Alumni Newsletter, Fall 2023

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Dear Alumni,

Homecoming day—Oct. 14—is almost here! Please make sure to RSVP by Sept. 30 using the Eventbrite password in your email invitation. We have an incredible day planned!

It’s best to arrive as soon as the doors open at 12 p.m., so you can make the most of the lunchtime career networking hour with top media outlets (noon-1 p.m.). Then stick around to catch up with classmates, make new connections, and get inspired by keynote speaker Masha Gessen, moderator Jennifer Wilson, fellow alumni, and surprise guests. We’re excited to see you there!

Other quick updates:

  • Mentorship Program 2023: A big thank you to everyone who is participating in our mentorship program this year. The first cohort of mentors/mentees wraps up at the end of September, and the next cohort kicks off in October. Stay tuned, and register here if you’d like to become a mentor. Questions? Contact us.
  • Job Listings: If your organization is hiring, reach out to us and we can include the listing(s) in an upcoming Friday jobs blast.
  • Alumni Newsletter: This newsletter is now quarterly, starting with this Fall edition. Start sending in your news now for the Winter newsletter!

Read on to hear about the latest alumni awards, updates and campus announcements, and check out our Q&A with Salman Ahad Khan ’22: The jaw-dropping NYC podcast he’s working on is already making the 2023 best-of lists.

Cheers and see you in October!
Salma
Salma Abdelnour Gilman
Head of Alumni Affairs

salma.abdelnour@journalism.cuny.edu

 

Header image: Salman Ahad Khan ’22 talks about the much-discussed Supreme Court podcast he produced.


Events

Screening: “A Woman on the Outside”

Join us for a screening of “A Woman on the Outside,” a documentary directed by Zara Katz ’12 and Lisa Riordan Seville ’10.

The film follows Kristal Bush, a Philadelphia woman who helps others travel to faraway prisons to visit their loved ones.

From the synopsis: “Growing up, Kristal watched nearly every man in her life disappear to prison. She channeled that struggle into keeping families connected, both as a social worker and with her van service that drives families to visit loved ones in far-off prisons. But when Kristal’s dad and brother return to Philly, her happiness meets the realization that release doesn’t always mean freedom. Part observational documentary, part family album, ‘A Woman on the Outside’ is a tender portrait of one family striving to love in the face of a system built to break them.”

Check out more info about this remarkable film in the March 2022 alumni newsletter.

The in-person screening will be followed by a panel moderated by Yoruba Richen and featuring panelists Kristal Bush, Kiara C. Jones, Zara Katz ’12 and Lisa Riordan Seville ’10.

When: Oct. 3, 6-8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Newmark J-School, 219 W. 40th St., New York, NY Room 308

Register here.

 

Newmark J-School Alumni Homecoming

Our annual Alumni Homecoming is happening on Saturday, Oct. 14 at the J-School. Here are just a few highlights:

Our keynote speaker is Masha Gessen, staff writer for The New Yorker, nonfiction book author, and widely acclaimed expert on Europe, Russia, and LGBTQ matters. Gessen joined our J-School faculty this semester and was recently named a distinguished professor by the CUNY trustees. The keynote will be moderated by Jennifer Wilson, contributing writer at The Nation and adjunct faculty.

Plus: We’ll have career networking tables during lunch…Alumni lightning talks…Surprise guests… and lots of opportunities to catch up with classmates and make new connections over coffee breaks, at the evening reception, and all day long.

Please RSVP here by Sept. 30. Use the password you received in your email invite. Contact AlumniOffice@journalism.cuny.edu if you need help registering.

When: Oct. 14, 12-5 p.m. ET, plus a reception afterwards on-site
Where: Newmark J-School, 219 W. 40th St., New York, NY

Register here.


