Storytelling in New Dimensions

Sonny Cirasuolo

When Sonny Cirasuolo ’21 discovered the course Virtual Reality Storytelling at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, it was if he’d struck gold. At the time, Cirasuolo was just looking for a fun course. Little did he know it would lead him to the forefront of developing immersive media in the metaverse, the simulated digital world of extended reality (XR) that blends the real and virtual. After first taking readers on interactive journeys for Yahoo Sports, Cirasuolo signed on as a creative technologist and XR engineer for the startup Nowhere, which provides a robust platform for multitudes of people to gather in the metaverse. “I really enjoyed the Virtual Reality Storytelling class,” he says. “Everything I’ve been doing is based off that one class. It ended up being what shaped my career, which is pretty cool.”

The course introduced Cirasuolo to Professor Dan Pacheco, a leading expert on journalistic storytelling that uses emerging media platforms and the metaverse. “Sonny threw himself fully into projects, often inspiring others to join him. I saw an opportunity to help harness and focus his energy on something creative,” says Pacheco, the Peter A. Horvitz Endowed Chair in Journalism Innovation and professor of practice in the magazine, news and digital journalism department. “It has been exciting to see his career flourish as he continues to inspire others with his work in the industry.”

Newhouse senior and alumnus honored with Gary Corcoran Student Prize

Alumnus Michael Garcia G ’21 and magazine, news and digital journalism senior Christopher Hippensteel were awarded the National Center on Disability and Journalism’s inaugural Gary Corcoran Student Prize for Excellence in Reporting on Disability.

This award honors the advocacy of Gary S. Corcoran (1951-2015), a wheelchair user who helped make airlines, transit and public venues in Phoenix accessible.

The winners were formally recognized Nov. 14 at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix.

Michael Garcia G ’21

Garcia, a graduate of the magazine, news and digital journalism program, won first place for his article “The Wilderness Pill,” an expansive piece that explores how outdoor experiences and therapy are used as treatment for veterans with PTSD, anxiety and depression. For him, listening to veteran’s stories was the most remarkable part of the process.

“It was especially rewarding to hear [veteran Dennice Tafolla’s] story and how she’s dealt with PTSD and how the program she did really helped her inner life,” says Garcia, now a suburban reporter and producer for the Houston Chronicle.

His article was published in Upstate Unearthed, a capstone project within Multimedia Projects, a course in the Newhouse School‘s magazine, news and digital journalism program. The course was co-taught by associate professor Adam Peruta and former Newhouse professor Melissa Chessher.

“What’s great about the class is the pairing of Professor Peruta’s skill set— which is very different than my skill set—and giving students creative freedom to tell stories in a multitude of ways, which all journalists have to do, and truly trying to find the best ways to tell those stories,” Chessher says.

The students built Upstate Unearthed from the ground up, creating the website, reporting, researching, editing and even traveling if needed.

“It’s always gratifying when the students are winning awards for these projects because these are really hard projects and stories to pull off in one semester,” Peruta says.

Christopher Hippensteel

Newhouse took not only first, but also second place for this prize. Hippensteel, a senior staff writer for The Daily Orange, won for his article “The PA justice system often fails autistic people. Can these activists and judges bring reform?” published by PublicSource, a nonprofit news organization in Pittsburgh.

He was inspired to write the article after being assigned to cover a series of panels addressing improvements to the Pennsylvania justice system for people with disabilities. Hippensteel wanted to dive deeper, and look “into what the landscape of criminal justice reform efforts are in Allegheny County, and also how the system, as it currently existed, harms people with autism.”

Hippensteel applied for the award over the summer, “not expecting much,” he says. He was shocked when he received the news that he won second place.

“I was definitely surprised,” he says. “Definitely deeply honored. And deeply grateful to the judges at Arizona State University for recognizing me.”

Alumna a welcome addition to the Newhouse LA faculty

Alisann Blood ’02

It is always an honor to have professionals as accomplished as Alisann Blood ’02 join our Newhouse LA faculty, but when it’s a Newhouse alumna, it is truly special.

Blood, along with co-head Toni Wallace, leads global music brand partnerships for United Talent Agency’s world-renowned music roster, working with artists like Bad Bunny and Bebe Rexha. Her accomplishments make her the perfect choice to teach the Music, Technology and Emerging Opportunities course to students studying in our Bandier program.

In a nutshell, we work with our music clients to build a roadmap in the brand space based around the artists’ passions, affinities and big ideas and then work hand-in-hand to partner with brands across all different categories to bring those ideas to life,” Blood said. “We are a team of all female agents, which wasn’t by design, but it brings me so much joy to show up every day to get to work with amazing women on projects we’re passionate about day in and day out.”

I talked with Blood to learn more about her work and passion for teaching.

What is your management style?

I love managing teams. People are at the heart of a team and an organization’s culture. It’s always been important for me to lead by example and with thoughtfulness, empathy and kindness.

Why did you want to teach at Newhouse?

