University Departments Partner for Public Discourse




On a Monday evening in late November, throngs of University of Michigan students, faculty, staff,
and Ann Arbor residents waited expectantly outside the Michigan Theater to attend the
premier showing of the film, “She Said.”

The movie chronicles the reporting of New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, credited with successfully revealing decades of sexual misconduct by film producer Harvey Weinstein and igniting the #MeToo movement. When the film ended and the two reporters walked onto the stage, the packed audience stood for an extended standing ovation and students lined up in the the aisles to ask questions.

In March, campus and community members converged again, this time at Rackham Auditorium, for An Evening with CNN Anchor Chris Wallace and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, with an opening welcome by U-M President Santa Ono. Hundreds of student tickets were claimed within 15 minutes, despite the fact that the students were on spring break when they were announced. Whitmer and Wallace engaged with each other and the audience on topics important to the student body—from gun legislation in Michigan, to funding for mental health services on campus, to the responsibility of media to combat disinformation and to allay, not fuel, polarization.

As part of the Wallace House Presents series, CNN anchor Chris Wallace and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer took turns answering topical questions posed by university students.

The two events were quite different. But each featured journalists prompting incisive conversation on difficult topics across points of social and political difference. As deans of the School of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy respectively, we take seriously our responsibility to serve the public good by bringing diverse groups together to grapple with important issues. Through these conversations, in partnership with the Wallace House Presents series, it is our hope that we all might be inspired and energized to make positive change in our communities.

One of the many remarkable things about the University of Michigan is the caliber of public events that the university sponsors on campus and in the community. Together we lead Democracy & Debate, a university-wide educational initiative that encourages students, faculty, staff, and community members to explore the exchange of ideas and free speech; the responsibilities of members of a democratic society;  structural inequalities in our democratic systems; the power of the individual voter; and democracy from a local to a  global perspective. Now finishing its second year, it has prompted projects and collaborations spanning numerous departments and disciplines.

Universities are central to thriving democracies. Journalists and journalism are essential as well. Excellent works of journalism bring facets of enormous, unwieldy issues into sharper focus. Rather than accepting that the stories we see, hear and read every day function as mere background noise or posts to scroll past, scholars and journalists share a desire to capture people’s attention with evidence, analysis and humanity and to turn consumption of information into a conscious act.

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Celeste Watkins-Hayes and Jelani Cobb exchange ideas regarding the collective challenges the country faces while trying to live up to its democratic ideals.

Democracy & Debate and Wallace House Presents are well- suited partners in this endeavor. And it has been gratifying to bring our scholarly and journalistic styles together for interesting pairings.

Celeste, who founded the Ford School’s Center for Racial Justice, interviewed Jelani Cobb, dean of the Columbia Journalism School and staff writer for The New Yorker. The conversation, titled The Half-Life of Freedom: Notes on Race, Media and Democracy, examined how historic challenges to democracy are reflective of a long history of fissures and contradictions in our democratic ideals.

From his unique vantage point as a journalist and historian, Cobb powerfully reminded us that the question of who America is for has yet to be resolved and that U.S. social justice movements are collective attempts to challenge our country to live up to its democratic ideals. He took a topic that could intimidate and distance an audience and provided relatable points of entry and even humor.

Anne, a linguist and host of the weekly podcast and Michigan Radio segment on language, “That’s What they Say,” interviewed journalist and best-selling author Anna Quindlen about the importance of personal writing. While the discussion focused on Qundlen’s book, “Write for Your Life,” the conversation captured the fundamental role written language plays in shaping not only our individual experience, but our history and collective memory.

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Anna Quindlen and Anne Curzan engage the audience in a lively conversation on the importance of personal writing.

The lively exchange urged audience members increasingly conditioned to process their days through texts to consider the long-term value of contemplative daily writing—whether in a journal, on a notepad, or in a phone. Quindlen, with all of her accolades as a writer of fiction and non-fiction, was wise, funny, and deeply human, as she shared with us the joys (those “aha!” moments) and challenges (reading feedback from editors) we all face when we put words to paper, whether we are students or professional writers.

The goals of the Wallace House Presents series are to highlight the vital role journalists play in our society; to bring transparency to how journalists pursue their work; to extend the reach of the issues they examine; and to foster civic engagement and civil debate—on campus, in the classroom, and in the broader community.

These goals resonate with key aspects of both our schools’ missions: the rigorous pursuit
of knowledge and truth; the humanizing of large-scale problems, as well as the process of understanding and addressing them; the commitment to democratic values, including academic freedom and the freedom of the press; and respectful, well-informed debate.

As deans, we worry that the issues we collectively face are so big and so pressing that people
will become numb to them. Difficult topics are so loud in our rapid, repetitive information
cycle, that people can inadvertently, or self-protectively, stop listening and thinking about them.

But our experience with university events demonstrates that, when given meaningful opportunities, people lean in and engage. The “She Said” screening, which was also co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and the College of Engineering, drew one of the largest audiences the Michigan Theater had seen since before the pandemic. We were particularly inspired by the number of women student journalists who asked questions about how to use journalism to effect social change and how to navigate the numerous assaults on the profession. The event was one of the most memorable evenings of both of our academic years.

We are grateful to work alongside Lynette Clemetson and the Wallace House Center for Journalists to bring signature events like these to campus. And we look forward to continuing the important work of ensuring that democratic ideals, principles, and institutions continue to thrive on the University of Michigan campus and beyond.


Anne Curzan is dean of the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and serves on the Wallace House Executive Advisory Board.

