Alumni Newsletter, February 2023

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Dear Alumni,

Newmark Connects is here! By now you should’ve received our invitation to join our new J-School networking and mentorship platform. Make sure to accept the invite (and let us know if you didn’t receive it!). Newmark Connects will be an easy way for our alumni across all class years to find each other, network, chat about career paths and shared interests, and sign up for mentorship programs.

We’re inviting our alumni to join Newmark Connects first, followed by faculty, staff and current students—and soon we’ll be bringing on our friends in the journalism industry who can be excellent resources for our alums and our entire J-School community.

In other updates: The Shepard Prize entry deadline is almost here. You have until February 28 at 11:59 p.m. ET to submit nominations for Newmark’s annual Stephen B. Shepard Prize for Investigative Reporting. The honoree receives $5,000. Send in your nominations using this form, and remember: Self-nominations are welcome. See more info under Opportunities below, and email with any questions.

Heard the good news? As of this month, you can visit the J-School campus without proof of Covid vaccination or a negative test, or an advance appointment. Drop by and visit! This goes without saying, but if you’d like to see a particular faculty or staff member, make sure to touch base with them ahead of time, and same goes with Alumni Affairs.​​​ Hope to see you many of you around campus soon.

Please note: The next Jobs, Opportunities and Resources newsletter will go out this coming Monday, Feb. 20. It returns to a Friday schedule in March.
Read on for the latest updates from our alumni—including great news about the First Amendment case involving Karen Savage ’16—plus exciting staff announcements and a Q&A with Jeff Winter ’21. He’s been spending his days reporting on wrongful convictions and clemency, among other beats, as a frequent contributor to CNN Investigates.

As always, send us your news any time you have something you want to share with our J-School community.


Salma Abdelnour Gilman
Head of Alumni Affairs


Header image: From left: Tom Robbins, Newmark’s investigative journalist in residence, joins former clemency applicant Robert Webster and Jeff Winter ’21 at a J-School event.


Allison LichterAllison Lichter Is Our New Associate Dean of Academic Affairs

Newmark is thrilled to welcome Allison Lichter (right) as our new associate dean of academic affairs. Lichter will be joining us starting on April 3, after serving as department chair of Journalism + Design at Eugene Lang College at the New School in New York City.

Lichter will partner with Dean Graciela Mochkofsky in leading the J-School—the first time Newmark has had two women at the helm. Read more here about Lichter’s impressive accomplishments.


Mikhael SimmondsNew Appointees Take On Key Roles at Newmark

Newmark J-School is delighted to announce several new appointments across the J-School: Rachel Dávila Ramírez, formerly our social media manager, has been promoted to director of marketing and communications. Mikhael Simmonds ’13 (right), formerly director of new relationships at the Solutions Journalism Network, is now executive director of the Center for Community Media at Newmark J-School. Joel Simon is the founding director of the new Journalism Protection Initiative at Newmark, after serving as a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. Paul Sunda will start in late February as assistant dean for administration and finance; he joins us from New Jersey City University, where he was associate vice president of business operations.

​​​​Please help us welcome these innovative thinkers and leaders to Newmark J-School.


Stephen B. Shepard Prize for Investigative Reporting

This prize will be awarded to a Newmark J-School alum who has produced the best investigative work in 2022. The honoree will receive $5,000, generously funded by The Tow Foundation. The award is named for Founding Dean Stephen Shepard.

Any student who has graduated from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, from the classes of 2007 to 2021, is eligible to self-nominate or nominate a classmate for this prize, provided the work was published in 2022 (in any medium) and after the student graduated.

Nominations must include the name of the nominee (yourself or another Newmark J-School alum), contact info, and links or attachments to the work you are nominating. All nominations must be sent in using this submission form.

The winner will be chosen by a committee that includes Newmark J-School faculty and staff. Nominees’ work will be judged on subject importance, originality, reporting, writing and presentation.

Entry deadline: Feb. 28, 11:59pm ET.​​​​​
Submit nominations here.


McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism

Do you—or a reporter you know—have a great idea for a high-impact story that “Follows the Money,” but need resources to get it done? If so, the J-School’s  McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism would love to hear from you.

