Announcing the 2024-2025 Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows

Wallace House Center for Journalists and the University of Michigan are pleased to announce the Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows for the 2024-2025 academic year. This cohort of 18 accomplished journalists from nine countries and a broad cross-section of the U.S. marks the 51st class of Fellows in our program’s history.

The Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows will pursue ambitious journalism projects, immerse themselves in university courses and participate in weekly seminars with journalism leaders, renowned scholars, media innovators and social change agents.

“We’re honored to introduce the newest cohort of Knight-Wallace Fellows, whose expertise spans a diverse array of critical topics,” said Lynette Clemetson, Director of Wallace House. “Their projects will delve into pressing issues such as protecting vulnerable sources, navigating the implications of technological advancements and supporting reporters in hostile environments. Through their collaborative, cross-disciplinary efforts, they’re poised to make a profound impact not only within journalism but also in the communities they serve.”

In addition to the academic and intellectual resources provided, Fellows will receive $90,000 in stipend and relocation support over nine months, an increase to help the journalists in our program weather industry instability and rising housing prices. Fellows will reside in the Ann Arbor area and enjoy most seminars at Wallace House, a gift from the late newsman Mike Wallace and his wife Mary, and the program’s home base.

Wallace House’s Knight-Wallace Fellowship program is funded through endowment gifts from foundations, news organizations, individuals and ongoing contributions from funders committed to journalism’s role in fostering an informed and engaged public.

The 2024-2025 Knight-Wallace Fellows and Their Journalism Projects:

Dieu-Nalio Chery is a freelance photojournalist from Haiti. He has documented the profound beauty, searing pain and upheaval in his homeland for The Associated Press, and many of his images have become iconic records of Haiti in the 21st century. His work will illuminate the larger story of the Haitian diaspora and combat common stereotypes.

Baktygul Chynybaeva is a journalist from Kyrgyzstan who has covered healthcare, environmental and human rights issues. She will explore avenues for achieving media independence in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan despite the countries’ economic and media dependencies on Russia.

Denise Guerra is an audio journalist and co-founder of popular news podcasts who focuses on breaking news and narrative storytelling. She will examine how short-form videos affect news consumption and how both news consumers and news creators can best utilize this evolving medium.

Cassie Haynes, J.D., M.P.H., the co-founder of the nonprofit journalism organization, Resolve Philly, is a journalism strategist with executive experience in government, corporate and nonprofit sectors. She will research mechanisms that enable newsrooms to quantify and predict the impact of their reporting on the evolution of social narratives.

Fatemeh Jamalpour is an Iranian journalist who has been interrogated, arrested and jailed by the Iranian government because of her human rights-focused reporting. Her study project will examine Iranian society’s move towards secularization.

Kwanseok Jang is a political reporter with the Seoul-based daily newspaper Dong-A Ilbo. He has 15 years of experience in journalism, including three years covering presidential and administrative policy-making processes. He will explore tensions between the public’s right to information, individual privacy rights and political partisanship, with a focus on the U.S. presidential elections.

Ally Jarmanning is a senior reporter at WBUR in Boston, where she focuses on accountability stories using data and public records. Based on her work with victims of police brutality and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, Jarmanning will create a guide for working with vulnerable sources.

Kunāl Majumder serves as the India Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, where he documents and researches press freedom issues and advocates for journalists’ safety. He will engage with diverse experts in public policy, democracy and media studies, exploring ways to advance protections for journalists.

Zahra Nader is the founding editor-in-chief of Zan Times, a non-profit news outlet that covers women, gender-based issues and human rights in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. She will study business models and management strategies tailored to the needs of entrepreneurial journalists in exile.

Katie O’Brien is a two-time Emmy Award-winning producer at ABC News. She has reported from more than 30 U.S. states and covered dynamic and pivotal stories. She will explore multiple facets of juror biases, including studying juror selection processes and cutting-edge strategies for detecting juror biases through Artificial Intelligence algorithms.

Sarah Rahal is the lead city reporter for The Detroit News, where she covers developments within Detroit City Hall and spotlights important local issues. She will research the challenges and successes that municipalities face as they support refugees and asylum seekers as well as the impact of growing refugee communities on local politics, economics and culture.

Nada Rashwan reports on the Middle East and North Africa with a focus on politics and society in Egypt. She will investigate strategies for engaging youth and producing nuanced journalism under repressive governments, particularly in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East that actively censor the media.

Holger Roonemaa manages the investigative and fact-checking team at the daily news site Delfi Estonia. He is also an editor with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). He will develop an investigative journalism hub designed to bridge resource gaps, make use of high-tech investigative methods and bolster data-driven regional partnerships.

Davy Rothbart is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, journalist, bestselling author, creator of Found Magazine and a frequent contributor to public radio’s “This American Life.” He will explore the challenges facing wrongfully convicted inmates who lack DNA evidence and examine cases where innocence has still been established despite the obstacles.

Laura Santhanam is a health reporter and coordinating producer for polling at “PBS NewsHour.” She will study what both health professionals and journalists learned about public health messaging from the COVID pandemic and how to more effectively combat misinformation and build trust going forward.