Announcements

Photo credit: Zakiyyah Woods

 

Paris-NYC Photo Exchange Program

Three Newmark photo students got to participate in a unique program in Paris this summer thanks to a generous contribution by Cristina Alesci ’08, who paid for their airfare and incidental expenses. Three Class of 2023 students —Christian Colón, Hannah-Kathryn Valles and Zakiyyah Woods (who took the photo above)—spent ten days in Paris as part of an exchange program organized by the photo department in partnership with ENS Louis Lumiere, a public graduate school in Paris. The students explored similarities and differences in the ways immigrant groups live in Paris and NYC for a project titled “Photo Bridge: Paris & New York City,” funded by a TransAtlantic Mobility Grant from the French Consulate. The photos will be exhibited in public places in both cities this fall. Fun fact: Valles is also currently a student assistant in Alumni Affairs and an indispensable part of our team!

 

Faculty and Staff in New Roles

Alumni will no doubt recognize at least a few names on this list of Newmark faculty and staff who’ve recently taken on new roles or titles. Big congrats to all!

Vanessa Botelho, broadcast-journalist-in-residence since 2019. is now a full-time, tenure-track associate professor of broadcast journalism; Amy Dunkin, a J-School staff member for the past 15 years, is now director of administrative operations; Yoruba Richen, founder and director of the documentary program, has been named associate professor of race and identity; Lam Thuy Vo has been promoted from data-journalist-in-residence to the full-time, tenure-track position of associate professor of data journalism.

We also have some new (and returning) faces around the J-School, so keep an eye out when you visit campus for upcoming events: Jesenia De Moya Correa ’17, who graduated in the J-School’s first Bilingual Program classis the new director of CCM’s Latino Media Initiative; Masha Gessen has been named Distinguished Professor, Newmark J-School’s first faculty member to receive the most prestigious faculty honor granted by the City University of New York; Anna Minsky is a new part-time assistant in the Research Center; Shazdeh Omari has been appointed interim executive director of development; Cynthia Gonzalez, campus peace officer, is the newest member of our public safety team; Mikhail Zygar is the J-School’s first Press Freedom Fellow.

 

Executive Program Welcomes Newest Cohort

The fourth cohort of J+’s Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership includes 21 news leaders (pictured below) from Canada, China, Cuba, Finland, Germany, Japan, Romania, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. Among them is Newmark J-School alum Lily Rothman ’11. The program began in September and will run through June 2024.


Opportunities

 

McGraw Fellowships for Business Journalism

Applications are open until Sept. 30 for the Fall 2023 McGraw Fellowships for Business Journalism. Founded at Newmark J-School in 2014, the McGraw Fellowships provide 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 fellowships are open to both freelance and staff journalists who work in all forms of media and have at least five years’ professional experience.

More info and application here, or contact executive director Jane Sasseen at mcgrawcenter@journalism.cuny.edu.

Application deadline: Sept. 30.

 

The Wall Street Journal Reporting Fellowships

The Wall Street Journal is offering a 12-month finance reporting fellowship: Two fellows will receive exposure, mentorship and training as integral members of WSJ’s markets and personal finance teams. During the program, the fellows will refine their reporting skills, working closely with editors as they become proficient in the Journal’s news standards. The fellowship will run from January to December 2024.

Note: A team from The Wall Street Journal will attend Newmark J-School’s Homecoming on Oct. 14, during the lunch hour, to provide more info and answer questions about this fellowship.

Apply for the fellowship here, or contact trainingculturecommunity@dowjones.com for more info.

Application deadline: Nov. 10


Alumni Updates

 

Win-Win

Newmark J-School earned nine finalist nominations and six wins in the National Association of Black Journalists’ Salute to Excellence Awards in August. Alumni winners include Youcef Bounab ’22’s News Service photo essay, Life of a Bronx Mosque, and Briana Ellis-Gibbs ’22’s (right) photo of Vice President Kamala Harris, snapped for the NYCity News Service. Other Newmark winners include 219West’s Challenges & Resilience installment; Hard Lessons, a NYCity News Service team effort; and current students Amaya McDonald for Why Are So Few Black Men Teachers in New York City? and Amanda Braitman for Delivering a Tall Order.