The McGraw Fellowship provides up to $15,000 and editorial support for experienced journalists to produce deeply reported investigative or enterprise stories on critical economic, financial and business topics. Previous McGraw Fellows have explored a wide variety of topics—and you don’t need to be a business reporter to apply! Many have been generalists, or cover areas such as health care, inequality or the environment.

Journalists of color and journalists from diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. The fellowship is open to both freelance and staff journalists who are working in all forms of media and have at least five years’ professional experience.

Application deadline for the Spring 2023 Fellowship: Mar. 31.
For more information, visit or contact


Rosa Parks Documentary Co-Directed by Yoruba Richen to Screen in NYC

Join us for a screening of this essential documentary co-directed by Yoruba Richen, director of the Newmark J-School’s documentary program, in honor of Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday.

Based on the bestselling biography by Jeanne Theoharis and executive-produced by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, the film takes a deeper dive into Parks’s often overlooked accomplishments, detailing the actions she spearheaded throughout the civil rights movement.

A post-screening discussion highlights the collaboration of two CUNY faculty members: the J-School’s Yoruba Richen, award-winning filmmaker of The Green Book: Road to Freedom; and Jeanne Theoharis, award-winning author of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks and distinguished professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.

The event will be moderated by Carol Jenkins, journalist, activist, author and current host of Black America on CUNY TV.

Date: Feb. 23. 6:30-8:45 p.m., in person only, at Elebash Recital Hall, The Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Ave., New York, NY.
Register here: The event is free, but tickets must be reserved in advance.


Rikers, An Oral History Panel

New York’s Rikers Island jail is due to be closed in 2027, but Mayor Adams has yet to provide a clear plan to do so. Meanwhile, its population is rising, conditions have worsened, and a staggering number of people have died there in the past year. What makes Rikers so toxic? What is it like to live and work there?

Reporters Graham Rayman (The New York Daily News) and Reuven Blau (The City) provide in-depth answers to those questions in their powerful and haunting new book, “Rikers: An Oral History” (Random House, 2023).

Please join the authors for a discussion about Rikers — its painful past and questionable future. Participating in the discussion will be Stanley Richards, who spent time at Rikers as a prisoner and has since served as first deputy commissioner of the NYC Department of Corrections and is currently deputy CEO of The Fortune Society, and Elizabeth Glazer, former director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the founder of Vital City, a journal and policy venture offering actionable strategies to build thriving cities.

Moderating the panel will be Martha King, former executive director of the NYC Board of Correction and currently the senior program officer at the Charles H. Revson Foundation.

Date: Mar. 9, 5-7 p.m., Newmark J-School, 219 W. 40th St., New York, NY, Room 308.
Register here.


Online News Association Career Day

ONA’s third annual Career Day will be held online on Mar. 9. Anyone seeking jobs, fellowships or opportunities in higher ed is welcome to attend this event for free.

Date: Mar. 9, 12–5 p.m. ET, online.
Registration and info here.


Finding Allies and Promoting Inclusion in the Newsroom

Join Career Services for the engaging “Navigating the Newsroom” workshop series, which centers diversity, equity and inclusion matters in the workplace.

Participants will hear and learn from experts in the field as they discuss ways to identify and work with allies, overcome imposter syndrome, find their voices and self-advocate.

The first workshop in the series, coming up in March, will discuss strategies for identifying and collaborating with allies to create a more inclusive, diverse work environment. Through reflection, discussion and brainstorming, participants will learn how to attract support and how to be supportive in the workplace. Linda Shockley, the former managing director of the Dow Jones News Fund, will present.

Date: Mar. 30, 12:30- 2 p.m., Newmark J-School, 219 W. 40th St., New York, NY, Room 308.

Register here by Mar. 23. (If you don’t have access to Handshake, please email




  • Jason Gonzalez ’21 has won two Kentucky Press Association Awards, earning second place for Best Business/Agribusiness Story for his piece on Black-owned bourbon distillery and third place for Best Feature Story.
  • Lucy Papachristou ’22 has won a $3,000 Overseas Press Club scholarship to go to Georgia and flesh out a crypto story she wrote for the Covering Markets and Companies class at the J-School.