Summer Sewell is an independent journalist who most recently worked as a contributing editor for special packages at Mother Jones. Through narrative storytelling, Sewell will trace the trajectories of two families, one black and one white, who have farmed over generations– recounting the families’ setbacks and triumphs and directly comparing their lost and gained generational wealth.

Joseph Sywenkyj is an American photographer of Ukrainian descent who has lived and worked in Ukraine for approximately 20 years. He will study how the psychology and sociology of war trauma change the identity of individual Ukrainians as well as the shared identity of the nation.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a correspondent on NPR’s Culture desk and also contributes as a classical music critic to The New York Times, the first journalist to hold such a dual role. As a joint fellow with the University of Michigan Arts Initiative, Tsioulcas will research the effectiveness of recent diversity efforts, with a focus on Detroit and the surrounding region.

Read more about the 2024-2025 Knight-Wallace Fellows and their journalism projects »


About Wallace House Center for Journalists

Committed to fostering excellence in journalism, Wallace House at the University of Michigan is home to the Knight-Wallace Fellowships, the Livingston Awards and the Wallace House Presents event series, programs that recognize exceptional journalists for their work, leadership and potential.
wallacehouse.umich.edu

A Lifeline for Journalists at Risk

 

Roberson Alphonse, an investigative reporter from Haiti, survived an assassination attempt in October 2022, fleeing to Miami before finding refuge as a 2024 Knight-Wallace Fellow in Ann Arbor, where he could continue his work.

Stand with Us on World Press Freedom Day

For five decades, Wallace House Center for Journalists at the University of Michigan has been a steadfast advocate for press freedom, providing vital support for journalists at risk. Today, as we commemorate World Press Freedom Day, we urge you to join us in standing resolute in support of journalists under siege across the globe.

 

Through the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists, we provide an academic year of support, serving as a life-saving bridge for journalists confronting crises in their home countries. From Kashmir to Mexico, Haiti to Russia, and Afghanistan to Iran, our Fellows’ stories underscore the sacrifices journalists make and the critical need for organizations like Wallace House to safeguard their pursuit of truth.

Roberson Alphonse, an investigative reporter from Haiti, is just one of many journalists targeted for his reporting in recent years and one of many helped by Wallace House. Since 2022, at least six journalists in Haiti have been murdered in retaliation for their work, making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. Alphonse narrowly survived an assassination attempt in October 2022, fleeing to Miami before finding refuge as a 2024 Knight-Wallace Fellow in Ann Arbor. With the financial, structural and emotional support offered through the fellowship, Alphonse has been able to continue his vital work, writing and hosting a radio show while researching methods to safeguard journalists working in hostile environments. 

Watch Alphonse discuss his journey in the video above.

Yet, the challenges facing journalists persist. With conflicts raging in Gaza and Ukraine and autocracies tightening their grip around the world, the statistics are sobering: The Committee to Protect Journalists documented 320 journalists imprisoned around the world near the end of 2023, with nearly 20% of them serving sentences of 10 years or more in retaliation for their coverage. Ongoing wars indicate an alarming rate of death, injury and imprisonment of journalists in 2024. 

Your support can make a tangible difference in the lives of journalists like Alphonse and countless others who risk everything to inform and empower their communities. Your generosity helps us provide emergency assistance, advocate for press freedom and enable journalists to tell the truth without fear.

Join us in supporting journalists on World Press Freedom Day and beyond. Together, we can make a difference and ensure that voices of truth are not silenced. Donate now.

Thank you for standing with us.


To learn more about how to make a major gift in support of these efforts, please contact Jayson Rose, senior development officer, at rosejay@umich.edu

Announcing the 2024 Livingston Awards Finalists

Wallace House Center for Journalists and the University of Michigan announced today the 2024 Livingston Awards finalists in local, national, and international reporting. The awards support young journalists and honor the best reporting and storytelling by journalists under the age of 35 across all forms of journalism. The finalist selections were chosen from more than 400 entries for work released in 2023.

This year’s winners will be announced on June 11, 2024, at an in-person awards ceremony hosted by Ken Auletta, media writer for The New Yorker and author.

“In a particularly difficult period of journalism downsizing, it’s an honor to recognize the ambitious work of young reporters,” said Lynette Clemetson, director of the awards and the Wallace House Center for Journalists. “This year’s finalists share a commitment to truth, accountability, nuance and empathy at a moment in which these qualities can often feel in short supply.” 

Celebrating its 43rd year, the awards bolster the work of young reporters, create the next generation of journalism leaders and mentors, and advance civic engagement around powerful storytelling. The sponsors include the University of Michigan, the Knight Foundation, the Indian Trail Charitable Foundation, the Mollie Parnis Livingston Foundation, Christiane Amanpour, Dr. Gil Omenn and Martha Darling, the Judy and Fred Wilpon Foundation and The Joyce Foundation.

The Livingston Awards regional judges read all qualifying entries to select the finalists in local, national and international reporting. The regional judging panel includes Molly Ball, senior political correspondent, The Wall Street Journal; Meghna Chakrabarti, host and editor, “On Point” WBUR; Stella Chávez, immigration and demographics reporter, KERA Public Radio (Dallas); Adam Ganucheau, editor in chief, Mississippi Today; David Greene, co-founder, Fearless Media and Host, “Left, Right & Center,” KCRW (Los Angeles); Stephen Henderson, executive editor, BridgeDetroit and host, WDET, public radio Detroit and Detroit Public Television; and Amna Nawaz, co-anchor, PBS “NewsHour.”