I feel really strongly that I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I had without the connections I made at Newhouse (and have fostered throughout my career), and I loved the idea of being able to open that up to a new generation of students. This opportunity has been fantastically fulfilling in that respect. 

If a student leaves your class retaining only one thing, what do you want that to be?

Don’t be afraid to network up, down and across your peer set. My current assistant, who is also a Newhouse graduate, was in the training program in the mailroom when I started. She always said hello and came in to talk to me about her passion for the brand space. When my desk opened 18 months later, she was the first person I thought of for the role. Don’t be afraid to spend time and ask questions of anyone…. 99% of the time, people will make time to forge connections. 

What inspires you the most in young professionals?

Their passion and ideas. Good ideas don’t come from years of experience, but they usually do come from being passionate, having your finger on the pulse and the ability to be creative. The younger professionals on my team and the students I teach are so dialed into culture. It is awesome to hear about the things that excite them.

Thank you to Alisann for being such a valued member of our Newhouse LA team.

Robin Howard is the director of the Newhouse LA program.

Two industry professionals join Newhouse NYC team, share insights and experience with students

Two industry professionals have joined the Newhouse School as adjunct instructors for the Newhouse NYC program.

Alumnus Kevin Belbey ’13, G’16, L’16, a sports media agent at Creative Artists Agency, is teaching Communications Law. Danielle Noriega, a strategic partner manager at Meta, is teaching the Social Platforms and Processes course.

“Kevin and Danielle have both been huge supporters of Newhouse NYC as guest lecturers and mentors,” says program director Cheryl Brody Franklin. “They both bring so much experience to the classroom, and I know the students will love hearing about what they are working on.”

Kevin Belbey: Seven years at Syracuse and counting

Kevin Belbey

Belbey’s Syracuse University journey began in eighth grade. The New Jersey native attended a sports broadcasting camp with alumnus Ian Eagle ’90 and was immediately hooked.

“He exposed me to Syracuse, to Newhouse, how great of a program it was,” Belbey says. “Throughout high school, it was my dream to go to Syracuse.”

Belbey eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism, a master’s degree in new media management at the Newhouse School and a law degree at the Syracuse University College of Law.

Belbey says his goal is to modernize the class as much as possible through guest speakers, real-world examples and presentations. At work, he often encounters the legal issues that are covered in class, such as navigating social media sponsorships or working with Federal Trade Commission guidelines. He’ll also cover more recent cases, such as Taylor Swift’s album rights battle.

“It’s a very unique class where it’s a legal class, it’s a law class, but it’s for students who aren’t pursuing a career in law,” Belbey says. “Our goal is to build that baseline foundation and acknowledge that’s necessary to enter the professional communications field, but try to make it as interactive as possible, as timely as possible.”

Belbey says students who are entering the industry must understand legal issues like journalists’ rights or how free speech applies to social media. He says he feels the course is more relevant now than ever before.

Belbey is most excited to build connections with students.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing to have students from the different majors in comm law together to be able to bring different perspectives,” he says.

Danielle Noriega: Reaching global audiences from the classroom

Danielle Noriega

Noriega didn’t realize the power of audience engagement and social media until she was able to reach people in Venezuela from her dorm room in New Jersey when she was a student at Rutgers University.

In college, Noriega launched a show that focused on Latinx issues in both the United States and Latin America. After an internship working with emerging social media platforms, she quickly realized the global influence she could have.

“I never thought that people would say, ‘Thank you for bringing light to these issues,’” she says. “I was like, ‘Maybe this is something I want to work into.’”

Noriega went on to land a job at Facebook, now Meta, and has since traveled to newsrooms  around the world, including in Latin America, the Middle East and North America, talking to journalists about how they can grow their audiences.

Noriega launched Facebook for Student Journalists, which took her to different college campuses where she would teach students how to build a social media presence.

“What stands out most to me is [Noriega’s] desire to look back and share what she knows with young people, particularly those most overlooked,” says Simone Oliver, former global editor-in-chief of Refinery29, who previously taught the course and is a mentor to Noriega. “The way students respond to her is remarkable and exciting, and her background in crafting curriculum for social-first journalists around the world is going to translate really well.”

Noriega says she’s consistently impressed with young people in the industry who ask important questions and want to be as informed as possible. Students today are extremely open-minded and vocal, and know what they want to get out of the industry, she says.

“[Students] are the trendsetters,” Noriega says. “Even though I’m the professor, I’m the one who’s learning.”

Noriega says she’s excited to dive into topics like building personal brands, social media strategies, audience engagement and students’ social reach. She’s also looking forward to incorporating her own personal stories into class, and sharing her experiences with students.

But above all, Noriega says she wants to be a resource for students as they enter the industry. As a first-generation Latina college graduate, she’s looking forward to providing students with some of the support that she didn’t necessarily get in school, even if that’s just learning how to fill out a financial aid form or combatting “imposter syndrome” in their first job.

“I’m really excited to share whatever wisdom I have along the way,” she says.