Featured News

  • Clark Merrefield ’08 recently published two pieces with The Journalist’s Resource. One article highlights the data work of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) as a resource for journalists covering U.S. public policy. His second article shares insights for well-rounded immigration coverage from five experts.
  • Mike Reicher ’09 has been publishing a series on private special education schools in Washington with his co-reporter Lulu Ramadan. The series is called “Invisible Schools,” and the reporting uncovered years of abuse complaints about the largest school in the system. The project is co-published by the Seattle Times and ProPublica.
  • Lisa Riordan-Seville ’10 is now at ProPublica.
  • Tara Bracco ’13 is now a senior editor of webinars at The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
  • Gabrielle Sierra ’13 has been promoted to director of podcasts at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is also the host of the “Why It Matters”​​​​​​ podcast for CFR and will kick off its seventh season this March.
Gabrielle Sierra ’13
  • Nesh Pillay ’14 was featured in a Newsweek article about the memory loss she has experienced after an injury she sustained as a child.
  • Rachel Glickhouse ’15 began a new job as senior content partnerships manager at Grist. Anyone intereste​​​​d in partnering on stories can email her at
  • Helina Selemon ’15 started a new job as the science reporter for Amsterdam News’ new investigative unit, Blacklight.
  • Meaghan Callaghan ‘​​​​​​16 was promoted to deputy managing editor of Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News.
  • KalaLea ’16 shared her Sunday rituals in The New York Times.
  • Karen Savage ’16, who was arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in July 2016 while covering protests against police brutality in the death of Alton Sterling, has won a settlement in the case. On Feb. 15, 2023,  the Baton Rouge city council voted to approve the settlement with Savage and 13 others who were arrested. Savage was a Newmark J-School student at the time and was reporting on assignment as an intern with the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.
  • Jesenia De Moya Correa ’17 and Estefania Hernandez ’17 are co-teaching a reporting course on Spanish Journalism and Media at CUNY’s City College this spring.
  • Claudia Irizarry Aponte ‘18 is now teaching Newmark J-School’s Advanced Reporting on Latino Communities class alongside Inti Pacheco.
  • Eddy Martinez ’18 is now a general assignment reporter for Connecticut Public Radio in Hartford. He’ll be covering Fairfield County.
  • Amanda D’Ambrosio ’19 will soon start at Crain’s New York as the Health Pulse reporter.
  • Brenda Léon, Bilingual ’19, has been selected as an inaugural fellow of the WSJ Finance Reporting Fellowship, a year-long program offered in partnership with NAHJ and Newmark.
  • Niamh McDonnell ’19 has joined The Associated Press as news operations manager, and will assist in coordinating between the technology departments and the journalists. McDonnell will also help oversee functionality in the newsroom and within the AP’s global network.
  • Paul Stremple ’20 has been named public programs manager for the Bronx Documentary Center. He will coordinate public events and talks around the center’s exhibitions, focusing on documentary photography and filmmaking, while continuing to work as a freelance photographer and writer in New York and East Africa.
Paul Stremple ’20
  • Radhamely De Leon ’21 will be starting a new job later this month as a news reporter at Decider.
  • André Beganski ‘​​​​​22 is now a staff reporter covering crypto for Decrypt Media. Beganski’s Newmark J-School capstone was published in Decrypt earlier this month.



Jeff Winter ’21

“It all started when I heard the terrible story of Alstory Simon, around the time I was thinking about becoming a cop,” said Jeff Winter ’21, as he recounted the chain of events that led him to the beat he’s most passionate about now: criminal justice. “It was about a wrongful conviction in Chicago, where I’m from. There was a book about the case, ‘Crooked City,’ by an active duty Chicago police officer, Martin Preib, who had written a beautiful collection of essays about driving bodies from crime scenes to the morgue, with some magical realism mixed in.”

Fortunately for CUNY’s J-School, the domino effect that started with that copy of Preib’s book eventually led to Winter enrolling and doing his M.A. in journalism—instead of becoming a cop.

