Bios – 2012

Keynote Speaker Robert Thomson, Managing Editor, The Wall Street Journal & Editor-in-Chief, Dow Jones  Mr. Thomson directs the news operations of the Journal,, and Dow Jones Newswires.

Before joining Dow Jones in December 2007, he was Editor-in-Chief of The Times of London. Prior to that, he was editor of the U.S. edition of the Financial Times, where he also served as editor of the Weekend FT and as foreign news editor. As a correspondent for FT in Asia, Mr. Thomson covered the rise and fall of Japan’s bubble economy and the crushing of the democracy movement in Beijing.

Born in Torrumbarry near Echuca in southern Australia, Mr. Thomson’s began his career as a newspaper boy at The Herald in Melbourne and was hired by the Sydney Morning Herald. Mr. Thomson is the author of The Judges: A Portrait of the Australian Judiciary (Allen & Unwin) and co-author of The Chinese Army (Weldon Owen). He is married with two sons.

Dan Adkison got his start as the photo editor of his high school newspaper. Since then, he has been the copy chief of the Village Voice and has copyedited for Condé Nast Portfolio, City Limits and TIME magazine. Dan has a B.S. in journalism from Boston University and is currently the deputy copy chief at TIME.

Michael ArenaMichael Arena, CUNY University Director for Communications and Marketing, is responsible for planning and implementation of the University’s media, public information and marketing efforts. Prior to joining the University, he was an award-winning special writer and investigative reporter in a career that spanned more than 20 years at Newsday and New York Newsday. He was nominated for Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for spot reporting on the downing of TWA Flight 800. He graduated from The City College New York.

Ralph Blumenthal, a Distinguished Lecturer at Baruch College of the City University of New York, was a reporter for The New York Times from 1964 to 2009, and has written four books, and co-written a fifth, based on investigative crime reporting and cultural history. He led the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times team that covered the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. His article on the mistreatment of rape victims, in the September 2010 issue of Marie Claire, won several national magazine awards. In February, 2012, he and a fellow freelancer investigated the likely looting of a prize Khmer statue being auctioned by Sotheby’s, a front-page article in The Times. Before leaving the paper, he had been on the metro staff where he broke the story of the Ground Zero mosque. In 2001, Blumenthal was named a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to research the progressive career and penal reforms of Warden Lewis E. Lawes, “the man who made Sing Sing sing.” The book, Miracle at Sing Sing, was published by St. Martin’s in June, 2004.  He began his career as a reporter/columnist for The Grand Prairie Daily News Texan in 1963. He earned a Guggenheim Fellowship (2001), the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Alumni Award (2001), and the Worth Bingham Prize for distinguished investigative reporting (1994).  He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Deborah, a nutritionist and fellow writer and journalist. They have two daughters, Anna, a graduate of the University of Delaware and rock guitarist of her band, The Recordettes; and Sophie, also a UDel graduate and now a junior planner at the McGarry-Bowen advertising agency.

Brenna Britton is the Deputy Photo Editor of Entertainment for People magazine where she oversees celebrity photography and produces special issues such as the SEXIEST MAN ALIVE and The 100 Most Beautiful issue. She served as Director of Photography at WIRED magazine for four and half years. She has earned numerous National Magazine Awards, Society of Publication Designers Awards, American Photography and Photo District News (PDN) awards. Brenna got her start in the magazine industry when she left ABC’s television photography department to become the Assistant Photo Editor at ESPN The Magazine as part of the original staff that Launched the magazine. Brenna has also had worked in the online and film industry while pursuing her own documentary photography of the human condition and women’s rights in Mexico, Liberia, Uganda, Kenya, and India.

Steve Collins, a veteran daily newspaper reporter with more than 25 years on the job, is board President of Youth Journalism International, a Connecticut-based nonprofit with more than 200 students on six continents. A graduate of the University of Virginia, he has written for daily newspapers in Virginia, New York and Connecticut, winning dozens of reporting awards for his coverage of government and politics. He has also helped students capture hundreds of awards for their work.  He shared the Scholastic Press Forum’s Dean Milton Birnbaum educator award with his wife, Jackie Majerus, with whom he co-founded YJI. Steve won the Syracuse Press Club’s journalist of the year award after risking jail rather than disclose the source of a story that proved a state trooper was drunk during an off-duty crash for which he never faced charges.