Our school also took home awards from the Associated Collegiate Press this summer: Left Behind, a collaborative reporting project between THE CITY and Amanda Harrington ’22, Wyatt Stayner ’22, and students Audrey Nielsen and Rebecca Redelmeier, won first place for News Story in the ACP’s Spring Clips and Clicks Awards. ACP finalists include Jacqueline Neber ’21’s NYCity News Service investigation, Broken Homes.

Current students who won ACP awards include Shukria Bayan and John Schilling for the 219West segment Dippers’ ClubLynn Ma for The Anti-Social NetworkSafiyah Riddle for A Few Feet and a World Apart; Joe Caffrey for a photo in the NYCity News Service’s Dead Wrong project; and Natalie Robbins’s NYCity News Service story The Trauma of the Train Operator. Class of 2023 finalists include the Queens Street Names project; Hard Lessons; Lynn Ma’s The Anti-Social Network; and Joe Caffrey’s lead picture from the NYCity News Service story A Drag for Protesters.

Dead Wrong, the NYCity News Service’s story about malfeasance in the funeral industry, was awarded second place in the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s Best of Digital/Best of Web competition. The story was also a finalist in the Online News Association’s Online Journalism Awards. Alumni Sadie Brown ’22, Jesús Chapa Malacara ’22, Lara Heard ’22, Thomas Hughes ’22, Zoltan Lucas ’22, and Ariana Perez-Castells ’22 (right) all contributed reporting. Photographers include current students Joe Caffrey, Sarah Luft, Michael Matteo, Brianna Poulos and Hannah-Kathryn Valles.

The NYCity News Service won a merit award from the Silurians Press Club for Hard Lessons, a special report that examines what the NYC school system has learned from the pandemic. The project drew contributions from across the student body, showing the power of collaboration within our own newsroom.

Newmark J-School’s news platforms received 16 Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society for Professional Journalists. Three of the J-School’s winners took home first-place prizes, including Yvonne Marquez ’22’s coverage of immigrant workers’ struggle for rights; Trina Mannino ’22’s audio piece on New York’s retail cannabis market; and Mary Steffenhagen ’21’s investigative podcast examining homeschooling.

La Lucha en Primera Línea de Trabajadores Latinos en Nueva York por los Derechos Laborales, a production by El Deadline—a news outlet affiliated with the J-School’s Bilingual Journalism Program—included reporting by Ariana Perez-Castells ’22Natalia Sánchez Loayza ’22 and Tasha Sandoval ’22 and earned an award for Spanish language Print/Online News Reporting in SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi competition.

Three Newmark alums were finalists for the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial JournalismBen Foldy ’18 in the audio category for “Bad Bets: The Unraveling of Trevor Milton” in The Wall Street Journal; Cheyenne Lignon ’21 in the beat reporting category for “Cracks in Crypto Empire” for CoinDesk; and Christine Prentice ’10 in the breaking news category for Reuters’ “The Collapse of FTX.”

Joel Schectman ’09 won the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence – Print for his Reuters story “America’s Throwaway Spies: How the CIA failed Iranian informants in its secret war with Tehran” at the National Press Club Awards.

Erin Horan ’12 was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy for live coverage of the Uvalde school shooting as a producer for CBS Mornings. If the team wins, this will be Horan’s third national Emmy. She is now a senior producer and showrunner at the PGA TOUR, producing network specials for CBS and NBC.

Rachael Levy ’14 won the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2023 Dateline Award for Excellence in Local Journalism in the online business category for a series of stories about botched animal testing at Elon Musk’s brain implant startup.

Erin DeGregorio ’17 won multiple awards for her story New Votive Ship Sails Aloft in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, about a new handcrafted, wooden boat in Brooklyn. Her story won Honorable Mention for Best Feature Story – Division 3 at the New York Press Association’s 2022 Better Newspaper Contest in Albany, and Honorable Mention in the Story-Series: Best Non-Profile Feature Story category at the National Newspaper Association Foundation’s 2023 Better Newspaper Editorial Contest. The piece was originally published by the Red Hook Star-Revue.

Clarie Molloy ’17 won a Gracie Award in the Investigative Feature category for a joint investigation between Scripps News and the Center for Public Integrity. The report looks into sexual assault in the trucking industry.

