Chips Watch: The Latest Alumni News

CQS alumni continue to be elevated to newsroom leadership positions as media managers act on goals to expand workplace diversity. And in personal news, Chipsters share how the pandemic has affected milestone events. It’s all here, in the latest Chips Watch.

Angel Jennings

Angel Jennings (2005) is assistant managing editor for culture and talent at the Los Angeles Times. In the newly created position, she oversees recruiting efforts and staff development initiatives and is also responsible for internships and The Times’ Metpro diversity fellowships — the program through which she joined the paper in 2011. Until her promotion, Angel was the only Black reporter in the department that covers local and California news, according to a Times announcement.

Jonathan Capriel (2006) has an additional reporting beat, the business of education, at Washington Business Journal. Most recently for the publication he covered the rise of Virginia Tech’s innovation campus in Alexandria as a precursor and partner to Amazon’s own HQ2 growth.

Nicole Norfleet (2010), a reporter for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis since 2010, covers the retail beat, including Target, Best Buy, the Mall of America and other malls. Previously she covered commercial real estate.

Nicole Chavez (2013) has been promoted from writer to breaking and trends writer on the race and equality team at CNN. Her promotion was one of several assignments to the race and equality and police reporting teams promised by CNN leaders during the protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. “This beat speaks to who I am and how I see the world,” Nicole says, adding that she’s “looking forward to telling stories on multiculturalism, Latinx, Black, Indigenous, Asian American communities and the intersection of race (with) sports, gaming, education and more.”

Greg Lee

New jobs
Gregory Lee Jr. (1995) has returned to The Boston Globe as senior assistant managing editor, talent and community. His earlier tenure in Boston included eight years as senior assistant sports editor. Between Globe stints Greg worked for two years as senior managing editor for The Athletic D.C.

Blanca Torres (2001) is a producer for the live, call-in show “Forum” at KQED, the NPR affiliate station in San Francisco. Previously she was a reporter for the San Francisco Business Times.

Mary Hudetz (2007) is an investigative reporter for The Seattle Times. Previously she was a law enforcement reporter for The Associated Press in Albuquerque, N.M.

Melvin Backman (2012) is special projects editor and general features editor of Vulture, the entertainment site of New York magazine. He oversees editorial packages and manages Vulture’s In Conversation franchise. Previously he was a fact checker at The New Yorker.

Mara Lopez

Ana Ceballos (2013) is a state government reporter for the Miami Herald in the Tallahassee bureau. She covers education and criminal justice and prisons. Previously she was a state government reporter for the News Service of Florida.

Marangeli Lopez (2016) is a reporter for the “Morning Loop” show on KYTX  CBS19, which serves the Tyler-Longview area of East Texas. Previously she was a digital producer for WTEN News10/Fox23 News in Albany, N.Y.

Rebekah Tuchsherer (2019) covers agriculture and the environment for Farm Forum’s The Green Sheet in South Dakota. She writes, “I’ll be based in Sioux Falls with the Farm Forum, but you’ll also find my byline with the Argus Leader, Aberdeen American News and the Watertown Public Opinion. I’m very excited to bring together business and science reporting on this beat to help out with the local coverage I know (and love!) best.” Previously Rebekah was an intern at Science magazine.

Leadership and recognition
Kyle Hopkins (1999), special projects editor for the Anchorage Daily News, is among the inaugural members of the ProPublica Distinguished Fellows program. The program will fund the salaries and benefits of six local reporters for three years as they produce investigative projects from their home newsrooms. The program is an outgrowth of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, which Kyle has been part of for two years. During that time, he reported “Lawless,” which won the 2020 Pulitzer Gold Medal for Public Service.

Danese Kenon (2000), visuals editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Emma Carew Grovum (2009), of New York-based Kimbap Media, have been selected as executive advisers to the inaugural class of fellows with the Lenfest Constellation News Leadership Initiative. The management development program provides career coaching and executive leadership resources to Philadelphia-area media professionals of color pursuing senior roles in local news media enterprises.

The University of Tennessee/Tennessee Press Association recognized Leaf-Chronicle breaking news reporter Alexis Clark (2019) and a colleague with a first-place win in their division’s category of best breaking news coverage for “Help me – I’ve been stabbed.” For the second consecutive year, the newspaper in Clarksville won the general excellence award in its division.

Tsanavi Spoonhunter

Film director and producer Tsanavi Spoonhunter (2019) has received recognition for “Crow Country: Our Right to Food Sovereignty,” her graduate thesis for the School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. The documentary film won awards from the American Indian Film Festival, MINT Film Festival and Indie Short Fest. A main participant in the film is Luella Brien (2004), editor and general manager of Big Horn County News in Hardin, Mont. (depicted in the poster, left). “It was so wonderful connecting with Tsanavi,” Luella says. I didn’t realize we were both Chipsters until much later, but once we figured it out it brought an instant sense of trust to our working relationship, at least on my part. It’s so amazing to see how this program can create a bridge between generations of journalists.” Luella also says, “It felt so empowering to be able to talk about my community in such an honest straightforward way as a source, and it felt awesome to be able to help guide Tsanvai to other potential voices in the community who could help bring her vision to life….She did an excellent job and I am proud to be a part of the documentary.” A third Chipster, Mary Hudetz (2007), had a behind-the-scenes role: She introduced Tsanavi to Luella.