Maggie Hicks is a senior in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.

‘The evolution will always come’

Two Newhouse alumni—friends since their Kimmel Hall days—discuss the streaming era.

During their first year at Syracuse University, as residents of Kimmel Hall, Newhouse alumni Tanya (Hands) Giles ’93 and Rob Owen ’93 bonded over their shared love of television. They have remained friends ever since. Now, she’s chief programming officer of streaming for Paramount, overseeing programming decisions for Paramount+ and Pluto TV. Owen is TV columnist for Tribune-Review and a freelance TV writer for The Seattle Times, Kansas City Star, Richmond Times-Dispatch and Variety.

The two friends met up on Zoom to discuss Giles’ ascendancy as a top programmer in the streaming era.

Tanya Giles

Owen: We both have been fans of TV from a very young age. What’s your earliest memory of nerding out over TV?

Giles: Definitely “Welcome Back, Kotter.” I fell hard for Vinnie Barbarino [played by John Travolta]. That was my first huge fan girl moment. I had posters of Vinnie Barbarino. My lunchbox was the Sweat Hogs. I think I was 4 or 5.

Owen: And am I correct that at some point you met Travolta?

Giles: Three times. He never remembers me, but I don’t take it personally. My reaction is always the same. I always freak out.

Owen: My first TV nerd out moment was with the TV show “V.” I remember taking notes on every episode of “V: The Series” and creating essentially an episode guide before I’d ever heard the term “episode guide.”

Giles: I can totally see you doing that. [At Syracuse] you and I would have long conversations that bored everyone else about plots and character and why you disagreed with a plot and I would say, “No, this is why it was a good thing.”

Owen: If I remember correctly, we were watching “Twin Peaks” together the night they revealed Leland Palmer killed his daughter, Laura.

Giles: Yes! We grabbed each other’s hands and screamed. The only appropriate reaction.

Owen: Television, radio and film is a pretty broad major with a lot of directions you could go. Did you always have working at a network as a career goal?

Giles: I knew that I wanted to be in television. I just had no idea what that meant. I started as a production major. And I think my first shoot was outdoors. And it was at night. And it was Syracuse. So I was freezing for a two-minute video. Production was a lot of hurry up and wait, and outside. And I’m like, no, not for this indoor cat. So then I switched to writing. That’s where you start thinking about story and character development and plots. I never wanted to be a TV writer. I didn’t have a story in me that I wanted to tell. But that was the major where I truly understood all of that.

Owen: So in TRF there was a production track and a writing track?

Giles: Yeah, and there was a management track and I never even considered that. That was for business people.

Owen: And now look at you! After SU you got a master’s in communication at the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania. What was your plan at that point?

Tanya Giles and Rob Owen
Giles and Owen in 2013

Giles: I wanted to be a professor because Bob Thompson was like a hero to me. And I saw how he spent his time thinking about TV and talking about TV and getting young minds excited about that. And I was like, “Oh, that’s a cool job. I’d like to do that.” And then when I was [at Annenberg], I felt like there’s an avenue where I could actually work in TV and maybe I’ll take a minute and explore that before I commit to a Ph.D. And then I never went back to the academic world.

Owen: I loved taking his class, too, but as much as I remember writing papers for him, I clearly remember going to his office hours just to talk TV. I have a distinct memory of talking about “Picket Fences.”

Giles: I remember having conversations about “Hill Street Blues” and his idea was, if you can have an auteur in film, what’s your auteur in TV and how could that be possible? And look at it now: Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, Taylor Sheridan—these TV auteurs who have used this medium in a way that is really just amazing.

Owen: So your first stop working in the TV business was in research at CBS.

Giles: I worked for Dave Poltrak, who’s legendary in the TV research world. That was fascinating because it was really boot camp. He is the best of the best, and you learn how to analyze a show’s impact on the business. The decisions made around Nielsen ratings really fascinated me.

Owen: So then how did you get to Viacom?

Giles: In New York [at CBS], it was only the numbers. And I was really interested in—and again, this is from my Newhouse and Thompson days—why is the show bigger? Why do people like this? And that department was in LA—this sort of talking-to-the-audience, doing the pilot test focus group—and I wasn’t going to LA. So I started looking in cable because the center of cable was in New York. And a place like Viacom, where you have these brands that were hyper-focused on particular audiences: Nickelodeon and kids, MTV and young people. That’s where I knew I wanted to be, and I went to Nickelodeon to work in kids TV [research].

Owen: What was your last job at Viacom before you joined Paramount+?

Giles: I was general manager of the MTV Entertainment Group, which was a variety of channels, essentially most of the adult channels at Viacom: Comedy Central, Paramount Network, TV Land, MTV, etc. It was more of a functional managing: managing the programming team, managing the research team and then sort of being, for lack of a better term, the chief of staff for the culture of the brands.

Owen: Every major media company is structured a little bit differently, so what does it mean to be chief programming officer of streaming for Paramount?