The Livingston Awards national judges review all finalist entries and select the winners. The national judges are Raney Aronson-Rath, executive producer, “FRONTLINE”; Sally Buzbee, executive editor, The Washington Post; Sewell Chan, editor in chief, The Texas Tribune; Audie Cornish, anchor and correspondent, CNN; Matt Murray, former editor in chief, The Wall Street Journal; Lydia Polgreen, opinion columnist, The New York Times; María Elena Salinas, contributor, ABC News; Bret Stephens, opinion columnist, The New York Times; and Kara Swisher, podcast host, New York Magazine.

We present the 2024 Livingston Awards finalists and invite you to review their work here.

Local Reporting

  • Clare Amari, Houston Landing
  • Antonia Cereijido and Meg Cramer, LAist Studios
  • Rebecca Ellis, Los Angeles Times
  • Shayla Escudero, Albany Democrat-Herald
  • Andrea Gallo, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate
  • Michael Korsh and Neena Hagen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Jake Bittle and Anita Hofschneider, Grist
  • Samantha Hogan, The Maine Monitor
  • Daniel Huang, New York Magazine
  • Stephanie Kuzydym, The Courier-Journal
  • Chris Marquette, CQ Roll Call 
  • Mariam Elba and Paige Pfleger, WPLN Nashville Public Radio and ProPublica
  • Nell Salzman, Chicago Tribune
  • Ivy Scott, The Boston Globe
  • Brenna Smith, The Baltimore Banner 
  • Salina Arredondo, Jana Cholakovska, David Leffler and Savanna Strott, Public Health Watch
  • Agnel Philip, Mollie Simon and Isabelle Taft, Mississippi Today and ProPublica
  • Makenzie Huber and Annie Todd, South Dakota Searchlight and Sioux Falls Argus Leader

 National Reporting

  • Akbar Shahid Ahmed, HuffPost
  • Ethan Bauer, Deseret Magazine
  • Hannah Beckler, Business Insider
  • Matt Drange, Business Insider
  • Brittany Gibson, Politico
  • Allison Behringer and Lila Hassan, KCRW Public Radio (Southern California)
  • Astead W. Herndon, The New York Times
  • Vivian Ho, The Guardian US
  • Kenny Jacoby, USA Today
  • Ava Kofman, The New Yorker co-published with ProPublica
  • Julia Lurie, Mother Jones
  • Kirsten Berg, Alex Mierjeski and Brett Murphy, ProPublica
  • Aneri Pattani, KFF Health News
  • Brianna Sacks, The Washington Post
  • Lauren Caruba and Ari Sen, The Dallas Morning News in partnership with the San Antonio Express-News
  • Richard Sima, The Washington Post
  • Talmon Joseph Smith, The New York Times
  • Margo Snipe, Capital B

 International Reporting

  • Lynzy Billing, Inside Climate News and New Lines Magazine
  • Nick Bowlin, The Drift
  • Ali Breland, The New Republic
  • Renata Brito, The Associated Press
  • Shirsho Dasgupta, Miami Herald
  • Rachel Fobar, The Guardian US in partnership with The Fuller Project
  • Julia Love, Bloomberg Businessweek
  • Pete McKenzie, The New York Times
  • Kunle Adebajo and Mansir Muhammed, New Lines Magazine and HumAngle
  • Zahra Nader, The Fuller Project and The Guardian US in collaboration with Zan Times
  • Nicolas Niarchos, The Nation
  • Anastacia Galouchka and Siobhan O’Grady, The Washington Post
  • Andrei Popoviciu, In These Times
  • Cape Diamond and Rebecca Tan, The Washington Post
  • Chris Walker, 5280 Magazine
  • Jessie Williams, TIME Magazine in partnership with The Fuller Project 

More on the finalists’ work and links to watch, listen and read here.

University of Michigan Arts Initiative and Wallace House Announce Inaugural Arts Journalism Fellow

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan Arts Initiative and the Wallace House Center for Journalists are pleased to announce Anastasia Tsioulcas, Culture Correspondent for NPR, as the inaugural Knight-Wallace Arts Journalism Fellow.

This fellowship marks the latest collaborative effort from the Arts Initiative to expand access to the arts on campus and strengthen the arts ecosystem nationally and across southeast Michigan. As a Knight-Wallace Arts Journalism Fellow, Tsioulcas will actively engage in the Arts Initiative, collaborating with artists-in-residents and arts organizations to enhance learning, arts research and the campus experience for students.

Drawing from her extensive journalism background, Tsioulcas will lead a series of student workshops for budding arts journalists. Modeled after sessions she led at Stanford University, the workshops will help students develop their skills in arts journalism and explore their creative potential. Additionally, Tsioulcas will mentor students in crafting compelling short-form journalism for social media and other digital platforms.

“The broad, enthusiastic response to this new partnership between U-M’s Wallace House and the Arts Initiative has demonstrated the vital importance of supporting arts journalism in this moment,” said Mark Clague, Interim Executive Director of the Arts Initiative. “Welcoming Anastasia as our first fellow opens up a host of opportunities to connect our campus to the community and to inspire our students to engage in arts criticism that addresses urgent cultural issues and social themes.”