 

Featured News

Aisha Al-Muslim ’09 has joined The Wall Street Journal audio/podcast team as a development producer. She will serve as a liaison for the audio team with companies, producers and talent. She will also field proposals and pitches, and help develop new series and special episodes for existing podcasts.

Katie Honan ’10, a senior reporter for THE CITY, took a break from covering government and politics and wrote about a rare artichoke parmesan hero for Bon Appétit. It set off a media frenzy, with the Brooklyn deli featured on TV stations and lines out the door to try “The Sandwich.”

Mary Shell ’12 wrote a piece for New York magazine called My Boss, the Monster about her experience working for Rex Heuermann, the man suspected of committing the Gilgo Beach murders.

Ann Marie Awad ’13‘s (below right) TEDx Talk on law enforcement and drug policy is now available to watch on YouTube.

Irina Ivanova ’13 began a new role as deputy U.S. news editor at Fortune in August.

Heather Martino ’13‘s film The Big Idea was featured on Glamour’s website.

Sophia Rosenbaum ’13 has been promoted to head of digital strategy and coordination at the Associated Press.

Roxanne Scott ’14 received a grant from the Queens Arts Fund to produce a live storytelling show called “The History of Queens, NY in 7 Dishes.” The event, hosted at the Lewis Latimer House Museum in Flushing, will feature writers of color sharing Moth-style storytelling performances about food.

Roxanne Scott ’14 and Helina Selemon ’15 are 2023 mentees in the Sharon Dunwoody Science Journalism Mentoring Program.

Ashley Smalls, Engagement ’16, earned her PhD. in mass communication and media studies at Penn State University after successfully defending her dissertation.

Joseph Jaafari ’16 (right) is expanding on his work with LOOKOUT, an outlet he founded which aims to get Phoenix’s queer community more engaged in politics and community. Jaafari’s work focuses on bringing LGBTQIA+ issues top-of-mind and above-the-fold through accountability journalism.

Eddy Martinez ’17 snapped a photo that was used in a New York Times story, “Mayoral Candidate Who Faces Jan. 6 Charges Wins Primary Recount.”

Dominic McKenzie ’17, Engagement ’18, is joining the faculty at Howard University as tenure-track assistant professor of digital journalism in the Cathy Hughes School of Communications in Washington, D.C. He was previously at Oakwood University, a historically Black university in Huntsville, AL, where he was the chief architect of two Bachelor’s degree programs in journalism before his departure.

Joshua Christensen ’18 is the executive producer of Computer Freaks, a new podcast about the founding fathers of the Internet. The downloads, ratings and reviews that the podcast gets will help determine how much investment Christensen and company receive in enterprise projects like this in the future.

Juan Garcia ’18’s piece on illegally obtained pre-Columbian artifacts in ARTNews was featured in a CUNY university-wide newsletter.

Hernán Goicochea ’18 celebrated two years working at LatinFinance in July. He is a reporter covering the global bonds market for Latin America and the Caribbean. That same month, his feature article about the perspectives of global institutional investors on Latin American and Caribbean sovereign issuers was published in LatinFinance’s quarterly magazine.

Kara Jillian Brown ’19 has been promoted to beauty editor at InStyle.

Hannah Miller ’19 recently published her second cover story as part of Bloomberg’s crypto team.

Mallika Mitra ’19 and Rachel Rippetoe ’19 started a newsletter called Yes, We’re Still Watching. They cover trends like the rise of the TV rewatch podcast and the use of tropes like the manic pixie dream girl in shows like “The Bear.” They are also introducing more reporting and Q&As, including an upcoming one with a fellow Newmark alum.

Matthew Euzarraga ’20’s digital and TV crossover entertainment story celebrating hip-hop’s 50th anniversary aired on PIX11 News in August.

Ale Pedraza Buenahora ’21’s story, The Risk of Gentrifying Queerness, ran in the solutions journalism magazine YES! in June.