Celeste Watkins-Hayes is the Joan and Sanford Dean of the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, founding director of the school’s Center for Racial Justice and serves on the Wallace House Executive Advisory Board.

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

Disseminating life-saving information in the midst of a natural disaster

María Arce presents best practices so reporters can get the word out in the face of disaster.

Launching my career in a disrupted media landscape, I became skilled in multimedia news.  As a senior digital editor, I helped journalists learn how to embrace technological advances, to tell stories in new ways to audiences who expect news delivered to their ever-changing hand-held devices.

But another disruption shaped my career and life, one wrought by climate change and increasingly extreme weather. When Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, eventually causing more than 2,900 deaths and nearly $100 billion in damages, it left many newsrooms, mine included, in shambles. What good is all the technology in the world when the power grid and internet are knocked offline for up to six months?
What do you do when whole regions of your audience are entirely cut off from communications and desperately need information to save their lives?

We were forced to adapt and get information to those in need. We improvised and launched successful text-based versions of our websites, making the news easier for
audiences with limited internet to download.

Later, I realized that few newsrooms have comprehensive editorial and operational plans for natural disasters—especially small and medium-sized newsrooms already working with scarce resources because of the financial challenges facing journalism. So, I applied to the Knight-Wallace Fellowship to address this problem and to create guidelines for newsrooms affected by the devastating natural disasters they must cover.

Could journalists use ham radios to get our stories to the public when we lose our beloved internet?

After diving into the 24,000 courses offered at the University of Michigan, I began auditing a course called “Extreme Weather in a Changing Climate.” Professor Perry Samson helped me understand the recipe for hurricanes and how to better forecast which areas will be affected by storm surges in order to plan where to deploy reporting teams. He introduced me to the five wind tunnels at the university. I became particularly fascinated with one used to simulate tropical storms. I also discovered dozens of online resources to help me and the journalists I would marshal better cover the next natural disaster.

I learned about nuclear winter and geomagnetic storms, a “sneeze” from the sun that can destroy all communications across the planet for months. Each class was simultaneously mind-blowing and amazingly straightforward. I cringed each time Prof. Samson pointed out simple mistakes committed by newsrooms, such as journalists using the wrong hurricane symbol.

I was eager to share what I was learning with others. Working with Wallace House, I convened “Covering Natural Disasters: A Newsroom Preparedness Symposium.” We invited a group of select reporters and editors from Michigan, Texas, California, and Florida to come to Ann Arbor and join my class of Knight-Wallace Fellows for a day of collaborative learning with extreme weather experts. The symposium ended with us breaking into small groups and workshopping best practices for bringing together operational and editorial processes. I am now turning these ideas into a set of guidelines for newsrooms.

Among my biggest fascinations from the year was a paper I found about the historical role of radio amateurs in helping devastated communities during natural disasters. I learned that Herbert V. Akerberg, a student in Michigan, gave birth to emergency radio after a disastrous flood in Ohio in 1913.

That story of a young radio amateur whose mother brought him meals so he could continue broadcasting during the night stuck in my mind. Could journalists use ham radios to get our stories to the public when we lose our beloved internet?

The answer is yes, we can. Although several amateur radio programs exist, I could not find any that actively partnered with newsrooms. In March, I became certified as a spotter for the Skywarn program to report to the National Weather Service and city emergency offices about extreme weather conditions.

Satellites, as it turns out, can’t see everything. If a family has difficulty getting out of a house in the middle of a flood, there is no way for a satellite to know. Nor can a satellite identify when a tornado knocks down a line of 10 or 20 trees. But people in communities connected by radio can get the word out.

I knew immediately that the fellowship had opened a new door for me: to become an amateur radio journalist. I won’t be the first. I met a fellow amateur radio journalist living in Michigan. After I finish writing my emergency guidelines, my next step as an experienced digital leader will be to ensure that multiplatform news outlets understand the analog skills they still need to survive.

María Arce is Editorial Coach for Latin America at Global Press, where she leads learning and professional development for a team of reporters in the region. She also accepted a Reynold’s Journalism Institute Fellowship where she will continue her Knight-Wallace Fellowship work and develop and launch a training and resource guide on how journalists can work
with ham radio operators.

This article appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of the Wallace House Journal


Remote Fellows Visit Ann Arbor

No Michigan experience would be complete without a visit to the Big House. Fellows got a behind-the-scenes peek at the stadium locker rooms, the legendary tunnel, luxury suites and the 50-yard line.

This article appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of the Wallace House Journal

If I had to write a self-help book about the week I spent in Ann Arbor this spring with the Knight-Wallace classes of 2021 and 2022, I’d call it “Chicken Soup for the Journalist’s Soul.”

The two fellowship classes from the pandemic years called ourselves “The Virtuals” because few of us had ever met in person, although we’d all spent an academic year attending seminars and making online connections with other Fellows from our cohorts.

These had been challenging times for many of us as we navigated through the havoc the pandemic caused in our professional and personal lives. And spikes in Covid cases had forced us to cancel at least two previously planned in-person fellowship gatherings. So by the time we arrived at Wallace House in April, most of us felt overdue for the face-to-face experience Wallace House Director Lynette Clemetson and Associate Director Robert Yoon had been telling us about for months.

Jose Fermoso ’22 shared a dance with street artist David Zinn’s Gene Kelly on the downtown library’s underground parking garage wall.

As much as I had anticipated the trip, I still wasn’t prepared for the warm and loving atmosphere that awaited us. Lynette, Rob, Alexis, Patty, Jayson, Melissa, Lisa and everyone associated with Knight- Wallace showed us the highest hospitality the entire week, and for the first time I felt like more than one of 11 participants in a great and robust fellowship.