Giles: Paramount has creative studios—Nickelodeon Studios, Paramount Television Studios, the Paramount movie studio, obviously, MTV Studios—and these studios are run by chief content officers. They are charged with creating content across different genres and content lanes for all of our platforms, two of which are Paramount+ and Pluto TV. I think of myself as a spoke, the one who curates and says, “Those will work for Paramount+” and “We would love to have that but it’s not quite right because this is the slate that we have.” It’s orchestrating that. Those creative minds are developing and making and doing and then I’m the spoke in the wheel that’s curating. And then it becomes this ebb and flow of, like, we see that we have this audience, we brought them in with “1883,” how can we develop more content that will keep that audience? So then I start having those more proactive conversations: We need this. Or, there’s this audience we’re just not reaching and yet they’re big streamers, they over-index on streaming, why aren’t we getting them? So it’s using my research chops and creating the slate.

Owen: Are you reading scripts and giving notes? Watching rough cuts from set?

Giles: I do get cuts. And I do get scripts. I try, as “the suit,” to leave the creative expertise to the creatives.  But … you’ve got to step in when you’ve got to step in. You know it when you see it. But the scripts and the cuts are more about, We’ve got to market this, we’ve got to merchandise this, we’ve got to know who this is going to appeal to.

Owen: So how do you balance the mix of programming on Paramount+? How do you balance wholly original properties versus established titles? For example, IP (intellectual property)?

Giles: The advantage of mining IP is it comes with a fandom, right? They’re already excited to see where the story is going to go. When you’re a new streaming service [it’s] helpful because you hope you can get that fandom to come to your service and then grow an audience from there. We have brands that are more than 40 years old that have created some of the most iconic IP there is. And there is actually a viewer expectation that if you are called Paramount, you stand for the IP that’s associated with Paramount, or the brands like MTV and Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. And there’s so much great IP and so many shows and stories that we said goodbye to over the years. There’s a really amazing opportunity to revive those characters and stories. And that, of course, gives you the freedom to do the new.

Owen: And then there’s Pluto TV, a FAST (free, ad-supported TV service) platform.  What’s your role with that? Because most of what’s on FAST platforms is not original content.

Giles: It’s everything I grew up with. I’m kind of a kid in a candy store. It is the programmer’s dream. It’s more than 340 channels. You’re not limited by genre or brand. Our job there is to categorize and curate for viewers’ delight. Make stuff easy to find. Lean into people’s passions. Make it fun. Make it surprising. The three things that people love about Pluto: It’s free, it’s easy and it’s fun.

Owen: How do you keep an eye on what the rest of the industry is doing? I used to take pride in reviewing every scripted show and then around 2014-15, when all the streaming services got into original programming, that became impossible.

Giles: I do watch a lot of TV. I just do. It’s my way to relax, escape, wind down, deal with stress. It’s my go-to. I love TV. I watch with my kids and my husband. It’s not a chore to me.

Owen: So looking ahead, do you anticipate further consolidation? And where do you see the TV/streaming business going?

Giles: I think consolidation is always a possibility. Past experience can predict future and I think there’s going to be a continuous evolving. Viewers can only hold so much in their brains, and I think we will find that there is a “just enough” opportunity. But then, you know, something new might come along. You just have to be prepared for the evolution because the evolution will always come.

Newhouse School alumna makes waves at premier indie podcasting company

Carly Migliori
Carly Migliori

Carly Migliori ’07 knew she wanted to go to Newhouse since she was 15. She got in, majored in magazine and graduated into the Great Recession.

Despite that, Migliori got her dream job at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, but the magazine folded soon after.

Later, she fell in love with podcasting and pivoted to her first audio job at Panoply. Then, the company radically shifted away from podcasting creation to podcast ads.

As with every other challenge or unlucky break that has come her way, Migliori turned it into an opportunity.

“At that point, Jacob Weisberg and Malcolm Gladwell, who I had worked with at Panoply, had already co-founded Pushkin Industries, and I basically emailed Jacob every month for six months asking him if he had a job for me yet because I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” Migliori says. “Shortly after, I came over to Pushkin and I’ve been here for three years. I’ve overseen the production of all the shows and just worn every hat under the sun.”

Migliori has worked all across the media world, doing graphic design, managing traditional print magazines, developing apps and now working at one of the premier indie podcasting companies. While her responsibilities have evolved as the company has expanded, Migliori served as director and then vice president of operations, managing and running every podcast the company made. In March 2022, she became vice president of partnerships. She’s weathered the turbulent world of media and come out so successful by constantly trying to learn more.

“I’m always trying to think about where the industry is heading, learning those skills and throwing my hat in the ring to be a part of the project,” Migliori says. “Even if that meant doing something on top of my normal day-to-day just so when something came up, I could raise my hand and feel confident with my skills.”

While working with advertisers to make branded content is a new challenge, she had already honed the skills needed to manage the creation of podcasts.