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a correspondent on NPR’s Culture desk and classical music critic at The New York Times, the first journalist to hold such a dual role. Her reporting focuses on music at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity. Previously at NPR Music, she curated episodes of the Tiny Desk concert series, hosted live events, and created video shorts. Tsioulcas has reported globally from Africa, Asia and Europe. Prior to NPR, she was a reporter and critic for such publications as Gramophone and Billboard. A trained classical musician, she holds a B.A. in comparative religion from Barnard College, Columbia University.

As a Knight-Wallace Arts Journalism Fellow, Tsioulcas will delve into Detroit’s classical music scene, researching the effectiveness and outcomes of efforts to diversify both performers and audiences. Since 2020, nationwide, classical music institutions and presenters have reshaped their offerings to appeal to more diverse audiences. Drawing inspiration from the university’s own innovative programming, Tsioulcas will track initiatives and performances in Detroit and the surrounding region and examine how well these programs tackle systemic challenges and opportunities for growth.

“I’m thrilled and honored to have been selected for this fellowship,” Tsioulcas said. “It’s a unique opportunity to look holistically at the evolution of classical music programming, and to share what I learn with students, NPR’s audiences, and the broader public.”

Tsioulcas will be a member of the 51st Knight-Wallace Fellowship class and participate in bi-weekly Wallace House seminars, cohort-based workshops and training, and international travel to bring context to the economic and social forces shaping news coverage.

“This partnership with the Arts Initiative comes at a critical time when staff positions for arts reporters have all but disappeared in American journalism. We’re making an intentional statement about the importance of arts coverage in a healthy journalism ecosystem,” said Lynette Clemetson, director of Wallace House Center for Journalists. “Reporting that fosters engagement with artistic expression is as vital to society as reporting on any other pillars of our communities or public institutions.”

The Knight-Wallace Fellowships offer accomplished journalists access to the rich resources at U-M to pursue ambitious projects. From tackling pressing newsroom challenges, to digging into research for a long-term reporting project or developing a journalism venture, Fellows undertake a range of projects aimed at advancing the profession and fostering an informed and engaged public. The full class of 2024-25 Knight-Wallace Fellows will be announced in May.

Tsioulcas says she is eager to become part of the U-M community, to immerse herself in the vibrant arts ecosystem at the University of Michigan and to share her insights with the next generation of arts journalists.

Read the original announcement about this inaugural fellowship.


About the Wallace House Center for Journalists

Wallace House Center for Journalists at the University of Michigan is committed to fostering excellence in journalism. We are home to programs that recognize, sustain and elevate the careers of journalists to address the challenges of journalism today, foster civic engagement and uphold the role of a free press in a democratic society. We believe in the fundamental mission of journalism to document, interpret, analyze and investigate the forces shaping society.

About the Arts Initiative

The U-M Arts Initiative seeks to illuminate and expand human connections, inspire collaborative creativity, and build a more just and equitable world through the arts. It is a University-wide endeavor to make the arts central to U-M’s identity and mission.

Wallace House Presents An Evening with Kara Swisher and Mary Barra

6 PM | Monday, Mar. 18, 2024

Rackham Auditorium
915 E Washington St

Free and open to the public.

Register for this event.
Registrations are not required but allow us to send you event
updates and reminders.

This is an in-person event. The event will also be livestreamed here.
Seating is on a first-come basis.

Watch the video recording here.

Join us for a special evening with journalist Kara Swisher and CEO of GM, Mary Barra, as part of the continuing series “Democracy in Crisis: Views from the Press.”

Award-winning journalist Kara Swisher has interviewed nearly every consequential innovator and tech entrepreneur working today. Her new memoir, “Burn Book: A Tech Love Story,” is an insider’s tale of success, failure, hubris and optimism. As Detroit gains influence in technology and the EV revolution, Swisher sits down with Mary Barra, chair and CEO of General Motors, to discuss her new book and explore the dynamic interplay of legacy companies, innovation, strategic bets on the future, and tech’s potential to solve problems and not just create them.

Book signing following the event
Swisher’s newly released book, “Burn Book,” will be available for purchase at the event. The author will stay for a short book signing after the program.

About Kara Swisher

Kara Swisher is the host of the podcast “On with Kara Swisher” and cohost of the “Pivot” podcast with Scott Galloway, both distributed by New York Magazine. She was also the co-founder and editor-at-large of Recode, host of the “Recode Decode” podcast, and co-executive producer of the Code Conference. She was a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and host of its “Sway” podcast and has also worked for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Swisher has served as Livingston Awards judge for Wallace House since 2014. “Burn Book: A Tech Love Story” is her third book.

About Mary Barra

Mary Barra is Chair and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors. Prior to becoming CEO, Barra served as GM executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, and as senior vice president, Global Product Development. In these roles, Barra and her teams were responsible for the design, engineering and quality of GM vehicle launches worldwide.

Co-Sponsors

Gerald R. Ford School
U-M Democracy & Debate
U-M School of Information

EXPLORE MORE WALLACE HOUSE EVENTS

The Clemetson Years

This article appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of the Wallace House Journal. 