Ilsa CowenIlsa Cowen has recently retired after having taught journalism and English at Townsend Harris High School in Queens and serving as advisor of the school’s award-winning newspaper, The Classic, for over 20 years.  Together with student editors, she developed a First Amendment charter for the paper that declares it to be “an open forum for the expression of student views.”  Since the charter was signed by the school’s principal in 2000, the school and the paper have won many national and state First Amendment awards.  In 2002, the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center selected Ms. Cowen as a Newsweek/First Amendment Schools mentor teacher and she frequently conducts First Amendment and other workshops at journalism conferences for New York City high school students. She has served as Vice President and Acting President of the New York City Scholastic Press Association, remains a member of NYCSPA’s Executive Board, and is an active participant in the High School Journalism Collaborative at Baruch College.

Robert GreenmanRobert Greenman is the author of  Words That Make a Difference (2000, Levenger) and, with his wife, Carol, More Words That Make a Difference (2007, Levenger, and now an e-book), vocabulary enrichment books based on words and passages from The New York Times and the Atlantic Monthly. Bob taught high school and college English and journalism in Brooklyn, at James Madison and Edward R. Murrow High Schools, and at Kingsborough Community College. He is a newspaper-in-education consultant for The New York Times, writes for the language Web site Visual Thesaurus and presents talks and workshops nationwide to high school journalism students and newspaper advisers.

Photo credit: Alex Johnson, WNYC

Rafer Guzman is the film critic for Newsday and a former rock critic for the paper. He is also a regular guest film critic on “The Takeaway,” a nationally-syndicated news show from WNYC. He was previously a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal. His work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, Blender, The San Francisco Bay Guardian and the late, great Option magazine. Recently, Rafer won first place for arts writing from the New York State AP Association for his look at the effects of Sept. 11th on the movies. You can follow him at @RaferGuzman.

Theodore Hamm is the founding editor of The Brooklyn Rail and director of the Journalism and New Media Studies Program at Saint Joseph’s College in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. His books include The New Blue Media and Pieces of a Decade (co-edited with Williams Cole). Hamm is a member of the Brooklyn Literary Council, which organizes the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Shayla Harris is an award-winning videojournalist with The New York Times where she reports, produces, shoots and edits local, national and international stories. While at the Times, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Digital National Magazine Award for a video oneducation in Russia, a George Foster Peabody Award for a video on the troubling rise of criminal behavior among veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and an Overseas Press Club award for a video on human rights abuses in Ethiopia. From 2000 to 2005, Harris worked on a number of award-winning documentaries for Dateline NBC, including as the producer/director of “The Education of Ms. Groves,” which won both an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and a Peabody Award. She was a field producer on specials with Tom Brokaw on the rising cost of healthcare and the Lost Boys of Sudan. She was also an associate producer on “Pattern of Suspicion,” a duPont-Columbia award-winning investigation of racial profiling in Cincinnati and “Children of War,” an Emmy Award winning story on Ugandan child soldiers. In 2003, she was awarded an International Reporting Project fellowship that supported the production of a short documentary on race and immigration in Sweden. Harris is a graduate of Williams College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Jere Hester Jere Hester is the founding director of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s award-winning NYCity News Service, a multimedia, Web-based wire service that makes student stories about New York neighborhoods available to news organizations around the world. Hester was previously City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Hester received his BA in journalism and politics from New York University in 1988. A lifelong Brooklyn resident, he began his journalism career as an intern at the Downtown Express, a lower Manhattan weekly, eventually rising to editor. He currently writes a national weekday column on popular culture for NBC Local Integrated Media, which has websites covering 10 major media markets.

Jane Hwang is the U.S. Photo Editor for, the EPpy 2011 winner Best Business/Finance Website with 1 million unique monthly visitors. She was the Senior Photo Editor at, an EPpy finalist in the Best News Web Site with over 1 million unique monthly visitors category and the Best Network TV/Cable-Affiliated Web Site. As the Projects Photo Editor at Newsday, she’s in charge of advising/coaching/editing/laying out/preparing for web, stories from Beirut, Haiti, Sudan, and Nepal Maoists, which awarded the Asia Society’s Osborn Elliott prize. She’s been a contributing photo editor for The New York Times and Newsweek magazine, as well as a staff photojournalist for the AP and various newspapers across the country. She has an MA in Journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism.

