Alumni Newsletter, November 2022

  • By Salma Abdelnour Gilman

Dear Alumni,

Weekends are usually quiet around the J-School, but the third floor lobby got noisy on Saturday, Oct. 15. That’s when a crowd of more than 100 showed up for Alumni Homecoming, our first in-person reunion in three years. The newsroom and cafe area filled up with the sounds of alumni reuniting with classmates, making new friends, catching up with faculty and staff, and hanging out in the familiar J-School spaces. Read on for more photos and highlights from the event.

From left: Ali McPherson ’20, Isoke Samuel ’20, Jackie Harris ’20 and Hannah Fullmer ’21.
Photo by Rachel Ramirez.

The day’s Homecoming programs kicked off after the lunch and social hour, with Dean Graciela Mochkofsky taking the stage in the newsroom to welcome alumni and do a Q&A about her vision for the J-School. Outgoing Alumni Board Chair Walter Smith Randolph ’10 then took the mic to introduce our keynote guest Maggie Freleng ’15 and interviewer Alana Casanova-Burgess ’10, who immediately launched into a funny and fascinating conversation about the behind-the-scenes of their podcasts: Freleng’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Suave” and Casanova-Burgess’s “La Brega: Stories of the Puerto Rican Experience.”

The programming wrapped up with an alumni panel about how to create newsrooms and workplaces that listen to, promote—and equitably pay—journalists from marginalized communities. Panelists Simone Sebastian ’10, Sarah Kazadi ’12, Reece Williams ’19 and P. Kim Bui, Exec Program ’21 shared actionable tips about how to be an agent of change and how to pick the right battles so you can get heard and get ahead—based on their own experiences as journalists and newsroom leaders.

From left: Panelists Reece Williams ’19, Sarah Kazadi ’12 and Simone Sebastian ’10 gave inside tips on how to get ahead in the newsroom. Photo by Nicholas Hernandez.

After a lively post-panel discussion, the crowd of alumni, faculty and staff did more socializing around the third floor before heading off for drinks and appetizers at Beer Authority, where J-Schoolers kept the reunion going for a few more hours.

From left: Emma Thorne ’12 and Althea Chang-Cook ’12. Photo by Nicholas Hernandez.

We were thrilled so many of you could be there for Homecoming. We had a record-setting attendance this year, with alumni joining us from the first graduating class of 2007 all the way up through the most recent 2021 class. If you missed it this time, we hope to see you at our next Homecoming in 2023!

From left: Dean Graciela Mochkofsky and Abe Levine ’21. Photo by Nicholas Hernandez.
From left: Virginia Jeffries ’18 and Ben Jay ’18. Photo by Nicholas Hernandez.
From left: Cristian Arroyo-Santiago ’19, Vrushank Nayak ’19, Toussaint Campbell ’19 and P. Kim Bui, Exec Program ’21. Photo by Rachel Ramirez.

Scroll down for a few more Homecoming photos, and read on for updates about your fellow Newmark grads and our newest Alumni Board inductees.

Keep on sending your news our way, and reach out anytime if you’d like to set up a time to chat with me by phone or Zoom.


Salma Abdelnour Gilman
Head of Alumni Affairs

Top left, from left: Walter Smith-Randolph ’10, Katie Honan ’10, Emily Johnson’10 and Alana Casanova-Burgess ’10. Photo by Rachel Ramirez. Top right: Abi Ishola-Ayodeji ’08 signing her novel at the book table, with Dean Mochkofsky. Photo by Nicholas Hernandez. Bottom left: Head of Alumni Affairs Salma Abdelnour Gilman moderating the alumni panel. Bottom middle: Faculty member Judy Watson, Toussaint Campbell’ 19 and Dalvin Brown’ 20. Bottom right: From left: Reece Williams ’19 and Sindy Nanclares ’18. Photos by Nicholas Hernandez.
From left: Natalia Gutierrez ’21, Juliet Schaefer-Jeske ’21 Clarissa Sosin ’17, Erin DeGregorio ’17, Oscar Gonzalez ’18. Photo by Rachel Ramirez.


Welcoming New Staff Members

Seble Lemma joins Newmark as development manager, working closely with Joan Barry McCormick, executive director of development. Niketa Patel is the new senior director of leadership programs, overseeing the Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership.

Lemma was formerly the business development and operations manager at Helen Keller International, supporting programs in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the United States. She has also worked in fundraising at California State University Northridge and at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Patel was previously senior director of partnerships and platforms at The 19th, where she built and cultivated strategic partnerships with national, local and community newsrooms to reach diverse audiences. She also formerly managed Print and Digital News Partnerships in the U.S. for Twitter. At Newmark, she takes over from outgoing director Anita Zielina, who continues to teach in the Executive Program.