Not long after Lynette Clemetson was named director of the Knight-Wallace Fellowship in 2016, I sat at a long wooden table, facing her and members of the selection committee, trying to convince them I had a great idea for a fellowship.

The truth is all I had were questions. Since bluffing my way into my first reporting job at the Queens Tribune back in 2003, I’d been trying to figure out how to keep my head above water in the journalism world. Half the newsrooms on my résumé had collapsed or closed. But I stayed employed, jumping from job to job, in part by getting clicks and traffic with whatever was the new way to communicate: blogging, listicles, slide shows, newsletters, tweeting.

For a while, I carried a camcorder and tripod and uploaded entire press conferences onto a new website called YouTube.

But by the time I was sitting at that wooden table in Ann Arbor, none of it made sense anymore. The news cycle I had helped accelerate was too fast. Way too fast. Every time I started reporting on one story—figuring out what was true and what wasn’t—I’d get distracted with a breaking news alert. And another. Colin Kaepernick was kneeling. Donald Trump was tweeting “covfefe.” Somehow, doing what I had always done didn’t seem like enough.

In typical Eisendrath fashion, Charles passes not a torch, but a hat, to his successor Lynette Clemetson in 2016.

So, I applied to the fellowship and sat across from Lynette. The most memorable moment of my interview was when she asked me about my hobbies. I described my penchant for putting audio clips of news on top of musical beats. My favorite one: Excerpts of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s third debate, on top of Tupac’s “Gangsta Party.”

Everyone laughed and Lynette shared a part of her bio that I had missed; she had been a DJ at a hip-hop station. She seemed like a new kind of director.

I got selected and at the first big event of the year, the Hovey Lecture, featuring ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis ’10, Lynette welcomed all the guests warmly, then politely told them that there was something missing from the event: new people. Events like this one should be out there, at libraries, theaters, anywhere, really, where a diverse, possibly younger, crowd who had never heard of Wallace House and wasn’t plugged into journalism would go. Perfect, I thought—I was moving toward Wallace House just as Lynette was moving Wallace House somewhere else.

Thanks to Wallace House’s interest in bringing more events to more people in more locations, I found myself getting around the only way I knew how: walking. And it did me good.

But her timing couldn’t have been better. The world was changing, and journalists needed to be among the people, soaking it all in and sharing what they do with people who perceived them as suspect. Wallace House brought Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post for a public event on his coverage of Donald Trump’s charitable giving. Before he spoke, Lynette arranged for me and another Fellow obsessed with politics to have lunch with him. In February, Wallace House brought then NPR host Joshua Johnson to record a live episode of the show “1A.” Shortly after, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens gave a talk titled “Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort.” To prove his thesis, he stood on stage as an endless parade of undergrads pelted him with sharply worded statements, sometimes delivered in the form of a question.

This was not the Wallace House back garden. I was witnessing journalism and reporting, surrounded by the people it was affecting. It reminded me of my Queens Tribune days, with late nights at community board meetings and early-morning doorknocking with local candidates.

Thanks to Wallace House’s interest in bringing more events to more people in more locations, I found myself getting around the only way I knew how: walking. And it did me good.

Since the fellowship, I’ve been tweeting less and absorbing more. Stories are driven more by accountability and less by clicks. It’s been five years, one wedding, a pandemic, a newborn, and two jobs since I left Ann Arbor. And it’s been exactly zero days since Lynette’s words about being out and in touch with the world have left me.


Azi Paybarah is a 2018 Knight-Wallace Fellow and national reporter covering campaigns and breaking politics at The Washington Post.

The 36th Graham Hovey Lecture: Freedom of Information and the Public’s Right to Know

This article appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of the Wallace House Journal.

Q&A with Anna Clark of ProPublica

The annual Graham Hovey Lecture was started by Charles Eisendrath in 1987 in honor of his predecessor Graham Hovey, director of the fellowship program from 1980 to 1986, to recognize a Knight-Wallace journalist whose career exemplifies the benefits of a fellowship and whose ensuing work is at the forefront of our national conversations. This year we welcomed Anna Clark, a 2017 Knight-Wallace Fellow and currently a journalist with ProPublica living in Detroit. She is the author of “The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy,” which won the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism and the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, and was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. She is a nonfiction faculty member in Alma College’s MFA Program in Creative Writing and was also a Fulbright fellow in creative writing in Kenya. Anna sat down with director Lynette Clemetson to discuss the dangers of a culture of secrecy and what it takes to push back.

Q: When I raised the idea of government transparency to you as a possible topic for your Hovey Lecture, I was concerned that you might think it was too wonky, but you were all in.

A: Freedom of information and public disclosure policies are part of our architecture for democracy and justice. I’m very passionate about it.

Q: Many people don’t know that Michigan ranks low in some areas of transparency.

A: I love this state, but I am sorry to say that we are not on the strongest side of this issue. We’re notable for being one of only two states in which the legislature and the governor’s office are exempt from public records requests.

Anna Clark returned to Wallace House not only with her infectious smile, but to offer insight into the restrictive laws preventing access to public records.

Q: It comes up for debate regularly, but the law hasn’t changed.