Lonnie IsabelLonnie Isabel is the former deputy managing editor of Newsday, and was responsible for supervising the national, foreign, state, Washington, health and science staffs. During his 16-year career at the newspaper, Isabel also served as assistant managing editor, overseeing coverage of the September 11th aftermath and the Iraq War, and as national editor, covering the 2000 presidential campaign and the Oklahoma City bombing. Earlier in his career, Isabel worked as a reporter and assistant city editor at the Oakland Tribune, and as a political reporter at the Boston Globe. He was appointed a Poynter Ethics Fellow in 2006. He has taught news writing at Hofstra and San Francisco State universities. He received a B.A. in African Studies from Amherst College.

Erik Jacobson is an Associate Professor in the Early Childhood, Elementary and Literacy Education Department at Montclair State University in New Jersey.  His lifelong interest in language and literacy has led him take on a variety of projects.  He has taught English in Japan, worked with adult English language and literacy students in the US, and conducted research on the uses of developing technology for literacy instruction (the subject of his recent book, Adult Basic Education in the Age of New Literacies).  For the last six years he has also been the Program Coordinator for Write on Sports, a summer camp and afterschool program that introduces middle-school children to the basics of sports journalism.  Students in the program interview athletes and working journalists and produce sports-related print and video stories.

 Sandeep Junnarkar is an Associate Professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the former New York bureau chief of CNET, and has specialized in writing about technologies used in different industries. In April 2003, his three-part report on the security risks of online banking was named “Best in Business Projects among Real-Time Publications” by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Junnarkar helped to create online editions of The New York Times, working as breaking news editor, writer, and web producer when the paper went live on the Internet as The New York Times on the Web. Junnarkar is founder and editorial director of, a multimedia web site that features stories on underreported issues. The site received a New Voices grant for 2008-2010 from J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He received a B.A. in Social Science from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Michael Lydon, known to millions as “The Handsomest Man in the World” is a writer and musician who lives in New York City. A founding editor of Rolling Stone and author of Rock Folk, Boogie Lightning, Ray Charles: Man and Music, Writing and Life, Lydon has written for many periodicals as well, the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Village Voice and others. He is also a songwriter and playwright and, with Ellen Mandel, has composed an opera, Passion in Pigskin. A Yale graduate, Lydon is a member of ASCAP, AFofM local 802, and on the faculty of St. John’s University.

Jackie Majerus, executive director and co-founder of Youth Journalism International, began working with teen writers, photographers and artists in 1994. As a writing coach, editor and mentor, she brings more than two decades of award-winning daily newspaper work.  She was a fellow at the Knight Center for Specialized Reporting and participated in the 2008 Pew Center on the States electionline Forum. She’s written for daily newspapers in Illinois, New York and Connecticut, and for The National Law Journal.
With her husband and YJI co-founder Steve Collins, she won the 2006 Dean Milton Birnbaum Award for excellence in journalism education. Together the couple led their student journalists to scores of prizes, including first-place awards from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists; the Scholastic Press Forum; recognition from the Suburban Newspapers Association for Best Young People’s Coverage, National Gold Keys from the Quill and Scroll Society and the 1997 Distinguished Service Award from the Connecticut Committee for Youth Suicide Prevention.
Her individual recognition includes numerous first-place awards from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists, the New York State Bar Association, the New York Newspaper Publisher’s Association, the New York State Associated Press and the Syracuse Press Club. She is featured in the 2010 Emmy-winning documentary, “On Deadline: Is Time Running Out for the Press?”
A native of Wisconsin with a journalism degree from The University of Iowa, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenage son and daughter and two big, hairy and loud collie dogs.

Marianne McCune is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio (WNYC 93.9FM/AM820) and contributes regularly to National Public Radio and Public Radio International. She thinks of the New York Metropolitan Area as the center of the world because that’s how she covers it: more than a third of New York residents were born in another country and Marianne reports on the resulting cultural, economic, and political links between New York/New Jersey and almost everywhere else on earth. Marianne has won local and national awards for her reporting, including the Daniel Schorr Journalism Award for her series “Going Home in Handcuffs” following the journey of a group of Pakistanis as they were deported from the United States. Her reporting has also taken her to Haiti, Mexico, Burundi, and Ethiopia. She speaks Spanish and French. Marianne is also the founder of Radio Rookies, an award-winning series of stories written, reported, and produced by New York teenagers. Radio Rookies has won a Peabody award and been honored for “outstanding reporting on the problems of the disadvantaged” by the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Domestic Radio.

