’21 joins Crain’s New York as a health care reporter working on the Health Pulse newsletter.

Rommel Ojeda ’21 earned a promotion from engagement reporter to community correspondent at Documented.

Renée Onque ’21 has joined CNBC’s “Make It” team as a health and wellness reporter.

Harry Parker ’21, a temporary assignment reporter covering crime and major events at the New York Daily News, made the front page with his story on the “Duck Sauce Murderer.”

Cai Pigliucci ’21 is joining PBS NewsHour as an associate producer.

Mariah Thomas ’21 holds the mic at The Bell’s Student Journalism Summit, with Newmark J-School’s Carolina Hidalgo to her right and Jere Hester (at far right).

Mariah Thomas ’21, an assistant editor at Good Housekeeping, took the stage as a panelist at The Bell‘s Student Journalism Summit for high school and college students. Other panelists included Jere Hester, Newmark J-School’s director of editorial projects and partnerships, and Carolina Hidalgo, adjunct faculty member. Thomas discussed her career journey and gave students her insights into how they can branch into the field. Newmark’s Kalli Anderson, director of audio journalism, gave a workshop on audio interviewing before the panel.

Aaron Tremper ’21 is now a full-time editorial assistant with Science News/Science News for Students.

K. Jared Wright ’21 and Zack Smith ’21  published two stories in Vice: “The Constant Loneliness of Navigating Infertility as a Black Man,” and “Young, Male and Infertile.”


Alumni Q&A

A CHAT WITH…HANNAH RAPPLEYE ’10

Hannah Rappleye. Photo by Kevin Burke.

Ever since Hannah Rappleye ’10 joined the Investigative Unit at NBC News in 2011, she’s kept busy doing the kinds of investigative stories on social policy and criminal justice that win national recognition. In 2017, Rappleye was part of the Rachel Maddow Show team that won an Emmy for its reporting on the Flint water crisis. These days, she also finds time every week to do something few journalists have ever dabbled in: training a horse.

Rappleye moved out of New York City to rural Western Massachusetts with her partner more than two years ago to live on 25 acres of land and do her investigative reporting—and her photography—away from the din of 24/7 city life. As a lifelong equestrian, when she’s not working she spends most of her time working with her horse. Rappleye credits this lifestyle change for a recent shift in her journalistic focus.

One morning this spring, Rappleye took a little time to chat with us about her day-to-day life, and what she’s up to next.

Rappleye’s photography bring her reporting to life, as in this image of three-year-old Izabella at a rodent-infested housing facility in Connecticut. Photo by Hannah Rappleye.

What are you focusing on right now?

I’ve started becoming a lot more interested in environmental justice issues, whether that applies to communities of color or to people in rural communities. I remember the Christmas before the pandemic hit, I was taking a walk out in our forest and I was thinking, ‘What do I want to cover next year? What do I want my intention and focus to be on?’ I felt like I was undergoing a personal and career shift. I felt very deeply that I should be focusing on environmental coverage going forward. I’m very focused on putting all of my energy and all of my intention toward covering climate change, the challenges that people face in rural communities, and the effects of chemical exposure and pollution on low-income and communities of color. I hope that will be my focus over the coming year, though the news cycle and inertia always have a way of disrupting our plans.

I’m also currently working on stories about the impact of the child welfare system and how it disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income families. It’s a multi-faceted investigative project, and I’m hoping to produce a few impactful stories for our digital and broadcast platforms.

Rappleye’s stories shed light on lives of women at an Oklahoma jail. Photo by Hannah Rappleye.

How would you describe your job at NBC News?

I sort of do everything. My title is investigative reporter, but I act as a producer and a reporter and a writer and a photographer. One example: Last summer, I did a story about the water access crisis in one of the poorest counties in the U.S., McDowell County in southern West Virginia. The story was about how a large number of people in that county did not have access to reliable or safe water. The roots of that crisis are the environmental degradation of wells because of fracking and coal mining, along with degraded infrastructure and a dwindling tax base.

