Welcome to the Fall 2021 Semester: An AJO Newsletter


September 8, 2021


Education, Journalism, Media


Dear AJO Community,

We have a ‘no-asshole rule’ in the American Journalism Online Master’s Program. That means that every instructor, every support staff, and every person that AJO works with or oversees must treat others with kindness and respect. I don’t have a lot of rules in life, but this is one that I am adamant about. On our own, we may not be able to change the world, but we can certainly create a supportive, nurturing educational and work environment, one that makes all of us strive to be better human beings.

Now, don’t think for a second that kindness means we’re soft. AJO maintains an enviable rigor as our students will no doubt attest. This is a program run by professionals for future professionals. We emphasize publishing and, of course, professionalism. While our instructors are at the top of their respective fields, they also have a gift for teaching, and we take great pains to pair each and every student with a professional journalist mentor. No wonder many of our students are getting published in top media outlets – The New York Times, CBS News, Teen Vogue, Insider, Good Morning America, Slate, Bustle, Vogue, and elsewhere. They are landing internships and getting jobs upon graduating. It also explains how The Click, our in-house student-run publication, has blossomed into a thriving news site.

Two years ago, we launched AJO with 21 students. Today, as I write this, we count 115 students who have enrolled for fall. Yet no matter how much or how fast we grow, our promise remains the same: AJO classes will always be small. Writing classes are capped at 12 students, and podcast, multimedia and broadcast classes max out at 10. Our philosophy is that smaller is better, so, in a sense, we’re the opposite of those massive open online courses (MOOCs). Small classes mean our students receive individual attention, intense line-by-line feedback, and ample face time with their professors and one another. They learn. Perhaps more importantly, though, they learn how to learn.

With the program’s growth comes opportunities to expand our course offerings. Last spring, we introduced two new electives: Podcasting and The Broadcast Newsroom, both of which have proven to be great successes. We have also begun work on a photojournalism class that we hope to offer in the spring or summer. We didn’t perform market research to figure out what courses we should offer. These classes sprang from student requests, because who better to advise us on what we should be doing than the ones doing it?

One new class I’m particularly excited about for this fall is a version of Long-Form Narrative that explores the intersection of comedy and journalism (think John Oliver, Samantha Bee, and The Daily Show). It will be taught by Kobi Libii, a Yale graduate who has worked as a writer and on-air correspondent for The Opposition With Jordan Klepper on Comedy Central. I first became aware of Kobi after watching a two-part episode he starred in that explored how alt-right sites like Breitbart twist and amplify fake news. It’s an absolutely stunning episode that I show students in the Law & Ethics course I co-teach.

Prof. Adam L. Penenberg

Prof. Adam L. Penenberg

There’s more new(ish) stuff to report:

Julia Dahl continues to be our jobs and internship coordinator in addition to her teaching. This past spring, she oversaw our very first AJO Awards – our version of The Pulitzer’s – except we shine light on journalists and publications that live outside the mainstream. Some of my favorite categories include Best TikTok Explainer, Best Twitter Thread, and Best Solo Newsletter. (Click here for the full list of winners.) Julia has also just published another novel that is getting all sorts of buzz. If you buy a copy, I’m sure Julia would be happy to inscribe and sign it for you.

To keep pace with the frenetic change in journalism, this past summer Liza Hogan and Joel Marino took it upon themselves to overhaul the Reporting the News curriculum. To do so, Liza stepped down from running AJO’s Mentor Program, but Leah Duncan, a former graduate student of mine, is taking her place. Leah worked as an anchor for Reuters TV and has held producing roles at The Fox Business Network and Bloomberg Television.

AJO has also been funding a quartet of students to create a multi-episodic true crime podcast series. The team consists of Christina MacGillivray, who is leading the effort, Michelle Eigenheer, Lilian Manansala, and Richard DiCicco. The series explores a decades-old murder conducted during a home invasion, the power of redemption, and the draconian prison sentences that have been meted out to young people of color. As I follow along on their Slack channel, I’ve been deeply impressed with the work they’re doing.