“It was eerily similar to what I had been doing in magazine for years,” Migliori says. “You’ve got X amount of of time that you need to fit this content into and X number of ads. You’re making it all work and it’s very similar to putting together a magazine, so in my operational brain, I was like, OK this is very easy to understand.”

Migliori has always been exceptional at the operational aspects of journalism. While she was at Newhouse she was managing editor of Jerk, a student magazine. Professor Melissa Chessher was the faculty adviser for the publication and says Migliori was an “all-star staffer.”

“The entire Jerk staff had a great deal of trust and respect for her, and she could turn and convince people to do things that other peers could not,” Chessher says. “It is a testament to her that they delivered all three issues each semester. She just knew how to get the best out of what was already a talented collection of her peers.”

Chessher says Migliori developed her managerial skills through many semesters of navigating the inner publication politics, on top of making sure that columns, articles, graphics and photos made it to each issue of Jerk. 

“Usually, in the curriculum, we lean into writing or editing—basically creating content—but she was just masterful at managing, which I think is remarkable,” Chessher says. “When she was at Newhouse there were very well-worn paths that are reinforced by the curriculum and by the industry, in who wins prizes. Usually there’s not a prize for managing all that content, so to me she was always driven by a curiosity about where things were headed and what was new.”

Migliori treasures the writing skills that Newhouse gave her and says they have been invaluable in her career. She says her classes also prepared her for what work in the media industry was actually like.

“The classes that we had in the magazine program were a really good model for how work is: We were writing, reporting and editing every single day,” Migliori says. “The way our classes were structured and how we were thrown into learning the skills firsthand really helped me.” 

Beyond preparing her for the work, her professors made sure she understood the way the media industry evolves, Migliori says. She notes that her professors were tough graders and realistic about what it takes to make it in the media world, but she loved it.

“They just made us understand what was possible,” Migliori says. “I think that is the huge differentiator between Newhouse and other communications schools. My professors worked in magazines and they knew what it was like so they could talk to us  about their personal experience and tell us how to best navigate things like getting an internship.”

Migliori was close with her professors and admitted that one of her motivators to do well was that she didn’t want to disappoint them. Chessher says the feeling was mutual and that watching Migliori leverage her talents in new and interesting ways has been a delight.

“She’s kind of classic poster child of the Newhouse curiosity and professional acumen and ascension,” Chessher says. “What I really respect and remember is she was always calm no matter what. She was never dejected or frustrated—she made the most of every opportunity and always had an amazing attitude.”

Outside of her close relationships with her professors, Migliori says her network of peers and friends were essential in finding success, especially in those tenuous five years after graduation. Chessher describes the Newhouse network as a “super premium Linkedin.”

“There’s this ecosystem of alumni that exists because of they all share Newhouse, but there’s also the supercharged turbo alumni group based on all the people who spent a million late night hours working together creating something: a newspaper, a magazine, a website, a movie, a documentary, etc.,” Chessher says. “That is an important piece of her story.”

Chessher says that as an alumna Migliori exemplified the generosity of the Newhouse Network, from arranging speakers during the Glavin Benchmark Trip to New York to speaking with students who reached out to her. Chessher is both incredibly proud of Migliori’s success and excited about what that success says about the future of the media industry.

“It delights me that we are building this amazing network of people devoted to telling stories with audio. I was overjoyed [that she was at Pushkin],” Chessher says. “Her career is a nice road map for people to keep in mind that it’s not always straight upward, sometimes you have to take a side step, and sometimes you may even have to take a back step. But it’s Carly’s attitude, work ethic, curiosity and abilities that carried her and continue to carry her.”

Migliori is excited to tackle the challenges  her new role brings. She wants to turn this into an opportunity to learn more about the business side of journalism and build on the skills she has. She knows it is a new challenge, but like all the other challenges she faced during her career, she is facing it head on.

“I think it is a core part of my DNA. It is like a fighting spirit in a lot of ways and it is always like remembering that I have all the skills. I’ve done all of this groundwork and have the skills that I learned when I was at Newhouse,”Migliori says. “It is all about trusting yourself.”

Elizabeth Kauma is a senior in the magazine program at the Newhouse School.

Three new partnerships benefit Newhouse students from historically underrepresented and marginalized groups

Thanks to the commitment of Newhouse School alumni and partners, three new industry partnerships have been established to benefit students from historically underrepresented and marginalized groups.

“We are committed to increasing the diversity of our student body and, ultimately, of the workforce. These new opportunities don’t just benefit students, they also benefit our partner companies with an influx of young talent and new perspectives on the communications industry of today,” says Newhouse dean Mark J. Lodato.

Diversity Fellow at DKC

Melissa Chessher, Newhouse’s interim associate dean of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, and public relations professor of practice Brad Horn worked with alumnus Dave Donovan ’92 to set up a Diversity Fellowship at New York City-based public relations agency DKC. Donovan is executive director of DKC / DKC Sports.

“Giving back, mentoring and positively impacting future leaders is central to our mission at DKC and quite significant to me personally as a proud Newhouse alum,” Donovan says. “We look forward to collaborating with Syracuse University and its talented faculty and students to maximize this unique fellowship program.”