Joshua Mills worked as an editor and writer at The New York Times for a decade and as a reporter or editor at The Associated Press; The New York Post, the New York Daily News, Newsday, Bloomberg News and The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.). He has written on a wide variety of subjects for magazines ranging from Playboy to Boys’ Life. He continues to do occasional editing for The Times, as well as on book projects. Professor Mills has long been involved in training journalists. He served as chair of the training committee of Society of American Business Editors and Writers, as well as a board member. He also was on the Board of Academic Advisers of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and has led Reynolds workshops in cities around the country. Co-author (with Peter Fornatale) of Radio in the Television Age, Mills has written frequently about broadcast ownership and regulation. He has also worked as a writer and editor for several radio and television documentaries. Before joining the Baruch faculty, Professor Mills taught at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, N.Y.U. and Pace University. He earned a B.A. and an M.A. at City College of New York.

Katina Paron Katina Paron is a journalism educator with 18 years of youth media experience. She is the director of the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative at Baruch College, where she is also an adjunct lecturer. She was the founding newspaper adviser for Achievement First Crown Heights High School and the Business of Sports School and an instructor with the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, part of the Bronx News Network. As the co-founder and former managing director of the youth news agency, Children’s PressLine, she has worked with thousands of students to develop professional quality media that has been published in the Daily News, Newsday, Metro, Ebony, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and, among other places. She has written for The New York Times, Voices of New York and the Youth Media Reporter. Her work has been recognized by NY1 as “New Yorker of the Week” and by WCBS-TV as a “Hometown Hero.” Ms. Paron received her B.S. in journalism from Boston University.

Tatsha Robertson is a Senior Editor at PEOPLE magazine, handling crime and other human interest stories. Prior to joining PEOPLE in March 2010, she served for four years as deputy editor and news editor at Essence, as well as interim managing editor at  While there, she shepherded political coverage by helping to create the magazine’s first White House correspondent position and interviewing the President, along with working on major features and investigative stories including a piece on missing children that won the Luce Award for Public Service (2008).  Ms. Robertson has won numerous NABJ and NYABJ awards since 2006. Prior, Tatsha headed the Boston Globe’s NYC bureau and was also a national rover for the paper, traveling to all but four states in search of news feature stories.  During her eight years at the newspaper, she covered a wide range of major events such as the Winter Olympics, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and its aftermath, and the migration of Hurricane Katrina victims to Houston. Born in Boston and raised in Greenville, SC., Ms. Robertson has Written for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Post Tribune (Gary, Ind.), and the Greenville Piedmont in South Carolina.  A lifelong fan of New York City, she lives just across the Hudson River with her husband, Nico, in Weehawken, NJ.

Geanne RosenbergGeanne Rosenberg is the director of the Harnisch Collaborative Future of Journalism Projects and a professor at Baruch College and CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism.  In addition, she is a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Her areas of expertise include: 1. Media law and empowering those engaged in public interest journalism with media law education and resources; 2. News literacy and information quality education to help teenagers and adults become more discerning consumers of and contributors to news information. A journalist and attorney, Geanne is the principal investigator of McCormick Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, and David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation-funded journalism projects relating to media law, journalism education, citizen journalism and news literacy. She was founding chair of Baruch’s Department of Journalism and the Writing Professions. Geanne has written for the New York Times, the National Law Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Nieman Journalism Lab and many other news outlets. She has worked on a pro bono basis at the Associated Press on state and federal freedom of information appeals. In 2010, she organized and directed the first-ever news literacy summit for high school students and a national workshop for news and media literacy experts. She authored and produced Knight Citizen News Network’s Top Ten Rules for Limiting Legal Risk and the Citizen Journalist’s Guide to Open Government and co-authored two Poynter Institute News University media law modules, including Online Media Law: The Basics for Bloggers and Other Online Publishers and Newsgathering Law & Liability: A Guide for Reporters. Geanne has a J.D. from Columbia University’s School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar; an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism; and a B.A. in English from Bryn Mawr College. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Student Press Law Center, a national organization devoted to supporting high school and college journalism with legal resources and education. In addition to being a faculty associate at the Berkman Center, she also serves as a Berkman Center Youth and Media Lab Mentor.