I looked at the group photos on the wall of the classes that came before mine. I saw the gifts that each of these groups left behind.

And in those moments I realized that being part of the Knight- Wallace Fellowship wasn’t a year-long program. The other Fellows and I had joined a group of journalists who’d had the privilege of spending hours together at Wallace House laughing, crying, learning, growing and recharging so they could go back out into the world as better journalists and human beings.

Although we had several great activities during our week together, our most profound moments came in the sessions where we sat in the living room at Wallace House and shared our experiences. During the fellowship, many of us had relied upon one another for support and advice. But in person, the encouragement was infinitely more profound. It was, in short, the safest place I’ve ever had to share my experiences as a journalist.

I wasn’t alone. Nichole Dobo, one of the Fellows from my cohort, told me she similarly felt the warmth of being among “people who are bringing their whole selves to work.”

“Our backgrounds are our strengths, especially when we come from underrepresented communities,” Nickie said. “We only got one week in person, but it felt like so much longer. I left feeling empowered by the idea that things other people might see as a weakness are actually our superpowers.”

Nick St. Fleur organized a selfie with classmates from the Knight-Wallace Reporting Fellowship class of 2021-22 on the porch at Wallace House.

After our graduation ceremony, instead of sitting in small groups at the tables arranged in the backyard, we pushed all the tables together because none of us wanted to be apart from the others. That night, the jokes, war stories and heartfelt moments we shared belonged to all of us.

“I left feeling empowered by the idea that things other people might see as a weakness are actually our superpowers.”

Lester Feder from the class of 2021 remembered the dance party we had that evening after we pushed the chairs to the corners of the living room where we had shared so much in the days before.

“It was a moving reminder,” he said, “of the humanity of the people who give so much of themselves to this work, which demands that we give so much of ourselves.”

Daphne Duret is a 2022 Knight-Wallace Reporting Fellow and recently joined The Marshall Project as a staff writer covering policing issues across the country.



Fleeing Russia: Former Fellow Finds Solace in Ann Arbor

Novaya Gazeta headline "Russia. Bombs. Ukraine"
The front page of Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s independent newspaper, on Feb. 25, 2022, reads “Russia. Bombs. Ukraine.”

This article appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of the Wallace House Journal

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Elena Milashina, 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow and investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta. On September 5, 2022, Russian authorities revoked the newspaper’s license.

It was early January 2022. Wallace House Director Lynette Clemetson wrote to me to ask if I could convince the freshly minted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov to come with me to Ann Arbor to give a lecture on press freedom.

“What an amazing idea,” I responded.

Muratov is my editor-in-chief, a mentor and friend under whom I have worked for a quarter century in one of the most respected newspapers in the world, Russia’s Novaya Gazeta.

When I dialed him to propose the Wallace House event, he didn’t answer at first. We were quarreling about my refusal to evacuate from Russia after the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, called me a “terrorist” and demanded that a criminal case be opened against me. Kadyrov’s assistant had publicly threatened to “cut off my head.”

Muratov eventually called me back. “Have you finally decided to listen to your editor and leave?” he asked.

“Only together with you, and only to Ann Arbor,” I joked.

I spent the next hour telling him about my incredible year as a Knight-Wallace Fellow more than a decade earlier, about the University of Michigan where Russian poet and fellow Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky once taught. I told him about hearing President Barack Obama give the 2010 commencement address, warning that the world and professional journalism were in danger because of changing media habits – words people didn’t fully appreciate at the time. I told him about the beauty of Detroit, the catastrophic emptiness of some parts of the great American city and what it symbolized to me about civilization and history.

“I want to see it, too!” he said, greedy for such stories.

We began to make plans for a brief visit in April. But Vladymir Putin had plans of his own. On February 24, the Russian army invaded Ukraine. Three months earlier, Muratov had warned about the danger of such a war in his Nobel speech in Oslo, a war Putin had been moving toward for years. Suddenly it was happening.

Months before the war started, Putin was working to shut down the independent press.

Novaya Gazeta responded to the invasion with a bold and shocking headline: “Russia. Bombs. Ukraine.”

Months before the war started, Putin was working to shut down the independent press. After opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s return to Russia and imprisonment, authorities closed down dozens of independent media outlets, primarily those engaged in investigative journalism. The government labeled hundreds of journalists as foreign agents, enemies of the state.

Russian journalists lived in anticipation of searches, arrests and criminal cases. I removed all paper and electronic archives from my house, hid old notebooks, laptops and voice recorders at my friends’ places. I thought about how I would behave during a search to make sure that no sensitive information about my sources fell into the hands of Russian police and security agencies.

Yet even in an environment of active intimidation, I was not prepared for the war and its consequences.

The government quickly came after the few remaining news organizations. In the first days of March, the last independent TV news channel, Dozhd, and the oldest federal radio station, Ekho Moskvy, shut down.

I cannot accept that I cannot write about this atrocity under my own name in my newspaper.

Novaya Gazeta held on for 34 days, the last remaining independent news operation in the country. But on March 28 we, too, were forced to suspend operations. Putin’s draconian laws imposing jail sentences of up to 15 years for journalists who reported anything the government deemed “fake news” – anyone who reported the truth of what was happening in Ukraine – made it impossible for news organizations to continue working.

Soon there was another message from Lynette. With the April event clearly impossible, she had a different proposition. “Why don’t you come to Ann Arbor for a residency, Elena?” she said. “You don’t have to leave Russia forever. But here you will be safe, and you can figure out how to move forward.”