The annual paid summer fellowship is open to graduate or undergraduate students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. Students spend the summer working at the company’s New York City headquarters, where they experience the agency’s dynamic, cross-sector practice areas and are exposed to external client work that jives with their own areas of interest and career aspirations. Students also create content such as press releases and media resource materials.

“We’re thrilled to further strengthen our relationship with DKC and create this incredible, sustained opportunity,” Chessher says. “We are committed to building out new career pathways and creating these real-world, world-class experiences for our students.”

Michael Ras Tafari Spencer, a graduate student in public relations, is the inaugural fellow.

“I can’t wait to start my diversity fellowship at DKC because I believe the program is setting me up to embark on a career,” Spencer says. “I want to gain experience and develop my professional insight, but most of all, I want to get connected with the people who have fought to open the doors for people like me.”

Diversity in Media Internship at Fairchild Media Group

Facilitated by Tara Donaldson G’12, executive editor of WWD, a new Diversity in Media Internship program at Fairchild Media Group offers three eight-week, paid internships for Newhouse students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

“The opportunity to make space for more people of color in media is really an honor for me—and, even more importantly, voices in media should reflect global diversity, so this just brings us one step closer to where we need to be,” says Donaldson, who is head of diversity, equity and inclusion for Fairchild Media Group. “And to do this all with Newhouse, which provided me with so many of the tools to get me where I am today, just adds to the significance of this moment.”

Students are placed at three Fairchild publications: WWD, Footwear News and Sourcing Journal. The program also offers mentorship opportunities, career development workshops, networking opportunities and a chance to learn the ins-and-outs of covering the full end-to-end fashion industry. At the culmination of the internship, the three students collectively present a program project to leaders across Fairchild Media Group and the greater Penske Media Corp. In doing so, the students are able to demonstrate their understanding of the nuances across fashion and the supply chain and convey their acquired skills to mentors and potential hiring managers.

Elijah Brown, a junior in broadcast and digital journalism, Ayana Herndon, a senior in magazine, and Paola Gonzalez Torres, a graduate student in magazine, news and online journalism, are the inaugural interns.

Carol Cone ON PURPOSE Diversity Fellowship

Kelly Barnett, director of Newhouse’s Career Development Center, worked with Carol Cone, CEO of consultancy Carol Cone ON PURPOSE, to create a virtual paid internship for diverse and underrepresented groups.

“As more students and young professionals seek roles in the field of purpose, we wanted to bring more diverse individuals into this critical career path,” says Carol Cone, the company’s founder and CEO. “For purpose, ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] and sustainability initiatives to be truly authentic and reflective of the world we live in, the professionals developing such strategies must come from diverse backgrounds. We are delighted to partner with Newhouse.”

The summer fellow will work as a junior team member on key accounts for the agency, which serves organizations and brands whose mission is social impact beyond profit. Social impact initiatives for clients may be in the fields of plastics recycling, mentoring for youth, affordable housing, regenerative agriculture or overall purpose positioning. The fellow will also perform issue landscape research, contribute to portions of presentations and research for the company’s podcast, “Purpose 360.”

Ezozhon Ismailova, a graduate student in public diplomacy and global communications, is the inaugural fellow.

Class Notes: April 2022


J. Daniel Pluff ’82 joined WCNY as the host of “On the Money.”


Anthony Calhoun ’96 was inducted to the Clayton Family Circle Wall of Fame.


Amanda Raus ’04 joined WTNH-TV in New Haven as weekend news anchor.

Taj Rani ’09 is a co-host on “Amanda Seales’ Smart Funny & Black Radio” on Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Sirius XM radio channel.


Tommy Farrell G’18 was hired as the head football coach at Manchester Township High School in New Jersey.

Meghan Mistry ’17 joined “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” as producer.


Scarlett Lisjack G’21 joined KOB 4 in Albuquerque as the Farmington bureau reporter.

Amanda Finney G’16

Amanda Finney’s winding path to chief of staff to the White House Press Office and special assistant to Press Secretary Jen Psaki included Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and a stop at the Newhouse School, where she earned her master’s degree in television, radio and film.

White House Press Office team. Photo by Cameron Smith.

“Newhouse allowed me to think even bigger than I was before, and get a tangible understanding of different roles and disciplines in communications to think about what was possible, and what I’d need to get there.”

Amanda Finney, G’16

What is your current position title and employer?

Chief of staff to the White House Press Office and special assistant to Press Secretary Jen Psaki

How did you obtain your current position, and what positions did you hold before it?

I caught the political bug after working as a White House intern one summer in college. When Barack Obama announced his re-election campaign in 2012, I knew I had to be a part of it, and convinced my teachers and administrators at Wake Forest (and my mom!) to allow me to take a sabbatical for the first half of my senior year to work as a field organizer for the campaign in Virginia and, after a hard fought win, a fellow for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

I followed a winding path from there to Teach for America to Syracuse to Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, Microsoft and all the way to Mike Bloomberg’s campaign. After President Biden and Vice President Harris’ historic win I—again—knew I needed to be a part of what they were building, and started making calls to old campaign and work friends to understand what opportunities were out there. After a few conversations with Jen and other members of the press and communications team, I accepted my current role, and the rest is history!