Rob Schimenz Rob Schimenz earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and minored in economics, earned a masters in public administration (MPA) and an MS in secondary education.  He worked in private industry 11 years before becoming a teacher at Queens Vocational & Technical HS, where he currently works.  Rob has been teaching social studies for 15 years.  For 12 years, he has been the advisor to the Vocational Voice school newspaper, which has frequently won first place in the American Scholastic Press Association’s annual school newspaper review.   For 14 years, Rob has coached the Tigers varsity baseball team, which has made the playoffs for 9 of those years.  In 2007 his team won the NYC B Division Championship.  Rob is on the board of the New York City Scholastic Press Association (NYCSPA).  In addition to those activities, he is a dean at Queens Voc and chairman of the school’s School Leadership Team.  Rob works with John Stossel on his Stossel in the Classroom foundation and writes teacher guides for his classroom videos; he also works with the Free to Choose Network on teacher guides for their classroom videos.   In 2009, Rob was named an Teacher of the Year.

Leslie Seifert has been an opinion-page editor for more than 25 years and won two national awards for opinion editing. He was Sunday Opinion Editor of Newsday, commissioning and editing essays from writers around the world, and  wrote columns and editorials as a member of Newsday’s Editorial Board. Now he edits blogs and opinion articles for Advertising Age and In the mid-1980s, he was arts and media reporter for the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, a member of the team that launched the award-winning hour-long nightly newscast on PBS. He is also a passionate and  experienced educator, having taught as an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for 15 years and founded Journalists in Schools, a non-profit organization that is creating the first student-driven news network to serve public high schools in New York City. He also offers private coaching for students writing their college-application essays.  He has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and a master’s degree in American history from Columbia University.

Indrani SenIndrani Sen is a journalism teacher, news blog editor and freelance writer. She teaches at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She also edits the Local, a New York Times news blog about the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill that is run in collaboration with CUNY’s journalism school. As a freelancer, Sen has written for The New York Times dining section, Saveur magazine, the Village Voice, The Christian Science Monitor, and, among other publications. Sen was a staff reporter at Newsday from 2001 to 2005, where she covered politics and wrote crime, breaking news, and feature stories. She was also the special writer of “American Lives” – a Newsday-published book and newspaper series, where she profiled more than 100 people that were killed on Sept. 11, 2001. For two years, she was a writer-in-residence and journalism teacher at Bronx Academy of Letters, a New York City public high school, where she edited and published the school newspaper. She holds a B.A. in English literature and language from Oxford University and an M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Linda Shockley is deputy director of the Dow Jones News Fund, Inc., in Princeton, N.J., a nonprofit foundation at Dow Jones & Co., which promotes careers in journalism through internships, scholarships and summer workshops. She oversees production of career literature, news releases and print and online publications. Mrs. Shockley coordinates the National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year competition. She is also an instructor in the Journalism Education Association’s Outreach Academy, which seeks to support and equip media advisers in under-resourced schools. She earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Bridgeport in 1976. Before joining the Newspaper Fund in 1988, she was an education reporter, news editor, bureau chief, columnist and city editor for Gannett Suburban Newspapers (now The Journal News) in Westchester County, New York.

Joshua Sipkin teaches English Language Arts, Journalism and Media Literacy at Information Technology High School in Queens where he has also served as the school newspaper adviser and is currently the varsity baseball coach. Prior to entering the teaching field in Fall 2004, Joshua worked in sports media from the time he was an intern during his senior year of high school. On his path to the classroom, he has had stints writing, producing and editing content at ABC Sports, Fox Sports, the NBA and Major League Baseball.

John SmockJohn Smock is a visual journalist based in New York City. He is a visiting professor teaching photojournalism and interactive journalism the CUNY Graduates School of Journalism. Smock has worked for the Associated Press and SIPA Press, a photo agency with offices in New York and in Paris. His work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Paris Match and Der Siegel. His educational experience also includes work as a journalism trainer in several former Soviet Republics, Cambodia and most recently Afghanistan. In 2005 he was awarded a Knight International Press Fellowship to the Middle East, where he assisted regional publication in developing the visual components of their publications. Prior to becoming a photographer, smock worked as a reporter, an editor and as a consultant for New York Today, the predecessor for The New York Times Online. He received his M.S. degree in journalism from Columbia University.

2 Responses to Bios – 2012

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