This is actually a national issue, but I had to figure out, okay, what is the story, how can I tell it? I decided to focus on Appalachia. I went to West Virginia twice to report on the ground and find people to talk to. That was the biggest challenge, since it’s difficult to get peoples’ trust when they don’t have a lot of experience with the media or they haven’t been reported on well. On the second trip I acted in the traditional role as a producer, organized the crew, produced the shoots with a correspondent, and edited the piece for Nightly News. I came out with the broadcast piece, plus a story that ran on NBCNews.com. I really like to be involved in both parts of the package. I love working visually, but I’m a writer first.

What advice would you pass on to current students or early-career journalists?

It’s really important to develop your own inner pilot light, to indulge your obsessions and learn how to listen to your instinct. Most reporters worth their salt have gut feelings about things; we want to go where people tell us not to go. In order to grow as a journalist, and to hone that tendency of ours—which is really important to our work— it’s critical to learn how to value yourself and your instincts.

That’s particularly difficult for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider and has struggled to feel like they deserve a seat at this table. Those folks, and I count myself among them, can sometimes get lost in that fight to prove they belong.

I was recently talking to my youngest brother, who is 18 and turning into a budding journalist. He was asking me questions since he was facing roadblocks in a story he was trying to do. I told him that nearly every single time someone in power, whether that was an editor or even a professor at journalism school, told me “That’s not a story,” when I had a deep gut feeling about it, I did it anyway. Nine out of ten times it turned out to be one of the best stories I’ve ever done. Trusting my instincts and giving in to my anti-authoritarian bent is where my best work has come from.

So anytime I feel like I lost my way, which happens all the time, I have to step back and ground myself in who I am, what’s important and what gets me going.

Rappleye with the U.S. Border Patrol’s mounted unit in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Aaron Adler.

How has that inner pilot light impacted your journalism?

The best stories I’ve done have grown out of obsession. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to other people, but it makes sense to you. You find this hidden world, this problem, and you burrow in it until suddenly a story emerges, and you get to illuminate this world for people who’ve never thought about it. I don’t think you can do that unless you give in to that obsessive feeling of wanting to say something, to tell something.

I still have imposter syndrome. I think that comes from being a woman in this industry, and it comes from my experiences growing up and probably from being a Midwesterner. I think if you’re from where I’m from you’re always trying to prove that you’re good enough and smart enough. I also grew up in a family that’s been marked by addiction, and I have my own experience with recovery. I would not be the person I am were it not for that. But when you come from that background you basically always feel like you don’t belong.

Though we’re at a point where it’s a little bit easier to talk about addiction, to talk about recovery and mental health, it wasn’t like that for a long time. Being in a newsroom when you’ve had deep personal experience with something like that but you hear people make uniformed comments or judgments, and you watch substance use disorder being covered in ways that are not nuanced, that can affect you. It can make you feel like, ‘Well, gosh. Maybe I don’t belong here,’ like maybe my invitation to this party was a mistake.

But this is what I mean about developing your inner pilot light. Looking back over my career so far, I see now that the more time I spent worrying about whether or not I belonged meant less time focusing on what was important: on reporting, developing my craft, and drawing from my own perspective and experience. Journalists who struggle with these feelings face such a high risk of burnout, and our newsrooms risk bleeding out talent if we don’t find a way to cultivate and support these reporters. So my long-winded advice is this: Seek out support from people you trust and admire who can serve as touchstones for you, engage in the study of getting grounded and figuring out what makes your pilot light burn and then get to work.

A series of stories focused on kids impacted by the opioid crisis. Photo by Hannah Rappleye.

What are some Newmark J-School memories that stand out to you?

One thing about our class is we had great parties. The work that my fellow alumni have done over the years makes me so proud to be among their cohort. What an amazing and fun group of curious, hard-working, adventurous people.

For Craft, my community was Jamaica, Queens, which turned out to be awesome. That was the foreclosure capital of New York. It was a really interesting place to cover. I remember riding the train in and out of Jamaica. It was like an hour on the subway since I lived in Bed-Stuy. I think the first time you get off the train in a community that you’ve never stepped foot in, you get lost. If you want to be a journalist, you have to dive into the deep end. When you feel lost, that’s hopefully how you learn to fall back on that inner curiosity: “I don’t know this place, but here are the main issues, here’s the vibe, and I’m really fascinated by this one thing.” So you dive into that and let the chips fall where they may and hopefully you come back with some interesting stories.