What’s an average day like for you on the job? Take us through it.

Anyone at the White House will tell you, there is no such thing as an “average day”—in fact, it’s always the ones you think will be “average” that we get the most surprises! What I can tell you is that every day starts early—we have a standing call for the press team at 7:30 a.m., then it’s all hands on deck to get Jen ready for her briefing, usually in the afternoon, prepping her on the news of the day and any questions media might ask when she’s at the podium.

After the briefing, we start all over again prepping for the next day and talking to reporters who are on deadlines for their stories, making sure they have the relevant information necessary to communicate the important work the White House is doing to the American people.

How do you feel Newhouse prepared you for your current position? What hard/soft skills did you learn at Newhouse?

Newhouse allowed me to think even bigger than I was before, and get a tangible understanding of different roles and disciplines in communications to think about what was possible, and what I’d need to get there. I remember taking Barbara Jones’ TV Business class where we got to meet TV executives firsthand, gaining an inside look at how they were thinking about the TV lineups on their networks and how ratings and trends translated to their decision-making process – Is it better to have the sitcom on before the drama or vice versa? What audiences will that bring in? What ads make sense to have on commercial breaks? Can we break the fourth wall with our ads?

Newhouse allowed me to see how the sausage gets made, from a lone starting script to set production all the way to a global premiere—and the many people who often don’t even get credit for their hard work bringing a story to life from start to finish. The lighting director is just as important as the lead anchor—and that’s a lesson I’ve taken with me to the White House twofold. I know to look out for the minor details that go into a TV or magazine spot for the press office, but I also know it’s important to treat every member of that team with respect and a smile, because it’s the result of everyone’s contribution that can make a story a true success.

Did Newhouse open your eyes to new professions or aspect of your field you may have not considered when applying?

Two words: Bob Thompson. He truly changed the way I thought about television and pop culture and how my love of each of these shape the world we live in today. Professor Thompson’s three courses, which explore each decade, opened my eyes to how much TV and film impacts society.

Oftentimes people write off television, tossing it aside as irrelevant or less than thought-provoking, but Thompson’s classes and viewing specials taught and proved it was very much the opposite. I distinctly remember him showing us a clip from the 1968 The Petula Clark Show in which she touched Harry Belafonte’s arm during a song—a moment that was not just TV history, that was American history—and is often cited as the first onscreen contact between a man and a woman of different races, exposing a huge audience to this interaction, who might otherwise not even have entertained the thought. Professor Thompson allowed me to think critically about the way TV, marketing, advertising, all visual media representations can directly shape the way we think, feel and speak as a society, and helped me understand the great role I could have as a storyteller, particularly breaking down stereotypes and paving the way towards equality for all.

What unique features of your graduate program drew you to it in the first place?

I went to a liberal arts college which I felt prepared me as a writer and as a thought leader on a range of subjects, but I felt the Newhouse Master’s program would be a great way to further immerse myself in the art and skills of communications.

Growing up in a rather culturally-aware, TV-friendly household, we would sit and watch every awards show every year, dissecting the winners based on our own favorites, and what we thought that meant about society at that moment. Considering the Syracuse program, with the opportunity to sit in classes and learn directly from executives behind major moments from the MTV VMAs awards to the Superbowl was a no-brainer. I knew I’d be able to learn from these experts, the people in the room making moments in cultural history, while putting my own creative juices to the test.

Did the Newhouse Career Development Center aid you? What internships or volunteer opportunities did you do while at Newhouse

If you’re in communications, you know Syracuse, and you know the name, “Newhouse.” I still subscribe to the alumni Job Ops newsletter and am always impressed by what alumni are doing, and the great network available to me. I’ve met alumni all over the country in roles from press to marketing and even at the White House, and when I have been pursuing new opportunities, I know a contact is likely only a quick call or LinkedIn message away.

What are some obstacles or misconceptions about your field that students ought to be aware of?

When you tell people you work at the White House, they immediately picture scenes from West Wing, and assume we’re all in the office 24/7. While the advent of cell phones and laptops have, luckily, allowed us to spend some time out of the office, there’s definitely a truth to the hours and dedication needed that you might have seen on TV. I’m always on, and have my cell phone at the ready on nights and weekends but with all the stress and hard work, come some pretty incredible moments too—I was able to be there when Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson accepted her position on the Supreme Court—and those are the times you remember, that carry you through sleepless nights and less-than-leisurely weekends. I think this is something that binds all Newhouse graduates, pursuing your dreams, whether they be producing a feature film or chasing a huge news story, pays off but it won’t without hard work.

What moments in your career have been most exciting or defining thus far?