Now I am back at the University of Michigan, a place I consider my alma mater! I am a visiting Fellow, sponsored by Wallace House, at the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies. I will be giving guest lectures and engaging with faculty and students. And most importantly, I will have a place to continue writing. When I arrived my suitcases were mostly full of papers, unfinished work, abruptly interrupted by war. I have much I still need to write.

More than six months into Putin’s attack on Ukraine, it seems the world is beginning to get used to war. I refuse to get used to it.

I cannot accept that my country is doing this.

I cannot accept that I cannot write about this atrocity under my own name in my newspaper.

I cannot accept that my newspaper no longer exists.

Now people all over the world know Novaya Gazeta and its journalists for our journalism and the repeated attacks against us. Now Russia has made it impossible for us to exist. But we will find a way to continue.

Novaya Gazeta literally means “new newspaper.” I remember when I went to work there 25 years ago after my first year at university. I traveled around the country introducing myself and my organization and people responded, “New newspaper? So what is it called?”

Now people all over the world know Novaya Gazeta and its journalists for our journalism and the repeated attacks against us. Now Russia has made it impossible for us to exist. But we will find a way to continue.

I arrived in Ann Arbor in July, late at night. As I entered town, it was too dark to see any of the places I so fondly remembered. I had two large suitcases full of my work. I checked into my hotel, got settled into my room and began to catch up on news from the front. It was expectedly grim. It felt unacceptable to me that I had been forced to flee my country to figure out a way to report the truth about it.

But for the first time in a very, very long time, I felt completely safe.

Elena Milashina is a 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow. She is the inaugural WCED Freedoms Under Fire Residency Fellow in the International Institute’s Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, a position sponsored by Wallace House.

Director’s Update

This article appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of the Wallace House Journal

Expanding the Vision of Wallace House

Take a look at the logo accompanying this story. Wallace House is now Wallace House Center for Journalists.

What’s the point of those three extra words? 

Sharper focus. Bolder ambition. Clarity of mission.

Part of it is simply about transparency and making it easier for people to quickly understand who we are and what we do. The other motivation is to reinforce the last of those three words – Journalists.

We are decidedly not the Wallace House Center for Journalism. Of course, we work in service of the future of journalism. But as significant amounts of money and talk have been directed toward saving journalism in the past decade, life has gotten harder for many journalists. The demands are greater. The work is more dangerous. The pay is worse and less stable.

We believe that supporting journalism requires supporting individual journalists.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of our fellowship program, we realize that we are being called to help journalists in more urgent ways.

Our mission is to help accomplished, working journalists survive and thrive, to help them learn new skills, explore new ideas, pursue ambitious projects, and tackle community and industry challenges. To be better journalists. And to keep at it – even when the business makes it ridiculously hard.

Within that mission is a resolve to provide a safe haven for journalists facing threats in both the U.S. and abroad. We’re not a humanitarian relief or social service organization. But in some cases, we are ideally poised to provide the structure, resources and networks needed to help a journalist escape peril. And when we can save one journalist, we save their journalism and their voice.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of our fellowship program, we realize that we are being called to help journalists in more urgent ways. A United Nations special report released this year on the decline in media freedom documented increasing threats to journalists the world over. Backsliding democracies, totalitarian regimes and coordinated disinformation have led to more journalists killed with impunity, more online harassment – especially of women journalists and journalists of color – and increased surveillance and targeted intimidation.

We were in the process of selecting our current Knight-Wallace Fellowship class when a non-profit organization in Washington D.C. contacted me to ask for ideas on how to help a young award-winning Kashmiri photojournalist, Masrat Zahra, who was facing bogus charges brought by the Indian government under an “anti-terrorism” law that could send her to prison for seven years.

Wallace House Center for Journalists is not only concerned with international press freedom. Journalists here in the U.S. need us more than ever.

At the time, we were working with The New York Times to bring our second Afghan journalist to Ann Arbor. And as you read in our cover story, we were also working to bring Russian journalist Elena Milashina for an extended residency. What an incredible opportunity it would be to have these brave, exiled journalists here at the same time, able to learn from and support one another while also bringing so much to the other journalists in our fellowship and the university community. The logistics in the cases were complicated. But we managed to prevail and get them here.

Introducing Masrat and Elena to each other outside the Wallace House kitchen was a brief interlude crackling with possibility. These two women are the sort who make autocrats shake with rage. One day we will be able to look back and understand that journalism and the world are safer because they met one August morning in Ann Arbor.

Wallace House Center for Journalists is not only concerned with international press freedom. Journalists here in the U.S. need us more than ever.

Across all forms of journalism, there’s a hunger among audiences for more in-depth storytelling. Yet for freelance writers, magazines often offer half or less than half of what they paid five years ago for the kind of long-form investigative and narrative journalism that takes months to produce.

A recent Livingston Award winner talked movingly from the stage as he accepted his award about needing to work as a bartender so he could afford to do journalism. The modest Livingston Award prize of $10,000 was more than he was paid for the story that won that year’s award for national reporting – a story that took him six months to produce.

Another Livingston winner, a freelancer with no financial, legal or safety support, paid her own way to Somalia and lived in a leaky storage container in Mogadishu to break the investigative story that won her the award.

They are both in staff jobs now, in part because of the recognition and connections the Livingston Awards brought their way. But that doesn’t make the precariousness of their reporting lives before the award okay.

I was at a journalism conference this summer having breakfast with two Knight-Wallace Fellows when their company announced that layoffs and buyouts were coming, “urgent choices” to keep the company strong. The company’s CEO made $7.74 million in 2021.

