Alumni Newsletter, April 2023

  • By Salma Abdelnour Gilman

Dear Alumni,
We’re excited to announce that the distinguished journalist Masha Gessen is joining our faculty this fall as a full-time professor. Read on for more about Gessen below, plus lots of upcoming happenings around Newmark.

Heads up: Look out for your invitation to join our 2023 alumni-student mentorship program, coming up in May.

This month we have a Q&A with Tat Bellamy-Walker ’19, whose work as communities reporter at The Seattle Times is highlighting underserved populations around the city—and bringing some risks along with it.
​​​On a sad note: Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends and classmates of J-School alum Damian Jon Geminder’ 15, who passed away on Apr. 20 at age 33. Please read the In Memoriam post about Geminder on the Newmark site.

This monthly newsletter will be taking its usual summer break after the May edition. Make sure to send in your latest updates in the next week or so (we’ll send out another reminder asap), so we can get them into the May newsletter.

As for the summer, if you’re planning to attend any of the following conferences, get in touch ( and we’ll keep you posted about Newmark gatherings there:
NABJ Convention and Career FairNAHJ International Training Convention and ExpoONA ConferenceNLGJA ConventionNAJA Media ConferenceAAJA National Convention. Did we miss any? Please let us know.


Salma Abdelnour Gilman
Head of Alumni Affairs


Header photo: Tat Bellamy-Walker ’19, coffee in hand, at The Seattle Times.



Masha Gessen Joins Newmark Faculty

The prominent Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen will join the J-School faculty as a full-time professor starting Fall 2023.

Currently a staff writer for the New Yorker,  Gessen is also the author of 11 books, including the 2017 National Book Award winner, “The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.” Their writing focuses on Russian politics and culture, gender rights, the U.S. political system and the state of democracy in the world. Gessen played a key role in creating the Russian Independent Media Archives, and recently participated in a related talk at Newmark titled “I Wish I’d Known That: Leading Journalists Look Back at the Russia Story.” Watch the talk here. 

As Dean Graciela Mochfosky expressed in her announcement about the hiring of Gessen, “They exemplify so much of what we hope for our students: critical, independent thinking, and a work that is deeply reported, passionate, well-written and committed to the truth.”


Newmark Professors Win Slew of Awards

A big congratulations to our faculty members for winning these recent awards:

  • Documentary Program Director Yoruba Richen: Black Public Media’s Trailblazer award
  • Professor Linda Villarosa: J.Anthony Lukas Book Prize for “Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of our Nation”
  • Adjunct Professor Jennifer Wilson: Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle


Uncovering Justice Stories: A Free Workshop for Journalists at Newmark J-School

“Justice Stories: How to Expose Past Wrongs — and Get Action Now” is a free two-day workshop funded by The Tow Foundation and aimed at mid-career journalists covering juvenile justice, criminal justice and related beats. Applications are now open to participate in the workshop, which will be held Jun. 20-21 at the Newmark J-School campus.

Reporters enrolled in the all-expenses-paid training sessions are expected to arrive with story pitches. They’ll get direct feedback and guidance from top-notch journalists expert in rooting out long-buried injustices and using the reporting to fuel high-impact stories that tackle current struggles.

Applicants should send a resume, along with relevant written, video or audio clips — and a proposal for a criminal justice story they’d like to work on — to the J-School’s Daryl Khan at Qualified journalists will be accepted as they apply.

Dates: Jun. 20-21 at Newmark J-School, 219 W. 40th St., New York, NY
Information and application guidelines here.

Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership

The Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership is now accepting applications for its fourth cohort. This global, rigorous program, which runs from Sept. 2023 to Jun. 2024, operates under a hybrid model of weekly virtual classes and leadership workshops, and three in-person residencies in New York City. Candidates from local, national and international news organizations with backgrounds in editorial, product, business and technology are encouraged to apply. Participants will work on a capstone project under the guidance of a personal coach.

After successfully completing the program, participants will receive a certificate of completion issued by the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Application deadline: Jun. 2
Apply here.



We Were Once a Family: A Talk with Roxanna Asgarian & Andrea Elliott

Date: May 2, 5:30 p.m. at Newmark J-School, 219 W. 40th St., New York, NY, Room 308

A 2018 murder-suicide in California — a couple drove off a cliff with their six adopted children, killing all in the SUV — shocked much of the nation and set off a search for answers.

In her new book, “We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America,” Roxanna Asgarian ’11 tackles the tragic story — and delivers an indictment of a foster care system in which children of color can be separated from their birth parents without just cause.