There is nothing quite like a political campaign: from the very first adrenaline rush of moving to a new city or state to support a candidate, to meeting other incredible people working towards the same goal, to meeting supporters, and being motivated to do everything you can to win. I’ve been fortunate to live through—and work for—quite a few history-defining campaigns, and be a part of moments that have shaped our generation: from Barack Obama in 2012 to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and now, working in the White House through pandemic. Each taught me, surprised me and inspired me in new ways, and I know will continue to shape my unique path forward.

What advice do you have for current or incoming students? Any classes or professors that you recommend?

My biggest advice to students or anyone starting out their career is to stay open. You may have an idea of what you want to do when you graduate—and that’s great!—but keep your eyes and ears open for possibilities, because what will shape your career might not even be invented yet. It used to be so clear cut – working your way up the ranks at a TV or newspaper, but so few have such linear career paths these days. It’s risky and scary, but there’s a great and exciting opportunity to create your own path, whether it be from TV to movies or even Instagram to the latest streaming platform. Enjoy the journey, make friends and contacts and learn from every opportunity, because you never know who or what will help you to your next big break.

Newhouse alumni help shape the space between social media and journalism

Diana Riojas ’21 wants to make an impact. 

She wants New Yorkers to know why their electricity bill has skyrocketed, and what they can do about it.

She wants to answer people’s questions about local elections and warn them when natural disasters are coming. 

Diana Riojas ’21

When she talks about the work she does at the New York City newspaper The City, she doesn’t talk about scheduling tweets or creating graphics for Instagram. She talks about all the concrete ways her job helps people.

Riojas is one of several Newhouse alumni who are contributing to the expansion of journalism on social media. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center Survey, almost half of Americans get their news from social media. Many journalism outlets are adapting and creating social media strategies to best serve their audience, even as the platforms and technology are constantly shifting.

Before becoming a social media associate for The City, Riojas was an in the second cohort of Instagram’s Local News Fellowship Program during the summer following her junior year. As part of the program, she built an Instagram presence and strategy for  100 Days in Appalachia

In her time there, she says, she saw the power of social media to break down and explain complicated topics to a wide audience. One example is the Instagram Live she put together in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Chris Jones, a reporter for 100 Days in Appalachia who specializes in domestic extremism, was in the building during the raid; Riojas quickly set up Instagram Live so Jones could explain and breakdown the events of the day and answer viewer questions.

“I love that kind of work. [We got to] answer audience questions and really debunk a lot of misinformation about what happened that day,” Riojas says. “That’s when I really got to see the kind of impact social media can have on our readers.”

After she finished working with 100 Days in Appalachia, Riojas knew she wanted to continue working in social media for journalism outlets. After she graduated with a degree in magazine, news and digital journalism (MND), she began interning at The City, where she was eventually hired as a social media associate. She loves how hyperlocal the paper is, and also loves her role in using social media to reach beyond the typical audience. 

“Social media has a real role in broadening a newsroom’s reach. For one thing, not everybody who needs information—especially vital information when it comes to an election or emergency—will go on The City’s website to read the article.” But, she says, they can find the information via Instagram or Twitter.

Building relationships

Carmella Boykin '21
Carmella Boykin ’21

Carmella Boykin ’21 is an associate TikTok producer at The Washington Post. She says that beyond thinking about the best way to convey the news in a clear and entertaining way, she is also thinking about the larger goals of her work at the newspaper.

“I think the benefit of social media is having something that hooks your attention and then you see who’s posting it and go to that platform,” Boykin says. “Being able to convert a lot of TikTok viewers to subscribers is a really big goal we have.” 

Both Boykin and Riojas express a sense of responsibility when representing journalism outlets on social media.

“You can really build a relationship with your readers when they know there’s someone on the other side of that social media account who is reading their comments and taking their questions and relaying that to the reporters or editors,” Riojas says. “[The audience knows] there’s someone in their corner. Essentially, you’re building up a bigger trust with your readers.”

MND professor of practice Jon Glass agrees that having a social media presence helps humanize media outlets and build a deeper relationship with the audience. However, he says social media plays a deeper role in journalism.

“When social media came onto the scene in the past decade, people tried to figure out how to leverage the platform for getting out their message, doing their work, connecting with others, and so it still remains a very useful tool for journalists and journalism overall,” Glass says.

Glass wants to make sure that Newhouse continues to equip students with the tools they need to become successful journalists, and part of that includes teaching students how to extend their content into social media.

“We want all our Newhouse students to graduate as great storytellers in their respective realms, and the fact that [social media is] so accessible and so readily used is a key component to how our students learn and get better at being professional communicators,” he says. 

Both Riojas and Boykin say their time at student media organizations and in the classroom helped them develop the skills to work in social media.

“In my journalism writing classes and my capstone class, social media wasn’t ever an afterthought. When I was writing an article, social media was one of the first things we also talked about,” Riojas says. “I think that’s also the reason why I got the Instagram fellowship, because I was already being trained that to think that way.”

Elizabeth Kauma is a senior in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.