For many years the fellowship had a rule that journalists could not actively work during the fellowship. There were reasons for that. But we have to be in tune with the realities of the business. Much of the work we have supported in the past few years – magazine pieces, podcasts, documentary films, immersive multimedia series – would not exist without the financial support of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships.

This year we are back on campus, Fellows are taking classes, and we have resumed seminars at Wallace House. And we enjoy blending the old ways with the new.

If you do a Google search, you may find that Wallace House is a historic home in Somerville, New Jersey that served as the headquarters for General George Washington in late 1778 and the first half of 1779 when the Continental Army was stationed at Middlebrook.

That’s not us.

True, we have a beautiful, historic home. We are also at battle for democracy.

But we are not that Wallace House. We are Wallace House Center for Journalists.

Lynette Clemetson is the Director of Wallace House Center for Journalists, home of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists and the Livingston Awards at the University of Michigan. She is a 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow.


Get to Know Jayson Rose, Our Development Officer

Jayson Rose, our senior development officer, has introduced himself to our Knight-Wallace alumni and Wallace House community since joining us in January.

This interview appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of the Wallace House Journal

Jayson Rose joined Wallace House in January 2022 as our first development officer. His work is critical as we strengthen our programs and respond to new opportunities. He’s set about introducing himself to all of our former Fellows going back to the program’s founding in 1973. His exuberant outreach has been met with gratitude and great stories (we’d expect nothing less of our alums). Lynette Clemetson asked Rose to take a little break and answer a few questions.

Lynette Clemetson: You’ve had in-person visits, calls, and Zooms with dozens of former Fellows. What have you learned?

Jayson Rose: I’ve connected with over 50 alumni in recent months from the U.S., Brazil and South Korea. I’ve learned how much the fellowship changed their lives, personally and professionally. Many have told me about how their time in Ann Arbor was a pivot point in their career, a time to regroup and refocus. I’ve also been learning how meaningful the relationships established have been and how many of our alums remain in contact with each other.

Clemetson: You’ve worked in university development for years. What’s the most exciting opportunity in connecting the work of Wallace House to donors and the mission of the university?

Rose: There is a tremendous opportunity to work with our campus partners to bring more attention to our mission, the urgency of our work, and to expand our constituent base. We are uniquely positioned to help donors who care about democracy and freedom of the press make an impact. Many people don’t know there’s an entity on Michigan’s campus that aligns with those ideals. I also believe we can help donors who want to create a legacy make a lasting impact by working with them to establish endowed gifts or planned gifts via their will or trust. Our goal is to give Wallace House the ability to have an impact on journalists’ lives well into the future.

Clemetson: You grew up around journalists. Your father, Jim Rose, is a longtime anchor and sports journalist in Chicago. Did that influence your interest in Wallace House?

Rose: My father has been in broadcast journalism for 41 years at ABC in Chicago. I have vivid memories growing up of all the hard work he put into his craft and the long hours he spent covering such a passionate sports town. He was, and continues to be, so thoughtful in his work and that made me grow up with a deep appreciation for journalism. The industry is facing numerous challenges, and the work of Wallace House is incredibly important to journalists who fight to tell the stories that aren’t easy. I am honored to have the opportunity to play a role in the evolution of such an incredible organization.

Clemetson: What do you do for fun? And an essential Wallace House question, what do you like to cook?

Rose: I enjoy exercising, catching a sporting event, and going on adventures with my wife, Kim, and our three kids, Cora, Carter and Ella. I have been learning how to become Mr. Fix-it, taking on projects around the house. And I enjoy new music and finding a new album to relax to when I have downtime. My favorite thing to cook is anything grilled. I love to grill a nice cut of steak. I also make a good grilled salmon with sriracha and honey glaze. Delish!

Clemetson: What new music caught your attention this summer?

Rose: Recently I’ve been enjoying a Nigerian singer-songwriter named Tems. Her album, “For Broken Ears,” was on repeat most of the summer for me.

Clemetson: You and I have something in common – we were both DJs in our younger years. I’ve been thinking about playlists for our 50th fellowship reunion in 2023. Any recommendations for a few hundred restless reporters who haven’t seen one another in a while?

Rose: If we are talking about moving a few tables and getting people on the dance floor, I might suggest:

“September” by Earth, Wind & Fire

“Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey

“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

“Despacito” by Luis Fonsi

“Yeah!” by Usher

My DJ skills aren’t what they used to be, but you can’t go wrong with these.

Lynette Clemetson is the Director of Wallace House Center for Journalists, home of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists and the Livingston Awards at the University of Michigan. She is a 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow.

Fellows Collaboration Leads to Coach’s Arrest

Mike Kessler ’17 and Mark Fainaru-Wada appeared on
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” to discuss their reporting on Conrad Mainwaring
with host Ryan Smith.

It was a story that needed to be told, a story of young lives wrecked by alleged sexual abuse by a respected coach and mentor. And yet it was a story that may have never been told, were it not for the collaboration of former Knight-Wallace Fellows Mike Kessler ’17 and Greg Amante’16, who, along with investigative journalist Mark Fainaru-Wada, broke the news for ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” about Conrad Mainwaring, a 67-year-old track coach and former Olympian now accused of molesting 41 boys over the course of 44 years.