Asgarian, now a law and courts reporter for The Texas Tribune, returns to campus May 2 to discuss her work with “Invisible Child” author and New York Times investigative reporter Andrea Elliott, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who has documented the lives of poor Americans, Muslim immigrants and other people on the margins of power.

Join us for the conversation about a book The New Yorker praised as “moving and superbly reported” and Publisher’s Weekly called “sensitive, impassioned and eye-opening.” Read our Q&A with Asgarian in the March 2023 alumni newsletter.

RSVP now to secure your spot.


Navigating the Newsroom: Identifying the Inclusive Workplace

Date: May 11, 12:30 – 2 p.m., Newmark J-School, 219 W. 40th St., New York, NY

In the third workshop of the series, you’ll learn how to identify inclusive workplaces, navigate those that are less so, and find strategies to self-advocate and address being “othered” in the newsroom. Hanaa’ Tameez ’17, staff writer at Neiman Lab, will present. Read our Q&A with Tameez here.

RSVP  here. (If you don’t have access to Handshake, please email us at



  • Deadline Club Awards Finalists: When Home is School, Newmark J-School’s NYCity News Service investigation, is a finalist for a Deadline Club Award in the Reporting by Independent Media category. The investigation was reported by Griffin Kelly ’21, Sophia Lebowitz ’21, Keith Paul Medelis ’21, Harry Parker ’21 and Mary Steffenhagen ’21,​ with illustrations by Lebowitz, Medelis and Steffenhagen. Steffenhagen’s Home Ed podcast is also a finalist in the Radio or Audio Investigative Reporting category. Competing finalists in the Deadline Club’s various awards categories include The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Washington Post and many other professional news outlets. Winners will be announced May 18.  Sophie Putka ’20 is a Trade Journalism Award finalist for her three-part series on “Scams in Healthcare” for MedPage Today.

Featured News

  • Sandra Roa ’09 successfully defended her comprehensive exams for the doctoral program she began in 2019 at the University of South Florida. This spring, Roa presented a paper titled “The Immigration Nation documentary: An analysis of ICE’s narrative aesthetics” at a colloquium of the AEJMC (Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication). The paper  looks into the media representations of Latinx identities, with a focus on visual communication.
  • Tristan Hallman ’12 is now chief communications officer for the Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar, CA. He was formerly chief of staff for the office of Dallas mayor Eric Johnson.
  • Bobbi-Jeanne Misick ’13 participated in a Gulf States Newsroom listening session and conversation about her investigation “The Imbalanced Scales of Immigration Justice,” which was a 2022 finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Audio Small category.
  • The show Gabrielle Sierra ’13 hosts and produces for the Council on Foreign Relations has been nominated for a Webby. The awards show is on May 15.
  • Zainab Akande ’14 was recently promoted and is now senior manager of development and communications at Dotdash Meredith.
  • Gwynne Hogan ’14 is moving from WNYC/Gothamist to THE CITY.
  • Aliza Chasan ’15 is now a digital producer at CBS News’s “60 Minutes.”
  • Laura Calçada Barres, Engage J ’17, contributed stories to this book for adolescents and young adults in Catalonia, Spain.
  • Jesenia De Moya Correa, Bilingual J ’17, wrote a piece for the Nieman Lab’s 2022 Predictions for Journalism that was mentioned in the book “Building Back Truth in an Age of Misinformation,” published in March and authored by Leslie F. Stebbins. In the chapter “Repair Journalism and Roll Out New Curators,” Stebbins based learnings on engagement journalism and community reporting—in part—on the thoughts De Moya Correa included in her Nieman Lab predictions.

    Jesenia de Moya Correa, with a copy of the book citing her recent work.
  • The first installment of Daryl Khan and alum Clarissa Sosin’s ’17 five-year investigation into police corruption in Baton Rouge, LA was published by Verite.
  • Juan Garcia’s ’18 story “Mexico Alleges That New York Gallery Auctioned Hundreds of Illegally Obtained Pre-Columbian Artifacts” ran in ARTNews last month.
  • Valen Iricibar ’20 (right) was hired as an editor for Argentina’s newly relaunched Buenos Aires Herald. They’ve written a number of stories for the Herald since it launched in late March.
  • Ali McPherson ’20 did an extensive project for BET for Women’s History Month. McPherson also recently interviewed Nick Cannon and covered Coachella for BET.
  • Lisa Salinas ’20 was promoted to segment producer at MSNBC.
  • Kim Bui, Exec Program ’21, was included in this roundup of “5 inspiring women in local media.”
  • Rommel H. Ojeda ’21 worked on an in-depth investigation about the flooding problem afflicting the Hollis neighborhood in Queens, and what the flooding signals for the rest of New York City in the age of climate change. It ran this month in Documented.
  • Cai Pigliucci ’21 is now a segment producer at the BBC’s Washington, D.C. bureau.
  • J+’s Anita Zielina featured Hillary Frey, Exec Program ’22, in her new podcast, “Better Leaders.”
  • Salman Ahad Khan ‘22 recently started a full-time job as an associate producer at WNYC’s Supreme Court podcast “More Perfect.”
  • Lucy Papachristou ’22 is being sent by Reuters on a three-month assignment to Gdansk, Poland, where she will be covering Russia. She will start on May 8.
  • Rachael Robertson ’22 started a new job as enterprise and investigative writer at MedPage Today.
  • ET Rodriguez ’22 now has her own column in the Bronx Times.