CUNYTuesday Is Nov. 29
When you support the J-School, your donation will grow into something greater. This year’s CUNYTuesday giving campaign will support the Ida B. Wells Scholarship Fund. Because of the generosity of our donors, the J-School’s Ida B. Wells Scholars can access a world-class journalism education rooted in ethical in-depth reporting, writing and building trust. We hope you will consider making a gift today so we can bring the next generation of scholars to the J-School.

Thank you in advance for your generosity to the Ida B. Wells Scholarship Fund and for all you do to further the school’s mission!
Donate here.

January Academy Registration Starts Soon
January Academy is a series of enrichment classes unique to the master’s degree programs at CUNY J-School.

Offered every January between the fall and spring semesters, the program is open to alumni and includes a range of classes, all available at a nominal price ($32 each). The upcoming January Academy will have several alumni teaching classes: Rima Abdelkader ’09, Walter Smith Randolph ’10 and Kayle Hope ’14. Look out for the registration link in December.


Why Clemency Works: When Mercy Tempers Justice

New York’s prisons hold thousands of people who have long since acknowledged responsibility for the harm they caused and turned their lives around, and are ready to rejoin society. But due to harsh sentences, many face decades longer in prison. Their sole hope to win freedom is clemency—the unchallenged and awesome power allotted to the governor to temper justice with mercy. This event will highlight the crucial need for greater use of clemency. At this event we’ll hear from people who know intimately why clemency works: The talk will be moderated by Tom Robbins, investigative journalist-in-residence at Newmark J-School, who has co-taught classes in which students profiled clemency seekers.

The panel will be followed by a reception in the cafe.

Date: Nov. 30, 5-7 p.m.

Location: Newmark J-School, 219 W. 40th St., New York, NY, Room 308

Register here. Proof of vaccination is required for entry.

Cutting Your Own Path: Secrets to Freelancing Success

After graduation it can take time before you land a staff job. What are the best ways to balance pitching freelance stories while still job hunting? How can you turn a freelance gig into a job? Are there steps to take to set yourself up for success while still in school? CUNY Newmark J-School alumni with considerable freelancing experience will weigh in during this panel event.

Date: Dec. 1, 1-2 p.m. EST

Location: Zoom

Register here. Note: You’ll need a Handshake account to use this registration link; otherwise you can contact Adia Tucker directly to register for the event:

Learn About Mastodon with Jeff Jarvis

As journalists and users leave Twitter, many are joining Mastodon. Join Jeff Jarvis to learn how this federated social-media alternative—the Fediverse— works, and how it might affect journalism and media.

Date: Dec. 5, 1-2 p.m.
Location: Newmark J-School, 219 W. 40th St., New York, NY, Room 308

Register here. Proof of vaccination is required for entry.



Erin Horan ’12 and a team of CBS Mornings producers have won a national news and documentary Emmy for “Outstanding Live News Program” for “CBS This Morning.”

Pilar Belendez-Desha ’15 is part of a team selected as finalists for the LA Press Club Awards in the Hard News Feature – Over 5 Minutes category for the short documentary, “American Grift: Yourself As Advertised.” Belendez-Desha and fellow producers at “VICE News Tonight” won an Emmy last year for Outstanding Newscast.

Kyle Mackie ’17 helped report, edit, produce and market “Facets: Voices of the Mountain Life,” which won Product of the Year (small tier revenue) from the 2022 Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers Local Journalism Awards.

Brenda León ’19 won in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ 2022 Annual Ñ Awards in radio/online audio journalism for her piece “Los De María: Four Years After The Hurricane, Still Making A Home.”

Netsanet Negussie ’19 is a finalist for the 2023 duPont-Columbia Awards. She helped produce “Through Our Eyes: Homefront,” a short documentary film that weaves the stories of three children of veteran families as they cope with the emotional impact of having a wounded parent, and navigate the unique challenges of visible and invisible injuries sustained during military service.

Oscar Molina ’20 won the Emerging Writer Fellowship in Spanish at the Miami Book Fair. Molina will begin a yearlong residency guided by a dedicated published author-mentor in the respective genre. Also, Molina was selected as a finalist for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ 2022 Annual Ñ Awards in digital/print journalism for his piece “Todxs Para Todxs: La Consigna Trans Frente A La Pandemia.”

Featured News

Al Barbarino ’11 joins Dow Jones Newswires as a publishing editor on the afternoon shift. He was previously a senior reporter at Law360.

Cesar Bustamante Jr. ’11 was a speaker in The Knight News Visiting Journalists series earlier this month on Zoom.

Erin Horan ’12 joined the PGA TOUR as a senior producer of original content.

Dominik Ritter-Wurnig ’13, with the help of a team of journalists, started a crowdfunding campaign for a new online magazine in Austria called tag eins (which is German for “day one”). The platform is striving to bring solutions-focused reporting and top-notch storytelling to audiences. Ritter-Wurnig said he continues to thrive from what he learned in Jeff Jarvis’s entrepreneurial class.