Juliet Jeske ’21, who runs the social media account Decoding Fox News, posted on X calling out Greg Gutfeld, host of the late night talk show “Gutfled!” for downplaying the horrors of the Holocaust. Her post garnered 6.8 million views, and the Auschwitz Memorial and the White House both made statements in reference to her post.

Milette Millington ’21 (right) celebrated one year of work with her publication, Caribbean Life News, on September 1.

Mary Steffenhagen ’21 co-hosted “The Takeaway” in May as part of the show’s “Producer Appreciation” series. Steffenhagen spoke about her on stories, including one on women incarcerated in the wake of abusive relationships, and another on sexual abuse by Southern Baptist Church pastors, which was cited by one of the abuse victims for its trauma-informed interview process.

Francisco Velasquez-Turcios ’21 began a new role as a breaking business news reporter at The Messenger.

Molly Boigon ’22 joined Automotive News in February after graduating from Newmark. Since her arrival, she has had eight front page stories, second only to the outlet’s UAW reporter.

H Conley ’22 was accepted as a nonfiction fellow into the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for LGBTQ+ Emerging Voices.

Katherine Clary ’22 and Emily Sternlicht ’22’s short documentary film, A Desert is an Ocean, premieres at the Woodstock Film Festival at the end of September. Additionally, Camp Courage, a film Clary associate-produced and directed by National Geographic filmmaker Max Lowe, premiered at Camden International Film Festival and will debut on Netflix this fall.

Images from a new film by Katherine Clary ’22 and Emily Sternlicht ’22.

Gina Heeb ’22‘s story about bank wine collections seized by the government and auctioned off in the wake of the Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic collapses appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

Salman Ahad Khan ’22‘s podcast on Clarence Thomas, produced for “More Perfect”, was featured on Vogue and Vulture’s Best Podcasts of 2023 (So Far) lists. See our Q&A with Khan below.

 

Some Personal News…

A big congratulations goes out to Travis Fox, the J-School’s director of visual journalism, and Jenny Hamblett ’11, a former adjunct professor, who tied the knot in August.

Bobbi Misick ’13 (justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom), Whitney Clegg ’16 (investigative researcher for CNN) and Annie Todd ’19 (winner of an Overseas Press Club award) attended the IRE’s annual conference in Orlando in June, and had a chance to catch up with Newmark J-School faculty member and investigative reporting professor Andy Lehren.

Derek Scancarelli ’15 and Mia Garchitorena ’15 were married this past May at The Bell Tower in Nashville, TN. They met at the J-School, where Garchitorena specialized in Health & Science writing while Scancarelli pursued Arts & Culture documentary projects. The wedding was a mini-reunion of the Class of 2015, including these alumni who joined the newlyweds (front center in the image below) in the photo booth: Brian Josephs, Reed Dunlea, Dave Gershgorn, Ashley Lewis, Erica Davies, Tionah Lee, Olivia Leach, Joseph Swide, Desiree Mathurin, Catherine Roberts, Anthony Kane, Jessica Bal, Lilly Knoepp.

 

Alumni Q&A

 

A CHAT WITH… SALMAN AHAD KHAN ’22

Salman Ahad Khan ’22  just had the kind of summer he would’ve only dreamed about during his undergrad days at Georgetown University’s campus in Qatar. The “Clarence X” episode of the “More Perfect” podcast he works on at WNYC made a number of best-of podcast lists, including in Vogue and in New York Magazine’s Vulture.

The reaction to that bombshell episode about Clarence Thomas’s early years capped off a whirlwind post-J-School year for Khan, an Arts and Culture graduate whose family is from Pakistan and who was born and raised in Qatar. Now one of the producers on the Supreme Court-focused podcast, Khan was wrapping up production on an upcoming episode about the Moore V. Harper gerrymandering case—in collaboration with The New Yorker—when we chatted in the late summer.

Here, Khan (who, full disclosure, was a Craft student of mine in 2021 when I co-taught the class with lead professor Wil Cruz) walks us through what it was like to produce the groundbreaking episode on Clarence Thomas, and what life has been like since his days at 219 W. 40th St.—Salma Abdelnour Gilman
Congrats on making all those best-of podcast lists for “More Perfect,” and especially on the shoutouts for the “Clarence X” episode you worked on. Can you describe your role in producing that Clarence Thomas episode? 