What’s one thing you wish you’d done differently, in hindsight?

I would have taken more risks. People might say, “Oh, you have taken risks. You’ve done all this stuff,” but I think I felt like every risk I took had to be calculated. I graduated from CUNY with $86,000 in student debt, mostly from undergrad. I paid off all my loans last year, which was a huge accomplishment. But I wish I would’ve let go a little bit. I wish I would’ve traveled a bit more, been less afraid of that debt.

I always wanted to do foreign reporting, and that’s what my concentration was. I did some reporting in East Africa and I did an internship in South Africa at the Mail & Guardian, the country’s investigative paper. I wanted to stay there and dreamed about being based in South Africa. Looking back, I sometimes wonder, ‘Well, why didn’t you just do it?’ But I fell in love with investigative reporting and I knew that was the road I wanted to go down. I don’t regret it.

A West Virginia family spoke to Rappleye about its experiences with adoption amid the opioid crisis. Photo by Hannah Rappleye.

What work are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of the work NBC did on the water crisis in Flint. That includes the Rachel Maddow show, and that includes the colleagues in my unit. And the work we did on the border during the family separation crisis—that was an all hands on deck. Covering that was so deeply upsetting and intense, and I think the network really threw all of its resources into covering what was happening in an in-depth and human way. I’m proud of what we did on the ground to cover that.

There’s also another story I did, where a colleague of mine at Nightly News and I started reporting on this behavioral health care company that contracted with states to provide care to our nation’s most vulnerable children, including foster kids. What we had heard from kids and families is that many of these places had been understaffed or poorly staffed, and there was abuse and neglect happening. We did a story about their facilities in Alabama and were able to get pictures of the inside and find young people who had stories to tell. That story raised serious questions about the care we’re providing for our neediest kids, and the trauma that kids who go through that system emerge with.

It turned into an hourlong documentary that ran on MSNBC last year. Often in reporting on the child welfare system, you don’t get to hear kids’ voices, and in this case we were able to elevate those voices. I think that’s what I’m most proud of.

What’s one big goal you have for the next few years?

My number one goal above everything is to write books. Within the next five years, I’d like to transition into writing books—novels and non-fiction. In terms of my reporting, I’ve been thinking perhaps there is an international project in my future that I could turn my skills and attention to. So I’m sort of scheming.

Describe your daily life right now.

My life is so different than it was two years ago. It’s fundamentally changed. I had been wanting to leave NYC for a long time and had lived in the South and grew up in the Midwest and just knew where I was living wasn’t right for me anymore. I got lucky enough to have met a guy who owned 25 acres of land out here in the rolling farmlands of Western Mass. So here I am.

I try to wake up super early in the morning, because that’s when no one is allowed to talk to you, so that time is super precious to me. I try to spend a little time every day writing. Since I’m an investigative reporter, my days are not hewn to breaking news, unless I or my bosses feel there’s something I can contribute to in the news cycle. So my day to day is doing all the stuff an investigative reporter would do: filing record requests, trying to get people who don’t want to talk to me to talk to me, thinking through big projects, reading through spreadsheets. The difference now is I get to do all this deep work while being surrounded by a beautiful environment and I can take breaks when I need to. I have a better work/life balance. I spend a lot of time in my off hours thinking about how my partner and I can be good stewards of this land, about the orchard we want to plant, what we want to do with it.

And I spend a lot of the time obsessively studying natural horsemanship. I’ve been riding horses since I was six years old, but I have never been able to own my own until a year ago. He’s taken over my life a little bit, but it makes me happy. Five days a week I go to the barn and train my horse, clean up poop, make sure he’s safe and healthy. My horse is green, which in horse language means he’s a baby. It’s like training a toddler that is ten times your size. My goal with him is to do long-distance, competitive backcountry riding. I didn’t mean to buy a green horse but I did, and so now I’m just rolling with it and learning a lot in the process, and he’s now ten times the horse I started with.