Olivia Leach ’15 started a job as a multi-skilled journalist and reporter with CBS DFW in Dallas-Fort Worth at the end of October.

Ariam Alula, EngageJ ’16, began working for URL Media as an audience manager.

Erica Christie Anderson, EngageJ ’16, helped create a six-episode, documentary-style podcast, “The Wedge.” The series will task journalists to engage with loved ones with whom they disagree. You can find the episodes on Apple, Spotify or Colorado Public Radio’s website.

Beimeng Fu ’16 was selected as a part of Newmark J-School’s Fifth Cohort of Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program with her co-founded newsletter Far & Near. The English-language newsletter highlights, curates and translates the best stories published in Chinese media by Chinese photographers, filmmakers and artists. Fu gives a “a shoutout to Andrew Menezes ’15 for his kind editing help.” About the Creators Program, she notes that “currently I’m into Week Two of the 100-day journey and still feeling my way through it, but this is such a great overdue CUNY homecoming.”

Vicki Adame ’17 began a new job as daily news editor at KUNR Public Radio in Reno, Nevada in late October. She was previously working as the Latino community reporter at Minnesota’s Online Source News.

Scott R. Axelrod ’17 has been promoted to staff reporter and photographer covering breaking news for the Staten Island Advance/

Kyle Mackie ’17 began a new job as an associate producer with NPR’s programming department.

Keydra Manns ’17 started as senior editor at Real Simple magazine.

Hanaa’ Tameez ’17 will be teaching a fundamentals of journalism course at Brandeis University in Spring 2023. She will continue being a full-time staff writer at Nieman Lab. She sent us this piece as a useful resource for journalists; her editor put it together to track NYC media companies that are complying with the city’s new law on salary transparency.

Karina Hernandez ’18 has been promoted to segment producer at “Closing Bell” on CNBC. She had the opportunity to produce segments covering various topics such as the economy, inflation and earnings season, and featuring interviews with CEOs and with government officials such as Senator Joe Manchin and U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo.

Allyson Vergara ’18 was promoted this month from local news reporter to editor. She will be leading coverage on demographics, equity, race and representation for a brand new team in the Southern California News Group.

Sophia Lebowitz ’21 had her capstone film, Piled Up, chosen as an official selection of Doc NYC. The film was screened at Cinepolis as part of the shorts program in New York. Lebowitz also joined FiveThirtyEight in July as a video producer covering the midterms.

Natalie Peart ’21 directed a short film, Black Gold, which plays at the DOC NYC Festival this month. The film was co-produced by Bob Sacha, associate professor of video storytelling at Newmark. Sacha, Anny Oberlink ’21 and Rommel Ojeda ’21 served as cinematographers.

Some Personal News…

Annais Morales ’11 welcomed her first child, Cesar Ramon Morales (right), on Oct. 11.

Allyson Vergara ’18 got married in March of this year.


Fritzie Andrade

Fritzie Andrade ’08, Insider’s managing editor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, has been an Alumni Board member since its founding year of 2020. As chair of the board this year, she said she looks forward to creating more opportunities to bring Newmark J-School graduates together.

“I’d love to bring people back into the fold, to give everyone a reason to reconnect and continue to work together, and to leverage ourselves in this community,” says Andrade.

She brings with her an impressive set of experiences in journalism and in newsroom leadership.

After graduating from Newmark in the Arts and Culture concentration, Andrade took on roles as multimedia editor at NBC; editor of the travel vertical at Vice; executive producer of video at Gawker; and Styles columnist for The New York Times. Andrade says her DEI work has been a through-line across her various jobs.

“Throughout that broad range and in all these different newsrooms and different types of jobs, the DEI work was always free labor. People who are underrepresented, those groups always exist,” says Andrade. “I was always joining those groups and eventually leading those groups. It’s hard work on anyone when you’re trying to change the newsroom while trying to do the work you’re actually paid to do.”

Of her current role heading up DEI initiatives at Insider, Andrade says, “I love the job, but it’s a hard job.” She adds, “You want everyone to go to work and focus on their job and not have to focus on whether they’re comfortable and whether the right person is doing the story. It takes a lot of patience, and the wins take longer to get to. But the wins feel so good because they’re actually affecting someone’s life.”

Andrade says she’s been glad to see so many Newmark alumni at Insider, and at other places where she’s worked.

“I know CUNY produces the best journalists. I’ve heard this over and over. People have told me, ‘We love to hire [Newmark] graduates above all else, because the work ethic is there.’ We’re all ready to work, and we’re excited to put in the work.”

Andrade says she’d like to be involved in helping to bring in alumni to interact more regularly with the J-School community.