Mike was a Fellow when he first learned about the allegations against Mainwaring. It was the fall of 2016, and he was just settling in to life at Wallace House. One day he got a phone call from an acquaintance named Andrew Zenoff, who had a story he wanted to share about his late brother, Victor. In the 1970s, beginning at the age of 12, Victor had attended a boys’ sports camp for several summers at Camp Greylock in Massachusetts, where Conrad Mainwaring was a much-admired counselor. Friendly, easygoing and a natural athlete, Victor’s young life had abruptly veered off course after his time at Greylock, spiraling downward into drugs and self-destructive behavior that left his family struggling for answers. Then, just weeks before his death in a hiking accident at the age of 18, Victor revealed to his mother that he’d been sexually abused by Conrad Mainwaring. Now, decades later, Andrew Zenoff wanted the world to know what Mainwaring had done.

The problem was, Mike was unable to pursue the story. One of the conditions of the Fellowship is to agree to put aside professional work for the duration of the program. Mike remembers feeling frustrated with this, but he noted that he needed this time for himself.“The point is to step away from your primary life and not be consumed by your usual work.” Still, knowing how important Zenoff’s story was, Mike passed it along to another journalist.

Back working freelance in Los Angeles in 2018, Mike discovered that the story he had passed along had floundered. Determined to not let it slip away again, he tracked down half a dozen accusers willing to go on the record with their own accounts of sexual abuse by Mainwaring. He then approached former Knight-Wallace Fellow and ESPN producer Greg Amante ’16 with a proposal to write a magazine piece for ESPN. Mike and Greg had met in Ann Arbor in 2016. A recent graduate of the Fellowship at the time, Greg and his partner Debra had reached out to Mike and his wife when they arrived at Wallace House, and the two couples had become friends. As Mike recalls, “Greg and I got to talking about how fun it would be to work on something together.” Now, two years later, that day had come.


“I believe each of us enjoyed the feeling that we were not just doing something for ourselves, but also something positive for the Knight-Wallace Fellowship program, perhaps laying the blueprint for future collaborations between Fellows.” – Greg Amante ’16, ESPN producer


With Greg’s backing as a producer, and with the support of editors Mike Drago and Chris Buckle, along with ESPN Vice President and KWF board member Kevin Merida (who presented a seminar at Wallace House during Mike’s Fellowship year), Mike teamed up with investigative journalist Mark Fainaru-Wada. What had begun as a possible twelve-week magazine piece quickly grew into an investigation that would stretch over a year. The challenges were immense. For the four decades Mainwaring was alleged to have carried on his abuse of young boys, he’d led a life of secrecy, moving from one prestigious university to another as a track coach and counselor, keeping his past and his whereabouts hidden. Working together, Mike, Greg and Mark gathered hundreds of hours of interviews from dozens of people, in an investigation that spanned two continents. In the end, 41 survivors of sexual abuse ranging in ages from 22 to 59 came forward. On June 19, 2019, Conrad Mainwaring was arrested in Los Angeles for felony sexual battery. Less than two months later, on August 1, “Outside the Lines” released the story that Mike, Greg and Mark, with the support of their colleagues at ESPN, had worked so hard to produce.

Looking back on their efforts, Greg says: “I believe each of us enjoyed the feeling that we were not just doing something for ourselves, but also something positive for the Knight-Wallace Fellowship program, perhaps laying the blueprint for future collaborations between Fellows.” As for Mike, he sees their collaboration as a game-changer. “If I hadn’t met Greg, I wouldn’t have had the support of ESPN on such a massive scale.” He goes on to credit the Knight-Wallace Fellowship and his time at Wallace House. “Not to sound corny, but KWF gave me a chance to think about my career in a more holistic way, to let my mind wander and see what happens. That can also be very unnerving – that not-knowing – but I think it was a huge service to my personal and career growth.”


Travis Holland has been leading writing workshops at Wallace House since Fall 2008.  He is the author of “The Archivist‘s Story,” and a contributing editor at Fiction Writers Review.

Q & A with Wallace House Director Lynette Clemetson and Hovey Speaker McKenzie Funk

McKenzie Funk’s seven-year old son, Wilson,
carefully inspected the Hovey Bowl presented
by Wallace House Director Lynette Clemetson.

McKenzie Funk came to the Knight-Wallace Fellowship in the fall of 2011 to study the paradigm of endless economic growth and to unpack years of reporting on how governments and corporations were profiting from global warming. His 2014 book, “Windfall,” won a PEN Literary Award and was named a best book of the year by several publications. He returned to Wallace House in September to give the 34th annual Graham Hovey Lecture, and he sat down with Lynette Clemetson before the event to discuss writing on and living with the topic of climate change.


Clemetson: Discussions of climate change are most often presented through science or politics, or the clash between the two. What made you want to explore it through financial gain?

Funk: I wasn’t a climate change person. I grew up being interested in environmental issues because of my parents and where I grew up in Oregon. But precisely for the reasons you describe – that it’s a political fight or a scientific question – as a narrative writer, I had shied away from it.

Clemetson: And what changed that?

Funk: It was 2006, and I was living in New York trying to get my freelance career going. I got an email from the Environmental News Network, a short one or two line item about something called a sovereignty operation up in northern Canada, a group of Canadian Rangers there to defend the Northwest Passage. And I thought, “that’s really weird.” They mentioned a climate connection, and it just sounded very different from everything else I’d heard about people reacting to climate change. I called the PR people at the Canadian Forces to ask if I could go along on the next one. They were overjoyed because this was basically aimed at the United States. They wanted the world to know that the Canadian military was up there staking a claim to the melting North.

Clemetson: And what made you want to follow the thread and keep reporting?