When I joined the show, we were two months away from launch and they already had the idea to do a Clarence Thomas episode based on a book by a CUNY professor, Corey Robin, called “The Enigma of Clarence Thomas.”

Honestly, most of us don’t listen to Supreme Court judges that often in our day-to-day lives. Especially Clarence Thomas, because for years he barely ever spoke. “He’s Scalia’s puppet. He’s one of the most conservative:” Those are the things most people knew about his legal philosophy.

So, how did this person who was a follower of Malcolm X and went to civil rights protests end up being this guy? We wanted to talk about one specific thing: How did Black nationalism influence Thomas’s judicial opinions?

Salman Ahad Khan, working on a “Clarence X” edit at an IKEA. Photo credit: Emily Botein.

My first week on the job, I was handed the Corey Robin book and some law review articles, so I got a head start on the story. We wanted to figure out who would be the best people to interview to start to find out who Clarence Thomas was in his younger days. We wanted Clarence Thomas’s voice to weave in and out of the episodes.

Since we didn’t interview Clarence Thomas, I sat through dozens of hours of interviews [with Thomas]. One of the first people we reached out to was Juan Williams, who is now at Fox but used to write for The Atlantic. Williams had done multiple articles on Thomas over the years, and had spent a five-year period following him around. He was pretty much the first person to write about Clarence Thomas back when he was just an aide to a senator, and his first article about Thomas for The Washington Post basically put him into the spotlight. We wanted to know [from Williams]: What was it like to be the person who put Clarence Thomas on the map and what was he like back then?

Take us through what it was like for you behind the scenes, producing the extraordinary interviews that made it into the podcast.

Before we go into an interview, we sketch out in a lot of detail exactly what questions we want to ask and an idea of the narrative arc of the story. We usually have a good idea of what we want to get out of the interview– for example with Juan Williams, we wanted him to talk about how he ran into Clarence Thomas in the first place, to put us in the scene, and to talk about how his views evolved over time.

Every episode has one lead producer assigned. For the “Clarence X” episode, I was lead producer, working directly with Julia Longoria, who was the co-producer and host.

Since this episode was hosted by Julia, I was talking to Julia on the back end, so we had a separate chat going while she was doing the interviews. All the interviews were done virtually.

While she’s interviewing, the producer is usually chatting with her to say, for example, why don’t we push him on this question, or ask this next?

I usually write the first draft of the questions, then she goes in and writes them how she would ask them. This is the most inspiring part of the process for me. It’s magical to see Julia in an interview because of how much she’s able to get people talking in a really engaging way from the get-go. I also interned with Julia in my internship in my spring semester on the show she was working on before, “The Experiment,” with The Atlantic. You’re watching a real professional do their thing.

Inside one of the WNYC recording booths.

What’s been the reaction to the Clarence Thomas episode from listeners?

We got some really good feedback, and got featured on a couple of end-of-year lists, and also got negative feedback about why we even chose to feature him on an episode, which we also kind of expected since he’s such a controversial figure.

But from the very beginning, we wanted to focus on the things that don’t get talked about as much and so we focused our episode around the development of his legal philosophy, with a focus on his approach to affirmative action. How does this guy who benefited from affirmative action end up opposed to it? I think our episode did a good job of laying that out.

A group shot of the International Reporting class that Salman Ahad Khan (second row, far left) took with professor Alia Malek (second row, third from right).

What was your path to getting this job, since graduating from Newmark in December 2022?

In my spring semester in J-School, I applied for an internship at WNYC’s “The Experiment” and I got it. By that time I had more audio experience than most interns because I had been doing audio stuff on the side independently, so I knew my way around audio software and could sound design as well. My manager asked me if I had any goals for the internship, so I put in a big pipe dream goal: I’d like to produce an episode during my internship.