A: Well, interestingly, whatever party is not in power is really pro opening things up, and then once they are in power, they hesitate. (Laughs.) So yeah, people have been talking about this for years and years. And it has real stakes for the ability of reporters to do their jobs and for people to know what’s going on in their communities.

Q: For large institutions that get a lot of requests, public universities included, it can be easy to think of FOIA as a nuisance. How do we change that?

A: It’s true. Not every FOIA request is made in the name of democracy. There are frivolous requests, harassing ones, excessive ones, overly vague and broad ones that are a genuine burden to our public officials. Still, I think it is a virtue that you aren’t required to give a reason to make a request. If you’re an official who is doing the right thing, if you’re educating people, serving this state, this nation, in important ways, that should be evident in the details of the released records. Not making them available, even when you’re doing the right things, cultivates a kind of secrecy that breeds suspicion and distrust.

Q: There’s been a lot written about how a lack of government transparency exacerbated the water disaster in Flint. You document the downfalls in your book, “The Poisoned City.” You also recently wrote about a lack of transparency in a different part of the state—the ongoing wait for an external review of the 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School. How do larger government transparency issues relate to the situation in Oxford?

A: The Oxford school shooting in November 2021 was a very different kind of crisis than Flint. What’s similar is that the people in Oxford are starved for a clear, comprehensive telling of what happened, not just in the courts, which are prosecuting the shooter and his parents, but in the context of their school and the public school district that had a number of interactions with the shooter in the days and hours leading up to the shooting.

If you have a culture where the attitude is “just trust us” and you expect people to be okay with it, that trickles down to even the most locally elected, part-time, volunteer school board officials, who nonetheless are responsible for high-stakes decisions that could potentially cost people their lives. We’re creating a norm that is actually dangerous where this culture of secrecy is something we’re familiar with. That doesn’t mean it needs to be our normal.

Tabbye Chavous, Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Michigan and member of the Wallace House Executive Advisory Board, welcomes guests to the Wallace House gardens.

Q: How did the fellowship prepare you to tackle this issue of government secrecy, starting with your book on Flint?

A: Well, I was a completely fried, burned out, single, full-time freelancer working all the time and feeling increasingly depleted. Without the fellowship, I don’t know how I would have emotionally been able to sustain the work of reporting and writing the book, let alone the emotional toll. Having fun with people, sleeping more, not worrying about my bills all the time, it was so restorative. And that was essential to help me go forward to finish this book and bring it into the world.

Q: What did you gain from the university?

A: It was a powerful opportunity to come at the book with resources and tools I just never had before. I took classes in the law school on water policy and environmental justice. I took an urban planning class on metropolitan structures. Visiting cities in Brazil and South Korea gave me a new perspective to think about how cities in the U.S. are made and unmade. Not having any institutional affiliation or much money when I came to the fellowship, I never had access to archives like that. Suddenly, I got this university email address and all the resources of the campus libraries, including the library at the U-M’s Flint campus, became available.

Q: And yet, you didn’t come into the fellowship with a concrete plan for what you were going to do. That makes a lot of people nervous. What advice would you give to current or future fellows who worry about having everything mapped out?

A: Some of it is just trusting yourself. Like, if you have a Tuesday, and you don’t have any classes at all, you can trust that things will show up on that day that you will learn and grow from, including just empty space, which might be the thing you need most of all.

Q: That can be a hard case to make when people’s careers feel so perilous and the industry is under so much pressure.

A: The toll this work takes—even in the best of times, let alone in these times of scarcity and threat—is so excruciating. If people are going to do this work for years and decades, well, people are not machines. We’re not machines. You need to replenish yourself. We need journalists who are whole people, who have the internal and external resources to sustain themselves for the long run. This program is so rare for truly investing in journalists, not just in what they produce. That’s an investment in journalism for the long term, not just the news cycle.

Wallace House director Lynette Clemetson presents Anna Clark with the inscribed Hovey Bowl and her name added to the Hovey Lecture plaque.

Anna Clark is a 2017 Knight-Wallace Fellow.

The Eisendrath Symposium brings the Oscar-nominated documentary “20 Days in Mariupol”

Wallace House Presents a free screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary “20 Days In Mariupol,” and a conversation with the filmmakers

WCEE Film and Eisendrath Symposium Event
5:30 PM | Monday, FEB. 5, 2024
Michigan Theater

Free and open to the public.
This is a non-ticketed event.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis

This event will not be live-streamed.

A special screening and conversation

An AP team of Ukrainian journalists trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol struggle to continue their work documenting atrocities of the Russian invasion. As the only international reporters who remain in the city, they capture what later become defining images of the war. The documentary shows vivid, harrowing accounts of civilians caught in the siege and a window into what it’s like to report from a conflict zone and the impact of such journalism around the globe.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

The Eisendrath Symposium honors Charles R. Eisendrath, former director of Wallace House, and his lifelong commitment to international journalism.

About the filmmakers

Mstyslav Chernov is a documentary director and video journalist at The Associated Press and president of the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers. Since joining the AP in 2014, he has covered major conflicts, social issues and environmental crises across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Most recently, Chernov documented Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Together with longtime colleague Evgeniy Maloletka, Chernov recorded the siege of Mariupol, showing the world eyewitness accounts of the Russian attacks on the city in the documentary “20 Days in Mariupol.” Chernov’s reporting in Mariupol earned the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary.