Funk: In the background of all of this, “An Inconvenient Truth” had just come out. There was an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report coming up the next year. There was the prospect of climate legislation coming up in the Senate. It was all sort of bubbling. My story from the Canadian Forces expedition was published in Harpers in August 2007. Around the same time, the Russian government sent two mini subs down to the bottom of the ocean at the North Pole and planted a Russian flag, and suddenly people were saying, “Wait a minute, what’s going on?

Clemetson: You approach the global crisis through three broad themes – melt, drought, deluge. And your themes are starkly organized around geography.

Funk: Yes, the north versus the global south, high latitudes versus middle latitudes. It’s obvious if you pull back and think about it. The northern countries are the ones that have been wealthiest. We not only have enough in our war chest, as it were, to survive some of these impacts, but we can, in some cases, benefit. And of course, we’re the biggest historic emitters of the carbon that’s causing this problem. That remains true even as we outsource our industrial production to China. We are the end users of much of that carbon.

Clemetson: In the weeks leading up to your talk, this topic seemed to be ever present. President Trump was angling to buy Greenland. The Bahamas was devastated by a hurricane. Do you see this issue everywhere now?

Funk: Once you see it, it’s everywhere. We just moved to Oregon, to a town called Ashland, which is at the very bottom of the state, near the border of California, not so far from Paradise, California. The town is famous for its Shakespeare Festival, which brings in tourists. The economy is basically built on how nice the town is. When we arrived, it had the worst air quality in the entire country because it was ringed with wildfires. It’s something that’s happened consistently summer after summer for the last several years. This part of southern Oregon is just burning, and the smoke permeates everything. My wife Jenny had to stay to attend school but the kids and I, we dumped our bags, our boxes and left immediately, because we were wearing smoke masks out on the street. It was like this apocalyptic new reality.

Clemetson: And how did you feel about leaving?

Funk: I was very aware that we had the privilege to be able to pack up, get in our car and drive somewhere. There were many families in the region that couldn’t get away and were just suffering through the smoke. Businesses were collapsing. It was actually the first time that it became real for my life. I started to think strategically about moving north, back to Seattle, back to a place where, if you look at the impacts, it will be safer.

Clemetson: Your book paints a picture in which the people who can afford to win will win. And people who can’t will lose.

Funk: Yeah. The gaps between rich and poor, between dark and light, between black, brown and white are set to grow unless we’re really careful about this. It’s a justice story essentially. The hope is that if we can more collectively recognize the systemic issues, the more we will take steps to adapt more fairly. A lot of the justice questions have to do with how we adapt and who we adapt for. We’ve done so little in terms of making cities more resilient and in terms of thinking about how we’re going to prepare for the storms or heatwaves or fires. There is still a lot of room to make our responses more equitable.

Clemetson: Some people come to the fellowship to pursue something new. You were already deeply involved in this reporting and in writing a book when you arrived. So how did you approach your time?

Funk: There was a Great Lakes Water Wars class that was outstanding, and Andy Hoffman’s class in the Business School on how corporations were confronting climate change. A lot of the section in the book about Shell Oil was informed by that class. But I also spent a lot of time in the fellowship on seemingly unproductive things. Jenny was pregnant. We spent time hiking in the Bird Hills Nature Area, canoeing on the Huron River. And I spent a lot of time chasing my dog.

Clemetson: Chasing your dog?

Funk: We lived in the house that Matt Power had lived in when he was a Fellow. It was donut shaped, with a central staircase. It was perfect for running in circles. And I would just chase the dog around and around, for a really long time, every day. It was great. It was one of the most important things, just having time to think. To think about what I had gathered and to put it all together.


The Bells, Whistles (and Rockets!) of Fellowship Life

Sharilyn Hufford ‘19 was able to figure out
many ways to “let go” during her time as a
Knight-Wallace Fellow. In addition to the
U of M carillon, she also had the chance to
play on the largest carillon in Central and
South America on the class’ international
news trip to São Paulo.

A hand-lettered sign in a neighborhood coffee shop greeted
me with a bit of wisdom on my first morning in Ann Arbor: “Sometimes you just have to let go and see what happens.” If there ever was a time to let go, this was it. The academic year was about to start, and I had an ambitious study plan for the fellowship – creating high impact news products and best practices for workflow in product design. But I still hadn’t figured out how I would approach the challenge in the classroom.

I’d already combed through the 464 pages of the fall course catalog, searching for classes to teach me how other industries were using processes, systems and technology to transform their work. With so much to choose from, I wasn’t worried about filling a schedule. I knew I would find something that aligned with my study plan. After all I had a ‘short’ list of roughly 25 classes. (OK, I might have been trying too hard.)

The problem was my fear of not finding the right classes, of missing out on something or somehow not getting enough out of my precious time on campus. Could I follow the sign’s advice and just let go? It didn’t take long to find out.

At our very first orientation meeting, I spotted a poster on the way to tour Burton Memorial Tower: “Bells on the brain? Take Carillon 150. Play the U-M bell towers!”

The University of Michigan has two carillons out of only 600 in the world, one in the middle of Central Campus in Burton Tower and one in the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Tower on North Campus. And heck yeah, I wanted to play them.

The other students – a mix of about 20 graduate and undergraduate students – weren’t just music majors. They were studying everything from engineering and public health to community action and social change. We all had some kind of music training or background before signing up for carillon.

All the years of piano lessons and band had set me up for this opportunity, but the carillon required learning new techniques, like coordinating hands and feet, and setting aside time to experiment with new sounds and strengthen new skills.

Once I started spending time in the carillon practice rooms, I realized I had forgotten what it was like to learn something new – to have a beginner’s mind. It was fun. It was humbling and frustrating at times. It was also unexpectedly restorative.