Since his graduation from Newmark a little more than a year ago, Winter has been reporting on wrongful convictions alongside his work covering mass shootings and breaking news as a freelancer for CNN Investigates. He does all of this while balancing other pursuits, including playing for and coaching a water polo team and working in the administrative desk job that he took on at CNN before J-School, and that still helps pay the bills.

Here, Winter chats with us about the work he really wants to be doing, and about the J-School experiences that most inspired him.

You started out wanting to be a police officer. Why?

I had sort of danced around it, never really seriously, for a long time. Years ago, I started reading everything by Marty Preib, David Simon, Richard Price, James Ellroy and Joseph Wambaugh, and I caught this bug. I just loved learning how crimes unraveled and got solved. I thought that’s something I’d like to do, make sense of a tragedy with narrative. That drives me to this day.

Those books taught me I had to have a moral compass, no matter what I did. You have to talk to people and listen. That was my idealized thinking about the job. Then I realized it was the writers’ jobs I liked more than the people they were writing about.

The great thing about reporting is that you’re looking at an event or a crime from multiple angles. You’re bearing witness, interrogating the good and the bad. At the end of the day, you’re collating other people’s stories into a narrative that’s trying to make sense of something bigger than any individual.

Did any specific event push you into journalism versus police work? 

I’m in New York 12 years now. The first few, I was adrift, trying to do something with my degrees in film and English, which are basically useless. I grew up in a union household. But I didn’t have any skills that’d get me that kind of security and mentorship, other than being really good at bullshitting with people on the street.

I’d quit a job where I was working on documentary films six or so years ago. Over the course of a few months I’d applied to 300 jobs, including with the NYPD. I thought I could be good at it. But it wasn’t for me. If you’re not built for it, you’re fucked.

I got lucky and CNN hired me. A year later the NYPD called me to go to the next step. I stuck with news. When I got hired at CNN it was for an administrative gig that was not tethered to any specific department. It was a foot in the door, a means to an end. Newmark was a big piece of helping me figure out what I wanted to do as a journalist.

Winter interviewing Anthony Sims the morning he was released on parole.

What’s your main beat at CNN these days?

I’m still trying to carve out a beat here. My heart and soul is with any form of institutional injustice. I’ve ingrained myself with CNN Investigates and the team there, since that’s what I want to do. With Investigates, I report on breaking news, most of that being mass shootings–I’ve covered five of them now, including the two in California a few weeks ago—and enterprise stories.

Lately I’ve been learning the complexities of the VA (Veterans Affairs) benefits system for a story I’m working on about veterans’ suicides.

At the end of the day what I like doing is learning the ins and outs of legal mazes.  With this VA stuff, and that labyrinth-level of complexity, I really enjoy figuring out how to navigate it and the barriers that people who have to navigate it are up against—be they veterans or their surviving family members who are trying to get the benefits they were previously denied.

When I interned with Investigates as a Newmark student, I helped out with a project looking at police officers throughout the U.S. who are collecting pensions despite having been convicted of various felonies and crimes, and another story about a Ukrainian who was attempting to sink a Russian oligarch’s yacht at the start of the war, among others.

Outside of Investigates, I work on CNN Heroes’ end-of-the-year live show that we put on at the Museum of Natural History.

Before Newmark, I was writing and producing for a business show on CNN International while assisting a few anchors.

Can you talk more about what led you to want to report on wrongful convictions?

[It began with] the book “Crooked City,” and the wrongful conviction that unfolded around that case. There was a professor at Northwestern, this guy David Protess, leading an innocence project that helped free the guy locked up for this murder.

Protess ends up finding this guy Alstory Simon and had him videotaped, talking him into admitting participating in this murder which he had nothing to do with. So in this inverse of a wrongful conviction case, Protess helps free the guy who may have done it, and helps send to prison this innocent guy, Simon, which is perverse and terrifying and tragic. This guy ends up going to jail for 15 years for a murder he didn’t do thanks to an advocate of criminal justice reform. Go figure.

That story in and of itself is very disturbing. The fact that this police officer Preib pointed out injustices and called out the nonsense was extraordinary. Preib’s underlying thesis of this book is the biased, uninformed local media coverage of this case, which perpetuated the myth that this guy Simon was involved with it.