Also in this newsletter, you’ll find an interview with the universally beloved Garnette Cadogan, who teaches Long-Form Narrative. You’ll meet some new professors, all of whom have compiled mighty impressive resumes. And you’ll be introduced to two of our excellent support staff, both of whom are former students of mine: Malak Saleh, a breaking news editor at Bloomberg, and Adrienne Magun (AJO ‘21), a producer at ABC News. Finally, you’ll read about what a few of our students did over the summer, and we’ve provided links to some of the articles our students have published in recent months.

With AJO, we look forward to another successful year – and we’re pleased that you are a member of our (growing) community.





Adam Penenberg
Founder & Director, American Journalism Online Program at NYU


Garnette Cadogan

Garnette Cadogan, an instructor at AJO. [Credit: Vivek Bald]

AJO is extremely fortunate to have Garnette Cadogan teach Long-Form Narrative at NYU, giving our online students access to his style, wisdom, and humor. Cadogan is a renowned essayist whose writing explores the promise and perils of urban life, the vitality and inequality of cities, and the challenges of pluralism. He is also the editor-at-large of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas. In the fall of 2017, Cadogan was included in a list of 29 writers from around the world who “represent the future of new writing.”

We recently sat down with Cadogan to chat about what it’s like teaching AJO students in a virtual setting and what his hopes for the future are.

Why is educating the next generation of writers and reporters important to you? 

Educating the next generation of writers and reporters is an opportunity to participate in an enriching conversation about the essential, the urgent, the playful, and the beautiful. That I get to do so with AJO students—a wonderful mix of curious and passionate and generous and witty people—has made teaching an immense delight, especially because I’m invited to learn and laugh and discover alongside them. I develop skills—critical thinking, perceptive reading, compelling writing—in lockstep with them and the classroom becomes a place where we achieve together.

What are your favorite subjects or lectures that you teach in Long-Form?

My favorite subject and lecture in my Long-Form class is the importance of curiosity—I see my primary task as encouraging people to pursue and share and illuminate their curiosities—and so the best gift I could receive from any student is the affirmation that our time together was an encouragement to wed curiosity to imagination and share that with a reading audience.

Read more of the Q&A with Garnette here.


AJO is fortunate to have a new set of academic visionaries joining our adjunct faculty this fall. Join us in welcoming the newest members of the NYU family to our program, and don’t forget to introduce yourself on Slack!

  • Hayes Brown is a columnist and editor with MSNBC Daily, writing essays on politics, global affairs, and pop culture. Prior to joining MSNBC, he spent six years as a reporter and editor for BuzzFeed News, and developing and hosting several podcasts, including “Impeachment Today” and “News O’Clock.” (Law & Ethics)
  • Julia Furlan is a Brazilian-American podcast host and editor. Most recently, she edited the video and podcast series Where We Come From for NPR and hosted Go For Broke, a six-part narrative series for Vox Media about the dotcom boom. She’s hosted and produced audio for places like BuzzFeed News, NPR, WNYC, and Latino USA. (Podcasting)
  • Rebecca Klein is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in outlets like NPR, The Guardian and The Hechinger Report. Previously, she worked as a senior reporter and editor at HuffPost. This is her second semester teaching at NYU. (Reporting the News)
  • Katherine Laidlaw writes for WIRED, Outside, The Atlantic, and is a contributing editor at Toronto Life magazine. She began her career reporting from the Canadian Arctic and her stories have received mentions in Best American Sportswriting and Essays. (Long-Form Narrative, 2021 Summer Session)
  • Kobi Libii is a writer/director/comedian who recently wrote and performed on Comedy Central’s The Opposition With Jordan Klepper. Kobi studied theater at Yale University, comedy at Second City Chicago, and is an alum of Sundance Screenwriters Lab and Directors Lab. (Long-Form Narrative)
  • Meghan Morris is a New York-based correspondent for Business Insider’s tech features desk, where she previously led coverage of WeWork and Jeffrey Epstein’s finances, among other areas. (Investigative Reporting)
  • Taylor Turner is a Daily News Producer and Video Journalist for The New York Times. She has worked as a video producer at the Washington Post and ABC News, and has been an adjunct lecturer at Howard University. (Multimedia)

Leah Duncan

Leah Duncan, AJO Mentor Network

Leah Duncan will be managing the AJO mentor network. Leah spent the last seven years as a financial news anchor, reporter and producer for Reuters video in New York. While there, she was responsible for anchoring multiple daily shows for both U.S. and international clients while providing live news hits on the biggest business and political stories of the day.

