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 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.

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.

Build Confidence and Skills with a Knight-Wallace Fellowship

Jennifer Guerra, Knight-Wallace alum, won a
Peabody Award for Michigan Radio’s podcast, “Believed.”

I wrapped up my Knight-Wallace Fellowship in April 2018. Thirteen months later I was at Cipriani’s in New York City, sharing the red carpet with Billy Porter and the cast of “The Good Place.” I was there with my colleagues from Michigan Radio, accepting a Peabody Award for “Believed,” our podcast about the women who brought down serial sexual predator Larry Nassar. I was the project’s executive producer and head of a newly launched podcasting unit – two roles that seemed out of reach before the fellowship.

“Believed” is the first nationally-produced podcast by Michigan Radio, an NPR affiliate that covers news across the state. It is one of the most in-depth, significant projects that we’ve ever taken on as a newsroom and a station and it became the first podcast produced by a member station to be distributed by NPR. The series topped the Apple Podcast chart one week after its debut and remained in the top 30 throughout the next eight weeks. In addition, being recognized with a Peabody Award, my colleagues Lindsey Smith and Kate Wells received the Livingston Award for the podcast series. None of these honors mean as much to us as the many letters and emails we received from survivors who said they were moved by our story. They’re the reason why we did the podcast: to help people understand how Nassar was able to abuse so many girls and women for so long, and how you could have missed it, too.

The podcast was a remarkable team effort: reporters, editors, producers, fact-checkers, lawyers. You can hear each of their names in the credits, along with a list of thank yous to folks who helped out on individual episodes.

The Knight-Wallace Fellowship wasn’t mentioned in the credits, but it may as well have been. For me, the fellowship gave me the confidence and skills to advocate for myself as executive producer of this major new project. And it gave me time.

Time away from deadlines. Time to focus on craft. Time to envision the next phase of my career.

The Fellowship intentionally, methodically pushes reporters out of their comfort zones. For some, that means taking courses in rocket science or Russian literature. For others, it means taking a modern dance class and pushing past what it feels like to learn something new in a room with trained 20-year-olds who know what they are doing. The goal is to step beyond what we’re used to in the newsroom and, instead, to sit in that moment of tension and discomfort and let it affect you.

I don’t pretend to speak for everybody who’s gone through the fellowship, but I can wholeheartedly say that for me, having the opportunity to step away from the daily news grind for nine months was liberating, and career-changing.

A podcast bootcamp at Wallace House in
November 2017

When I got to the University of Michigan, I thought about stories in terms of how they fit into four-and-a-half-minute radio features because that’s what I knew how to do; it’s what got me in the fellowship in the first place. But during those nine months as a Knight-Wallace Fellow, I got to entertain the possibility of something bigger. I spent hours talking to students about campus climate and civil discourse and explored new (to me) books in an ethnographic writing class with Ruth Behar. Jeremy Levine’s class on nonprofit business strategies was particularly inspiring, and, with help from Wallace House director Lynette Clemetson, helped me hone my own plan for where I wanted to take my work. By the time I left the fellowship, I had developed a vision – and an editorial and business pitch – for how to create a podcast unit within Michigan Radio.

I took that pitch back to Michigan Radio and immediately started work on “Believed” as the executive producer. As an executive producer, I was responsible for the overall production and execution of the nine-episode podcast. Since “Believed,” I’ve been working on podcasts full time. I’m now in charge of our nascent podcast unit and am currently developing limited-run and serialized shows for the station. We just released a five-part series about identity called “Same Same Different,” featuring one of my incredibly talented fellow Fellows, Regina H. Boone. My team and I are hard at work on a narrative podcast that will drop around the 2020 election. Stay tuned!

All this is to say: Apply! I don’t know how many times in your life you’ll have the opportunity to talk anytime you want to with some of the smartest people on the planet, to spend time with journalists from all over the world, to take a minute to wonder about what stories the world really needs to hear, see and read right now… and to develop the methods and frameworks to tell them.

The Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists at the University of Michigan are accepting applications from U.S. applicants for the 2020-21 academic year. We’re looking for accomplished journalists eager for growth and deeply committed to the future of journalism. The deadline to apply is February 1, 2020.

Learn more about the Knight-Wallace Fellowship »

Jennifer Guerra was a 2017-18 Knight-Wallace Fellow and is Executive Producer of Special Projects at Michigan Radio, an NPR affiliate in Ann Arbor.