Tat Bellamy-Walker ’19

Barely six months into a job as communities reporter for The Seattle Times, Tat Bellamy-Walker ’19 has already done an impressive number of impactful stories around the city—most recently, pieces on how a mom’s elementary school classroom project for Ramadan is helping build sympathy for students who fast; on trans drag performers who are continuing to perform amid a hostile environment; on how Muslim drivers for Uber and Lyft find places to pray; and on how Black Washingtonians are finding new friendships on social media.

After graduating from Newmark with a concentration in Health and Science, Bellamy-Walker went on to fellowships at Business insider, New Hampshire Public Radio and the Poynter Institute. Not long after landing a job at Gay City News, Bellamy-Walker was offered a role as a desk assistant at NBC’s diversity verticals, stemming from a story he did for Craft 1 (read on for more about that).

This past November, Bellamy-Walker moved to Washington State to start a job at The Seattle Times. He’s been getting acclimated to the city since then, and has found a favorite working space at a local bookstore with a cafe that offers unlimited coffee: jackpot.​​​​

Tat Bellamy-Walker ’19 (right) with former NBC colleagues. From left: NBC BLK reporters Curtis Bunn and Char Adams, Editorial Director Michelle Garcia; NBC News Fellow Claretta Bellamy.

Bellamy-Walker recently chatted with us about how the reactions to his reporting on underserved communities, and how Seattle life compares to his NYC student days.

You’re the communities reporter for the Seattle Times. What does that role involve?

I report on diverse groups throughout the Pacific Northwest. I’m on the features desk, and I do longform stories that paint a portrait of life in Seattle and other areas across Washington. I write about different people’s lives and how they connect to each other.

One aspect of my job is building trust with communities – for example, going to a mosque and introducing myself to members there or sometimes we’ll ask readers to send us ideas through online forms. It’s a mix of relating to folks in person, and going to where the community is to get people engaged.

You did a story recently on a Seattle-area mom who helped her child’s classmates understand Ramadan and become more sympathetic to kids who were fasting. How did that story idea come about?

This was at the time when I was trying to build relationships with Muslim community members. One of my colleagues had mentioned knowing a woman, Shukri, who may want to talk about some story ideas. During my chat with Shukri, she mentioned how she does an activity every year for her daughter’s classroom: She has students write affirmation cards for Muslim children who are fasting during Ramadan. She didn’t mention it as a big thing. She just mentioned it in the conversation. We were talking about iftar meals and a lot of different things related to Ramadan, and this was one of the many things she brought up. I thought, That’s interesting. So I brought it to my editor.

I try to find stories that can be evergreen to a certain extent, or can work for a whole month. I’m trying to think about stories that bring people together or have something sweet about them. I think that’s what made this Ramadan story interesting to readers—a happy story that people can come back to at Ramadan.

Part of my job is highlighting unique parts of people’s lives that they don’t think of as unique or different. For Shukri, this was something she does every year. For me, this is a unique way to build tolerance and inclusion. For that story, I also talked to the teachers and asked them, What was it like to have the mom come into the class? So it was a bigger story that showed the reach of what she was doing.

Did you get feedback from readers about the Ramadan classroom activity story?

With this story, one big fear the mom had was that she was going to face a lot of Islamophobic hate.

Since the first conversation I had with her was just a casual conversation, I don’t think she thought this part could become an entire story. She was fearful people would think she was bringing religion into the classroom. The Seattle Times took some preventative measures, like turning off the comments on the story and making sure the comments on Instagram were being moderated. Shukri said she enjoyed the story, and I don’t think she faced a lot of pushback before we turned off the comments.

You recently did a Seattle Times piece on trans drag performers in the Seattle area continuing to do shows amid an atmosphere of heightened anti-drag legislation nationwide. What was the reaction to that story?