Leah was also a part of several diversity initiatives at Reuters and played an integral role in the creation of the Reuters-NABJ Graduate Fellowship for incoming graduate students in NYU’s Business and Economic Reporting (BER) program, and currently oversees BER’s mentorship program.

Prior to Reuters, Leah worked at Bloomberg Television and The Fox Business Network.

Leah holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Morgan State University and graduated from NYU’s Business and Economic Reporting program in 2009. She is excited to work with the incoming AJO students and mentors as well as those already well on their way. She counts it a privilege to be able to help students realize their goals.

Born and raised in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Leah currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and two boys. She is passionate about her faith and giving back to the community.

Malak Saleh

Malak Saleh, Editor at The Click

Malak Saleh will offer student writing support and work as an editor at The Click. Malak is currently a Breaking News Editor at Bloomberg covering U.S. corporate equity news that includes day-to-day coverage of big box retailers, e-commerce, big pharma, the oil and gas industry, as well tech companies.

Malak is proficient in news gathering techniques through the vetting of wires, social media posts, SEC filings, court orders and more. She also specializes in the coverage of Middle East regional news including government-owned entities and geopolitical conflicts. Malak previously worked at CNN in TV production, expanding her skillset to include graphics and video editing.

This semester, Malak will continue to work with professors and students across the AJO program to help create engaging dialogue in classrooms, line edit student papers in 1:1 sessions, help publish and manage content on The Click, and more. Malak looks forward to bringing and highlighting lessons to the classrooms from her everyday workflows at Bloomberg.

Adrienne Magun

Adrienne Magun, Multimedia Support.

Adrienne Magun will be providing one-on-one student support and tutoring for our Multimedia classes. Adrienne is New York City-based video producer with a range of experience from developing pitches, to pre-production, field production, and bringing a story to life in post-production. She particularly enjoys historical and cultural topics where she can spend hours immersing herself in archival footage with an eye toward the details that tell a story in a compelling, accurate, and informative way.

Adrienne is currently producing a documentary series for ABC News on Emmett Till’s murder. Prior to this project, her production experience spanned from being the head archival producer for a six-part docu-series on the year 1969, to developing, producing, writing, and editing for a crime talk show series with A&E hosts Nancy Grace and Dan Abrams. She has also worked in pre-production and post-production on news magazine programs with topics ranging from the British Royals to Michael Jackson to everyday heroes and survivors.

Get acquainted with the rest of our faculty here.


Bobby Brier

Bobby Brier, an AJO Student.

Bobby Brier scored an internship at his local daily newspaper, The Scranton Times-Tribune:

“I was raised in the Scranton area and grew up reading the newspaper, so to be able to write and report for The Times-Tribune was an incredible opportunity. I think what helped me in the application process were my writing clips that I was able to polish in Professor Liza Hogan’s Reporting the News class and publish on The Click. The final assignment that I wrote in that class was especially helpful because it was a human-interest story that was similar to the feature and profile stories I wrote this past summer at The Times-Tribune.

The reporters and editors I met at the paper helped me to grow as a writer and a reporter. My editor also allowed me to cover a wide variety of events — from a live music festival with a quick deadline to a feature story about a veteran musician searching for a kidney — and immersed me in the day-to-day activities of running a newspaper as a full-time staff writer. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that I was provided at The Times-Tribune and the kind people I met there. The experience truly enhanced my understanding of journalism.”

Lilian Manansala

Lilian Manansala, an AJO Student.

Lilian Manasala managed to double-up this summer, winning both a News and Documentary Video Fellowship at Insider and a spot in the Vox Media Writer’s Workshop. She writes:

“This summer has been intense but worth the lack of sleep and steep learning curves. To secure the Insider fellowship, I took advantage of one of the biggest resources we have in this program: the network. I reached out to five of my professors who worked or do contract work with Insider and asked if I could put their names on my cover letter. I honestly think that helped my application stand out, but I also felt that I had worked hard enough in their classes to earn those referrals. At every stage of the interview process, I imagined I was conducting source interviews. I did light backgrounding on my would-be manager and his supervisors and was able to demonstrate an interest in their work and careers.