Taking that first leap into the carillon class gave me the courage to try several other seemingly risky classes. I joined a team of mechanical engineering and design science students in a class in which we had to take a physical product from idea to prototype to verification through a series of analytical design processes. It was a crash course in engineering analysis and creativity and also design, psychology, marketing and economics. I learned quantitative methods for idea generation and selection, evaluating designs and anticipating failure modes in designs. In the process of applying those models to my team’s project, I gained new frameworks for thinking about how to create stories and news products.

I took a course where I learned about electronic health records systems and public health records, and the issues surrounding deployment and development of health technology. I have a new appreciation for the planning that goes into software rollouts, launches and upgrades having heard from professionals who manage technology that provides critical care for human beings.

By the time winter semester started, I was ready for more challenges. Someone recommended a course that was an introduction to rocket science.

That’s right, rocket science! Rocket Science might seem like an unusual choice for a journalist, but its language permeates the way our technology –oriented culture describes product development and innovation work: moonshots, launches, missions. And it encapsulated everything that I aimed for as a Fellow – to stretch and reach for new discoveries. To understand more fully why journalism is the work I had devoted my career to, to embrace others who are on the same mission and lift them up, too.

Oh, yeah, and to have a little fun.

The time in practice rooms, in classes, and with other Fellows and my family helped me start letting go of old patterns and routines. Learning a new instrument – or new technology – or taking on a new role requires practicing, stretching into a new repertoire and strengthening new skills.

Now that our time together in Michigan has ended, I think I’ve found the secret equation to the fellowship. It isn’t really about any one class or the specifics of the study plan. It’s about escaping the atmospheric distortion of the day-to-day journalism grind so you can see in different ways and explore new possibilities with a little less gravity. I’m excited to keep exploring – to let go and see what happens.

Sharilyn Hufford ‘19 is Deputy Editor, Platforms, for The New York Times.

Welcome to Korea, My Home


On our second day in South Korea we toured Camp Humphreys, the newly constructed U.S. Army Garrison, 40 miles south of Seoul. The massive military encampment covers more than 3,000 acres and is very American, dotted with Subway sandwich shops and suburban looking homes.

Seungjin Choi (front row, third from left) was proud to be a tour guide for
his fellow Fellows. The class is pictured at BulguksaTemple in Gyeungju,
South Korea, an ancient relic of the Silla Dynasty and a Unesco World
Heritage site.

To balance out the day, I arranged for a very Korean dinner at a restaurant specializing in tofu. The restaurant had more tofu dishes than most Americans could imagine. The experience, simple for the average Korean, was exciting and a little overwhelming for our group. From the moment the first dish came out, I fielded many questions: “SJ, can you explain how you eat this food?” “What sauce should I use?” “Can I ask for a fork?” With a little explanation, everyone enjoyed the tofu delicacies, and I had a chance to enjoy my fellow Fellows discovering something new.

For three weeks before the trip, I was communicating with former Korean Fellows seeking advice on planning the itinerary. I was worried about making the right plans and choosing the right places to visit. There were disagreements, as I explained, “I don’t want to show my Fellows the negative aspects of Korea.” But one of the former Fellows corrected me. “They are all journalists. They can see everything, even the things we may want to hide.” He was right. It was not just a trip; it was a journalism trip. I needed to present Korean society as it is, not as I wished it to be.

Our trip coincided with a historical moment as President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un were meeting in Vietnam. The outcome would have significant political, economic and social implications for South Korea. In addition, the final day of our visit marked the 100th anniversary of the March 1st Movement, a national holiday commemorating Korea’s fight for independence from Japan. It was important to help my fellow journalists understand the political tension still playing out in Northeast Asia.

Certainly we should explore Korea’s economic rise, but we should also discuss corporate corruption and the negative impact of the Chaebol, the Korean term for powerful family-run conglomerates like Samsung, Hyundai and LG. While it would be fun to explore K-Pop and the growing influence of the Korean entertainment industry, it was important to discuss issues like gender discrimination, Korea’s #MeToo Movement, and teen depression and suicide.

How could we accomplish it all in five days? In the end, we struck a balance. We saw the film “Mal-Mo-E” about efforts to save the Korean language during the Japanese occupation. We learned the complex, centuries old geopolitics of East Asia from Dr. Hahm Chaibong, president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. We examined the conflict between North and South Korea during a visit to the Joint Forces Naval Command complex.  And we were reminded of the familiar struggle to support independent journalism from two start-up media outlets, one of which has since announced its closure.

We also had fun. We peered down at the city from a dizzying observation deck near the top of the 123rd floor of the Lotte World Tower and stood with a crowd of screaming teenagers to watch
a live taping of a popular K-Pop TV show. We ate live octopus at Noryangjin Fish Market and relaxed at a Korean spa. We learned how to brew Makgeolli, traditional Korean rice wine, which will be ready to drink just in time for a visit from the class of 2020.

As the Fellows learned new things, I discovered new things while looking at my country through their experiences. I never paid attention to how tofu dishes are cooked because it is so familiar to me. Looking at Korean society while traveling with the Fellows, I realized stark generational differences between Koreans that I had never considered deeply before. I learned to look at Korea more objectively and this will certainly impact my work.

Traveling my country with the Knight-Wallace Fellows was an unforgettable experience. I still have many things that I am eager to show, and I hope that the program will return for years to come.

See you in Korea!

Seungjin Choi is a 2019 Knight-Wallace Fellow and Reporter, Maeil Business Newspaper (Seoul, South Korea).