Raney Aronson-Rath is the editor-in-chief and executive producer of FRONTLINE, PBS’ flagship investigative journalism series, and is a leading voice on the future of journalism. Aronson-Rath oversees FRONTLINE’s acclaimed investigative reporting on air and online and directs the series’ editorial vision — executive producing more than 20 in-depth documentaries each year on critical issues facing the country and the world. FRONTLINE has won every major award in broadcast journalism under Aronson-Rath’s leadership. She is a producer of the documentary “20 Days in Mariupol.” For nearly two decades, Aronson-Rath has served as a Livingston Awards judge. A program of Wallace House Center for Journalists, the prize honors reporters under the age of 35 and identifies the next generation of journalism leaders. 

Michelle Mizner is an Emmy-winning documentary producer and film editor on staff at FRONTLINE PBS. Her work for the series has been recognized by the Peabodys, World Press Photo, duPont-Columbia Awards, and SXSW. Select titles as a producer and editor include “Life in Baghdad,”  “Inside Yemen,” with correspondent Martin Smith, and “The Last Call” with director Marcela Gaviria. In addition to films, Mizner has produced several acclaimed interactive documentaries, including “Inheritance,” “The Last Generation,” and “Un(re)solved.” She is the producer and editor of the documentary “20 Days in Mariupol,” her first feature-length film.

Co-sponsors:
Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia
International Institute

Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

This event is produced with support from Knight Foundation.

The Eisendrath Years

This article appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of the Wallace House Journal. 

“What is your dream?”That’s how longtime director Charles Eisendrath started interviews. When I arrived in Ann Arbor for my interview in 2002 with 30 or so other finalists, the question conjured up delightful and spirited responses from many applicants and stumped others. Previous fellows had told me to expect that question from Charles. But I wondered, what does dreaming have to do with anything in my work?

The Cambridge English Dictionary sums it up in one definition as hope: “an event or condition that you hope for very much, although it is not likely to happen.”

At the time I started my fellowship, I could not yet see where my time at Michigan might lead me. I just knew I wanted a bigger spot for my journalism.

Charles Eisendrath became Director of the Fellowship Program in 1986.

I was working in a medium-sized television market at WRALTV in Raleigh, North Carolina, a great station all around. But I was feeling frustrated. Many of us start our careers as generalists. We find what we’re good at and our employers hone in. Over time we get boxed in, and that thing that made us stand out starts to hem us in. We forget the wide-open optimism of our early careers and tunnel vision takes over.

I was the Education Fellow in 2002-03. But I also had music on my mind. In addition to my reporting career, I have always maintained a side gig as a professional classical musician. I have sung with the Virginia Symphony Chorus and the professional chamber group Virginia Pro Musica. I also spent time with the Raleigh Oratorio Society and the ROS Master Singers. During my time in the fellowship, I learned that my journalism and music were spiritually connected. When producing effective news stories, my music tended to be good, and vice-versa. When I came to the fellowship, I had been neglecting my music training and performance. And I had developed a puzzling case of stage fright and performance anxiety. So, beyond my formal study project, I wanted to spend time at the School of Music.

When I presented myself, the dean had never heard of the fellowship. She told me I could not take voice lessons. I produced my music résumé and she changed her tune. I was in! However, my assigned voice teacher made one requirement of me. I had to perform at the end of the Winter semester. Publicly. Stage fright and all.

And I did. At Wallace House.

I visited Charles in Ann Arbor on a trip home where he told me, “Dream bigger!”


I chose to perform at Wallace House because other Fellows were my friends and not likely to pick apart the performance as music students and faculty are prone to do. I did invite my voice teacher from Michigan and my former Belleville High School choral music teacher to a program of classical art songs and a few pieces from the Great American Songbook.

I was terrified, but I got through it. Kind of like contemplating my next steps in reporting.

I wanted independence and in 2003, I was getting it. I had decided not to return to WRAL, and it hit me in February of my fellowship that I had no job waiting, even though I’d studied the intricacies of No Child Left Behind, news convergence, and educational gaming. What had I done? What was I going to do?

Charles Eisendrath chuckled when he told my fellowship group, “Yvonne has succeeded in being the fellow to panic the earliest during the fellowship year!” But part of the Eisendrath charm was to encourage us to move forward. Light would illuminate our paths when we were ready.

I did freelance work for a short period of time after the fellowship, followed by a Monday-through-Friday anchor job. At one time, I had thought that was my calling. It turned out to be a bit of a bore. So much for dreams! I visited Charles in Ann Arbor on a trip home where he told me, “Dream bigger!”

So, in 2005, I made a leap to journalism management. I am helping train the next generation of journalists in television and digital pathways, and there is much to do! One job led to the next, all across the country. I landed in Sacramento at the CBS networkowned station, where I thought I might stay. But darn if I didn’t start wanting something with a bit more challenge. I jumped to Portland, Oregon, where I lead a large staff and helped us turn a 3 station into a #1 station in the market. I am also on the ABC Affiliate Advisory Board, helping the network better serve its partner stations. It’s been 17 years of bigger dreams— and counting.