“I’d like to see people come back and help inspire the future classes to keep elevating the [Newmark] brand. This is a place of opportunity, and it gives people who ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to take on a graduate education the opportunity to succeed and to network and to take on these great jobs,” says Andrade. “The better you do, the better we all collectively do.”

Max Resnik

Our new Alumni Board Vice-Chair Max Resnik ’17, a member of the board since 2021, is currently the Documenters Network manager at City Bureau. Resnik was an Engagement Journalism (formerly Social J) student at Newmark, where he also supported J-School initiatives including the Center for Community Media and the Entrepreneurial Journalism programs, and worked with adjunct faculty member Terry Parris on ProPublica’s groundbreaking Missing Mothers project.

Now Resnik, who is originally from Burlington, Vermont, is helping City Bureau build out its innovative approach to community journalism.

“Every day across the country, there are thousands of public meetings that are critical local hubs for democracy, and there are nowhere near enough reporters to be able to cover all of them,” says Resnik.

City Bureau and its partners pay local community members to take notes and document local meetings, and to identify “any gaps between what they’re seeing in their own experience and what’s being discussed in these settings,” he explains.

The goal, says Resnik, is “to make it easy for local reporters and anyone who lives in the cities to have a one-stop hub to find out what goes on in public meetings.”

The Documenters Network is based in a growing number of cities around the U.S. “We’re initially prioritizing cities where there are real gaps in local news and info, or where local shops have been bought out and gutted,” for example in Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta and Omaha, says Resnik.

As vice-chair, Resnik would like to bring more attention to what Alumni Board members can do to support their fellow Newmark J-School graduates. “Most people don’t know that the board exists, and that it’s supposed to be a conduit between the school and the alumni community.”

The two current needs Resnik feels are most important for J-School graduates are “connecting with alumni and peers to strategize or commiserate, and to meet people who can help alumni in their careers.”

Resnik says he also looks forward to staying in touch with the J-School community and creating opportunities for other alumni to “connect with professors, and with people you loved to spend time with—people who can provide an extra personal touch from the school.”

Mariya Moseley

Mariya Moseley ’16, one of our Alumni Board’s two newly inaugurated members, is an Emmy-nominated digital producer who recently started a new role as a social media manager at VICE Media Group. The position comes on the heels of her role as an associate producer for social at ABC News, where she served as a team lead for “World News Tonight with David Muir.”

“I was at ABC for three years, and loved it. It was amazing, a dream job, but the wrong timing,” Moseley says of her recent decision to shift into a role outside of the breaking news world, considering the heavy news cycle over the last few years. She now oversees social media strategies for the programming on VICE TV.

Moseley moved to New York City from Pittsburgh seven years ago to attend the J-School, graduating with a M.A. in the Arts and Culture concentration. She received a job offer on graduation day from Essence Magazine, where she had interned before her last semester. Although she was laid off after nearly one year on the job, she stayed with Time Inc. and worked at People Magazine then WPIX-TV before later joining ABC News.

She credits Newmark for making her feel at home in New York City. “Almost all of my friends from the NYC area are from the J-School,” says Moseley. “I couldn’t have asked for a better graduate school experience. It was stressful for sure, but the number one thing that comes to mind is being able to run around the city and cover these cool events.”

As an Alumni Board member, Moseley says, “I want to be a resource to folks. I want to be able to have impromptu conversations over a happy hour. I think some of those casual conversations can lead to opportunities and friendships too.” Moseley is also hopeful about the chance to continue connecting with current students at the J-School and to serve as a guest speaker for classes where she can share details about her journey in the media industry.

Deonna Anderson

New member Deonna Anderson ’16 joins the Alumni Board from El Cerrito, California. An Urban concentration grad at Newmark and now a senior editor at GreenBiz, she focuses on sustainability, corporate responsibility and climate justice, building on her work at J-School where she spent her time reporting on equity and social issues. She started at GreenBiz as associate editor three years ago after covering housing and civil liberties at YES! Magazine, a solutions journalism publication in Seattle.

“At Greenbiz, our focus is on telling the stories of what corporations around the world, from small startups to large conglomerates, are trying to do in their operations to lessen their impact on the environment,” says Anderson.

Her reporting often centers around the circular economy, “on how companies are reducing their waste that goes into landfills and keeping products in use longer,” she adds.

Anderson is trying to do more audio work too in her role. “I sometimes contribute to our podcast at GreenBiz. My love for audio really started at Newmark J-School. I remember taking Amanda Aronczyk‘s class and being able to do a show of storytelling through audio, and I really loved that.”

As an Alumni Board member, Anderson would like to be involved in panel discussions and other events for alumni, students and the J-School community, and hopes to contribute insights from her experience in environmental and social justice reporting to students and peers interested in doing this work.