Preib’s first book is called “The Wagon,” which everybody should read. It was published by the University of Chicago Press. When I noticed U of C didn’t publish “Crooked City,” I asked Preib what happened. He said no one wanted to publish this because it took to task the local media in Chicago. But now, I think, as a result of that experience, he’s got more of an ax to grind rather than saying interesting things. I don’t read him much anymore.

Winter with Robert Webster at a Newmark J-School event on clemency in Fall 2022.

What brought you to Newmark?

I was talking to a friend of mine, a former NYPD detective, and we were talking about this guy Louis Scarcella who was a hotshot detective in the ’80s and ’90s. He was the guy to call when you needed to close a case. I can’t remember how many of his convictions have been overturned, but it’s a lot.

I was like, whatever happened to Scarcella? There was a huge scandal that started around 2012 when the Brooklyn DA’s office started reviewing something like 50 of his cases. I realized I didn’t know how to touch these cases, how to report on them, so that’s specifically what I went to Newmark for. I saw that Tom Robbins was teaching here, had read a lot of his stories and thought, that’s the man. If you want to learn how to do this, you might as well learn from the best.

Which J-School class had the biggest impact on you?

When I took Tom Robbins’s clemency course, I didn’t know anything about clemency. It’s its own beast. We were paired off in class to work on one guy’s clemency application—in my case, Robert Webster—and then that pair worked alongside students at CUNY Law who were preparing that packet under the direction of Steve Zeidman, the expert on clemency in New York.

The beauty of that class is, it wasn’t just learning the intricacies of the clemency system. It was speaking with guys who got clemency, law enforcement people, and all the other people that operate in that world, like the Osborne Association, staffed by a lot of people who have done time. You got a sense of what it’s like to be inside and what it’s like when you get out.

The other thing I wanted to do was to go into the prisons and talk to someone there. You don’t know what it’s like until you actually go. Clemency is rarely in the news, and the governor only gives people clemency once a year.

These are not wrongful conviction cases where someone might be able to point to some investigative misstep and shout, “injustice.” These are men and women who’ve said, “I did this and I’m sorry” and mean it.

People might say, “This is someone who participated in a murder. Why should I care?” But then you meet someone like Richard Chalk. Just watch that video. Clemency applicants are people who have carried and confronted a very serious emotional and moral weight. And to own that, sitting with themselves in a room day in and day out, unable to take back an action that caused irreparable harm to another person… that’s what rehabilitation looks like, or at least part of it. The people I’ve met who’ve gotten clemency, they’ve gone on to help others in different ways, whether it’s inside or outside. Reporters should be there with them.

Does journalism play a role in getting people clemency?

Yes. Robbins says in his piece about Judy Clark that he knew Clark decades back, before she was convicted of participating in a robbery gone wrong that left three men dead. He tells you right off the bat, back then, he wanted nothing to do with her. What he’s doing with that story is letting Judy Clark show you what she’s done to face down her demons.

She talked about that at the CUNY event [“Why Clemency Works: When Mercy Tempers Justice,” hosted by Robbins at Newmark J-School in Fall 2022]. When these stories show up in the press, I don’t know that they’re there advocating for this person to get clemency. What they’re doing is allowing someone that’s incarcerated to convey the worst moment in their lives and how they’ve confronted that. How they’ve been able to turn that, somehow, into some kind of positive.

When those stories are done right, these are stories of redemption and contrition. It’s about as biblical as you can get: someone who can come back and resurrect themselves as something else, something better, but not forgetting what went before. You’re never going to forget that. If the reporter is doing it right, they can tell that story in a way that might convince a reader who is dead-set against giving someone a second chance to not forgive them for what they did, but to say, “You’re doing the right thing now.”

What are some of the stories you’ve done that you’re proudest of?

I don’t know that I’m proud of anything I’ve written yet. Pride’s a dirty word to me. But I’ll say I know I’m doing my job when I just show up or make the phone calls I need to.

What do you do when you’re not out reporting? 

Reading. Or I’m at the pool, swimming and playing water polo, or at my bar. I’m always hydrated.