The fellowship doesn’t ask that dream question anymore, not explicitly anyway. But, the concept survives: Hope for something more, and trust in the journey that leads you toward it.

Charles Eisendrath introduced the first issue of The Journal of Michigan Fellows in the summer of 1990. The subsequent issues evolved into what is now the Wallace House Journal.

Yvonne Simons is a 2003 Knight-Wallace Fellow.

The Graham Hovey Years

 

This article appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of the Wallace House Journal.

 

Life as a journalist was a lot less complicated in 1981 when I arrived in Ann Arbor as a member of the Michigan Fellows Class of 1981-82, during Graham Hovey’s tenure as director. It was at a time when the internet barely existed. Computers were rudimentary at best, and cell phones wouldn’t be widely available for another couple years. No 24-hour news cycles. No social media to watch over or feed. No online anything.

For most of us, the sprint to capture the important events and issues of the day ended at deadline when keyboards fell silent and the massive presses a few floors below roared to life moments later, rumbling beneath our feet.

Diane Brozek and Charles Fancher
Diane Brozek and Charles Fancher met during their 1981-82 fellowship year and have been together for more than four decades.

We came from news operations that, for the most part, were rich, powerful and fiercely independent—before online advertising and public access to news and information decimated the traditional newspaper business model and before corporate conglomerates and hedge funds began gobbling up newspapers and local broadcast media.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and operating from a two-room suite in the Frieze Building, which no longer exists, Graham led six classes of Fellows between 1980 and 1986, through one of the most meaningful years of

We came from news operations that, for the most part, were rich, powerful and fiercely independent—before online advertising and public access to news and information decimated the traditional newspaper business model and before corporate conglomerates and hedge funds began gobbling up newspapers and local broadcast media.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and operating from a two-room suite in the Frieze Building, which no longer exists, Graham led six classes of Fellows between 1980 and 1986, through one of the most meaningful years of our careers.

Graham didn’t let us forget that we were journalists, making sure our weekly journalism seminars included some of the major figures of our time.


Graham was a Renaissance man. A Fulbright scholar, a talented amateur French horn player, a lover of opera, and an award-winning journalist who made the transition from World War II correspondent to covering post-war Europe. He reported on diplomacy and international affairs and served on the editorial board of The New York Times. Graham was an exemplar of what the NEH sought to achieve by immersing the Fellows in the community of a great university, free of the pressures of daily journalism for a year.

And our editors agreed. They supported the NEH’s notion that exposing mid-career journalists to all that a world-class university could offer would enhance their professional capacity.

So we eagerly pursued our own courses of study, venturing out to classes in medicine, law, foreign affairs, business and the arts, with the NEH reminding us to include a ration of humanities courses.

The “East Coast Fellows” from the Graham Hovey years at a reunion in 1998 at the weekend home of Diane and Charles Fancher in Pennsylvania. Graham and his wife, Mary Jean, are pictured center on the landing.

Graham reinforced this suggestion by bringing to our humanities seminars some of the school’s most distinguished professors who were giants in their fields. One that I fondly remember is the late Diane Kirkpatrick, a world-renowned art expert. She became one of the friends of the fellowship who seemed both amused by and respectful of our group while inviting us to see the world’s great art and its impact through her eyes.

Spending time with her and with other U-M faculty luminaries underscored the value of what our fellowship offered. And, opening ourselves to this discovery allowed us to reshape our own paths. That enrichment continued through our trips to Japan, Germany and Australia, where Graham arranged opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with leaders of those countries.

But Graham didn’t let us forget that we were journalists, making sure our weekly journalism seminars included some of the major figures of our time. One of them was the flamboyant Gannett Chairman, Al Neuharth, who picked our brains about his idea to start a national newspaper. “Do you think it’ll fly?” he asked. Regardless of our opinions—and we offered many—he launched USA Today two months after we left Ann Arbor.

Another larger-than-life editor who visited was Gene Roberts of The Philadelphia Inquirer, where the tradition of playing newsroom-wide pranks was legend. He totally enjoyed the belly dancer who dropped in to regale Graham for his birthday, but it was one of the few times we ever saw Graham speechless. I was hired by Gene after my fellowship year, though the topic of the dancer never came up.

My year at the Michigan program also had a deeply important impact on my life. I met my husband, Charles Fancher, during our fellowship year to the delight of Graham, his charming wife Mary Jean, and Margaret DeMuth, his extraordinary program assistant. In addition, several of the Fellows from our year have become close lifelong friends.

Diane and Charles are now friendly with 2023 Fellows Alexandra Talty and Antoni Slodkowski, who also fell in love during their fellowship and are now engaged!

A special treat over the years has been meeting new Fellows, sometimes at the annual Graham Hovey Lecture, given by a former Fellow in Graham’s honor. But meeting the 2022-23 class during a recent visit was especially gratifying, not only because it was so representative of what the program has become— so international and committed to the safety and welfare of journalists from troubled corners of the world—but also because this class featured something we hadn’t seen for the four-plus decades since our time in the program—a serious romance. Alexandra Talty and Antoni Slodkowski, 2022-23 Fellows, whom we’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know, have announced their engagement, and we wish them at least the 44 happy years Charles and I have enjoyed together.


Diane Brozek is a 1982 Knight-Wallace Fellow.