I am currently in my third month of the six-month fellowship, and it’s flying by. It’s incredible how much this company encourages its fellows to reach for whatever they want to get out of their fellowship. I pitched my first story in the second week and feel completely supported by everyone to learn and produce as much as I want. Plus, they truly stand by their employees having a work-life balance.

The Vox Workshop is an offering for early career journalists, and I was lucky enough to be accepted into the very first cohort of 30 out of 500 applications. I’ve been given the opportunity to pitch, report, and write stories under the guidance of Vox journalists with whom we were thoughtfully paired. My mentor, Anna North, is a Senior writer for Vox and before that, was a member of the editorial board at the New York Times.”

Christina MacGillivray

Christina MacGillivray, an AJO Student.

Christina MacGillivray won a fellowship with the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. She writes:

“In Melanie Hickens’ Fall 2020 Investigative Reporting class, I focused my reporting on two proposed copper-nickel mines on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northeastern Minnesota. The mines caught my interest as I was spending an unusually large amount of time in the area as a result of COVID, and Melanie’s class gave me insight into researching the ongoing lawsuits around the mine permitting process.

Julia Dahl’s patience and persistence in searching for workshops eventually helped connect me to the Managing Editor of the IRW, Lynne Perri. By the end of 2020, I was back in New Delhi, where I connected with Lynne over Zoom. I shared my reporting on the proposed mines with Lynne and the threat environmentalists believed the mines posed to the pristine waters of NE Minnesota. Given IRW’s focus on water reporting, the investigation seemed like a good fit.

After speaking on Zoom multiple times, Lynne generously offered to have me continue this investigation with IRW over the summer. She connected me with the brilliant Susan White, who has served as my editor on the project. Between Lynne and Susan, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how to hone an investigation and translate very science-y findings for a public audience. The investigation has grown from looking at the immediate lawsuits to understanding larger issues related to our transition to a green economy and the role metals play in this transition. In this way, it is an extremely local story but with ties to pressing international issues related to security, energy and the economy. I’m extremely grateful for the guidance, time and support given by everyone named here, my fellow students and the faculty at NYU.”

Read more about our students here


At AJO, we want to set you up for success, and that means helping you get published to bulk up your portfolio of clips. Keep an eye on some of our current students and recent graduates who are writing and reporting up a storm in nationally acclaimed outlets.

Death doulas and end-of-life rights: The debate on assisted dying
By Allison Wallis

‘Journalism is sacred work’: Afghanistan’s front line reporters
By Robyn Huang

What Happened When I Made Art Therapy My Go-To For Anxiety
By Emily Leibert

Getting Paid Less to Do the World’s Most Important Job
By Lilian Manansala

After vandalism at shared worship space, honest talks on race bridge gap between Black and White churches
By Jennifer Taylor

From Henry Kravis to Natalie Portman, vertical farming is suddenly hot
By Barbi Walker-Walsh

How TSQ Project Brought Dance Back to Times Square
By Sarah Parker

The Journey to Save a Turtle
By Jennifer Taylor

A New Yorker’s Journey to South Carolina to Retrace Her Gullah Roots
By Dana Givens

Best small apartment living tips from small space design experts
By Emily Leibert

Inside a Peyote Pilgrimage
By Robyn Huang

A Nigerian designer’s leather handbags have become an ‘it’ accessory for people from around the world
By Dana Givens

The cultural impact of Sailor Moon: How a ’90s Japanese anime inspired generations of fans and spun into a global merchandising empire worth billions
By Dana Givens

Where Everyone Moved During The Pandemic | Maps And Data
By Lilian Manansala

How India’s Perfumers Recreate The Smell Of Rain On Earth | Still Standing
By Lilian Manansala

These Powerful Performers Prove It’s Time to End Ageism in Dance
By Sarah Parker

A Tumultuous Year for Portland’s Food Scene
By Alice Wolfe

The Washington Football Team Rebranded. Why Did It Get Rid Of Its Cheerleaders Over Zoom?
By Emily Leibert

Celebrities Running for Office Are Boosted By the Political Moment
By Tyler Baum

Why these Afghan women are speaking out
By Robyn Huang

This newsletter was compiled by AJO student Emily Leibert.


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