That was a great story to work on. I faced a lot of transphobic and anti-LGBTQ hate after that story. The readership at The Seattle Times seems to be largely white and presumably mostly straight as well, so there was a lot of pushback and anger that I faced, that showed up under the comments after that story.

As for the sources, they really enjoyed that their voices were being heard on this issue—especially since some had faced harassment themselves for being drag artists, and one person had even been on Fox News. So they were happy that they were able to get their voices out there at a time when there’s so much anti-drag legislation.

I also faced a lot of harassment after that story. A lot of it had to do with LGBTQ issues. Some of it is in the comments underneath the story and some of it is also direct emails to me about people’s anger that LGBTQ stories and issues are being reported on. The attacks have stopped recently because I have asked management to take out my email address and work phone number from my online bio. A lot of the attacks are targeted towards me as a trans person as well. They’ll be mad at the story, and they’ll be mad at me for being trans, and they’ll be mad at me for being Black. A lot of these issues create an unsafe environment for me.

Do you feel that management at the paper has your back?

Good question. I think it’s a mixture. The Seattle Times is overall a more white, cis institution. There are allies at the paper who have been rallying and pushing and giving me support in my job and with the different challenges I face given my marginalized identity. Overall there are a lot of issues in the journalism industry across the board when it comes to the different identities that I hold. Over the years, I’ve seen the same issues pop up in terms of career support and certain accommodations not being there.

I definitely still want to write stories about the queer and trans communities. This all makes me want to be more creative in my storytelling—like when I wrote a story about how anti-drag legislation pushed local drag performers to continue fighting for their craft. It doesn’t make me not want to write about LGBTQ issues just because people are homophobic and transphobic and hateful. It makes me want to be more innovative in storytelling.

People wrote to me and said they were so happy to see a story like this in The Seattle Times. In terms of trying to change people’s attitudes, I think overall that might be difficult. I think doing these stories is good, to get to write unique stories in sensitive ways.


Tat Bellamy-Walker. Photo credit: Jaime Longoria

What communities would you like to see get more coverage, in Seattle and/or nationwide?

I definitely want to do more stories about Black communities in Seattle. I want to do more stories about the Muslim community. This month I did three or four stories about the community, but in terms of the Islamophobia that’s rampant in the culture, I think it’s important for me to do more stories about the Muslim community and to have more Muslim sources in my stories outside of Ramadan.

How did your J-School experience prepare you for the work you’re doing now?

Going to grad school was an important part of me being able to get to different places in my career.  I had professors there who believed in me and in my LGBTQ stories particularly, and who believed in my identity.

I was able to attend Newmark because I received a full ride scholarship through the school’s former Knight Diversity Initiative, a pipeline program the school created to bring BIPOC journalists to the school.

I’m really happy that I made the jumps I made throughout my career. I attribute the majority of my jumps to having that network at Newmark J-School. I don’t think I would’ve been able to have all those connections if it wasn’t for the J-School.

Which Newmark J-School classes or professors stand out most in your mind?

Michelle Higgins [former Newmark professor and Career Services director] was my professor and was a very big advocate for me at the school. I took my Craft I class with her and Judy Watson. That laid out the groundwork for me. Michelle and I worked on a lot of grant opportunities. That was really important for me in grad school, the access to learn how to get these different grants and fellowships and opportunities in journalism. She would write a lot of recommendation letters for me to get to different places in my career.

I remember we had worked on this story about non-binary patients and the challenges they faced with accessing health care. We pitched it to NBC Out. A couple of years later, the editor I had pitched to gave me a recommendation to be able to work at NBC. I became the desk assistant for NBC’s diversity verticals: NBC Black, NBC Out, NBC Latino, NBC Asian America. I always think back to how if I didn’t do that story with Michelle for Craft 1 and we pitched it to NBC Out, I don’t know if I would’ve landed that job. That editor vouched for me to go from a hyperlocal newspaper, Gay City News, to a national news outlet.

Lisa Armstrong helped me as well. And after I graduated in 2019, I went to Business Insider as a strategy fellow. One important piece that I worked on at Insider was about how elective surgeries were being canceled because of the coronavirus. I wrote a piece about how the gender-affirming surgery I was planning to have was postponed because of the onset of the pandemic. Many of the skills I learned in Peter Beinart’s op-ed class really prepared me to write an op-ed for Business Insider, and that op-ed led me to get to speak on WNYC.

What’s life like in Seattle now, after leaving NYC?

When I want a break from going to the office, I like going to a cafe that gives people unlimited coffee for the day. Being in Seattle makes me feel fancy at times. In New York City, I was living in this old apartment, and when I came to Seattle it made me feel like I had a lifestyle upgrade.