It was a small team but a supportive team, and since they knew that I knew how to cut tape, they said if you want to pitch a story, pitch it. In my second or third week there, the Ukraine war had already started and The Atlantic folks were eager to do a story on it featuring one of their writers. I pitched a story and they said go for it. I ended up being the lead producer on that episode, “One American Family’s Debt to Ukraine.”

While working on that story, I felt like I had 50 safety nets behind me, a team of some of the best producers in the business saying, “Hey, you’re in charge now. What do you want this episode to do?” It was such a supportive and nurturing environment. It gave me the confidence to take a lot of risks. Bad analogy: It’s like you’re given the steering wheel to a really well-built Formula One car but if you veer off course, a lot of people are there to help. I didn’t feel stressed while doing it. If I would’ve done anything wrong, I was working with three of the best producers in the business who would step in to make everything better!

At a Brooklyn high school, Khan talked to students interested in journalism.

How did you end up at “More Perfect” after that?

After I finished the internship at “The Experiment,” the show got canceled by The Atlantic, so at that point I was looking for a job. I ended up getting a job through another J-School professor of mine, Mia Lobel. She recommended me to someone at Pushkin, which is Malcolm Gladwell’s audio production company, and I ended up working on a couple shows there for the summer. I was also still in touch with the WNYC people, and when [“The Experiment”] was canceled, I wanted to do everything I could to get back to working with the same team.

When “The Experiment” shut down, WNYC announced they would be re-launching “More Perfect.” It had started back in 2016 and shut down in 2019, then they were launching it with a new team that included the producers who I had previously worked with at “The Experiment.” I heard from Julia [Longoria[ that they would have an AP position open there and encouraged me to apply. During the job hunt, I went through so many interviews and edits tests and made it to the final rounds at a couple of places, but then I often got ghosted or rejected at the last stage. I actually moved back to Qatar because I thought I wouldn’t end up getting a job here. I’m also an international student, so there are a lot of extra barriers to getting a job. But then, I finally heard from “More Perfect” when I had moved back home so I finally came back to the U.S., in mid-February 2023.

The path to Newmark J-School started during Khan’s undergrad years at Georgetown University’s Qatar campus. Photo credit: Ahwaz Akhtar

How did you initially decide to go to J-School after you did your undergrad in Qatar?

I studied politics in undergrad but ended up not working in politics—though now I’m working on a really political show. I was working at a non-profit in Qatar called Qatar Foundation, doing comms and content work. I had started pitching them a podcast and was telling them why they should be investing in podcasts. I wanted to do a show with a colleague about education, and to ask lofty questions and do it in this narrative style. That show got canceled when we were in the middle of production.

That cancellation was the trigger for me to do journalism and production work full-time. I had started working on a series on Muslim history and culture with a professor [in Qatar], and I realized I needed some experience working with people who did this for a living. I remember when I left Qatar, I thought the only reason I would want to stay in the U.S. [after J-School] is if I got a job at Gimlet, WNYC or the Times, and thankfully, I did end up getting a job at one of those places!

What sealed your decision to attend Newmark?

I came to CUNY because it has a fantastic audio program. I had met Kalli [Anderson] at an online audio conference when I was in Qatar, and she offered to let me sit in on a class. I sat in on an audio documentary class and thought, I want to be part of this setting. CUNY has great professors, great value and a great network of alumni everywhere.

It was a school that I wasn’t familiar with, coming from Pakistan and Qatar. The other school I was thinking about was Columbia, but it’s insanely expensive and they don’t have as fleshed-out an audio program.

I also really wanted to work with producers like Amanda Aronczyk because I loved “Planet Money,” but when I started the program, she wasn’t teaching any classes at the school anymore. So in my second semester, I actually proposed an independent study to see if she might be interested in working with me one-on-one on a story and she agreed!  Working with Amanda was truly one of the best experiences. I learned so much in that semester and we’ve kept in touch.

At WNYC, a senior editor once told me that they love CUNY alumni at WNYC, and that they often bring something special. After I started working here, I realized how true that really was and discovered there are CUNY students and alumni in the newsroom everywhere.