Heard in the news
Ibrahim Hirsi (2011), a reporter for Sahan Journal, spoke with MPR News’ Angela Davis about Somali Minnesotans.

Tariro Mzezewa (2015), travel reporter for The New York Times, spoke with Zach Mack on an episode of his podcast, “Greetings from Somewhere,” about car travel trends and Black attitudes about car travel. Tariro also spoke on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” about her story on how watching season 4 of “The Crown” has been personal for the immigrant moms and daughters who loved Princess Diana.

NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, October

Online News Association, October

National Native Media Awards (the 2020 convention was cancelled due to the pandemic), September:

  • In the under 5,000 circulation division, Dalton Walker (2005), formerly of O’odham Action News, won four awards for his reporting, including top honors in the print-online category for a feature story and a sports story. Dalton, national correspondent for Indian Country Today, also served as a judge for the wider competition.
  • In the 5,000-10,000 and under 10,000 divisions, the staff of Osage News, with editor Shannon Shaw Duty (2005) at the helm, won third place for general excellence. Shannon received several awards, including first place for best news story, first and second places for best environmental coverage and second place for best feature story. Benny Polacca (2006), senior reporter for Osage News, earned the top honor for beat reporting and placed second in the best news category.
  • In the above 10,000 division, Sunnie (Redhouse) Clahchischiligi (2006) took third place for best print sports story for the Navajo Times. Arizona Republic reporter Shondiin Silversmith (2015) placed first and third for stories in the beat reporting category and took second place for best online feature story.

Beyond journalism
Tara McLain Manthey (2000) is executive director of Denver Indian Family Resource Center. Previously she was senior vice president of advocacy, communications and development for the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

Sue (Stock) Serna (2000) has launched a social media company, Serna Social, which provides services including social media governance, security and risk for businesses. Sue is based in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Previously she was head of global social media at Cargill.

Leezel Tanglao (2003), a director with the Filipino Young Leaders Program, has key roles in two of the organization’s newest efforts: the Covid-19 Task Force, which she chairs, and the Caretaker Project Tayo help desk, of which she is chair and project director. The virtual help desk seeks to answer questions around the pandemic and connect Filipinos with vital, culturally relevant services. The project received a $25,000 innovation fund grant from the Booz Allen Foundation. Leezel is senior managing editor, membership and innovation, at HuffPost.

Carolyn, Austin and Leah

Jordan Dresser (2006) was elected chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council for the 2020-2022 term and spoke with Wyoming Public Radio about his vision for the tribe. Jordan has served as collections manager for the tribe’s historic preservation office in Riverton, Wyo.

Carolyn (Chin) Phillips (2009), celebrated her marriage on Oct. 18 to Austin Phillips, with their daughter Leah. The couple was engaged Aug. 20 in Detroit and, despite the ongoing uncertainty of 2020, decided to move forward with a wedding. The pandemic year, Carolyn says, “shined a spotlight on what truly matters – health, safety, family and home. No day is guaranteed, and we wanted to make our love and commitment official as soon as possible.” Carolyn is director of marketing for the Methodist Children’s Home Society, which Crain’s recently named Metro Detroit’s best-managed nonprofit.



Sonya and Christian

After postponing their wedding twice due to changing rules on in-person gatherings in Virginia, Sonya Paclob (2013) and Christian Poblete were married on Nov. 20 at her mother’s home in Virginia Beach. “Family is one of the greatest values in our Filipino culture,” says Sonya, who had 25 guests and her 32-year-old parrot, Buddy, in attendance, and a video stream for the out-of-town guests. The couple met in high school 16 years ago and bonded over Anime, video games and running. “Despite the struggles of having a wedding during a pandemic, it made our marriage a unique one,” Sonya says. “We know we have a story to tell one day. We learned that the only thing worth doing is love unconditionally despite life’s shortcomings.” Sonya is a web designer at Antech Systems Inc. in Virginia Beach; Christian is a graduate engineering student.


Victoria, Tommy and Xander

Victoria (Edwards) Cooley (2006) and Ryan Cooley welcomed their second son, Alexander “Xander” Cooley, on Nov. 15. Born in Atlanta, Xander weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces. Brother Tommy, 2, is “especially excited to introduce Xander to the ‘swing slides’ (playgrounds) and the joys of chasing ‘Meow Meow Junie’ (the cat),” Victoria says. She is a high school English teacher at Perry Career Academy in Clayton County, Ga., and freelances in the summer for the Cobb County Courier and other local publications. The family lives in Peachtree City, Ga.



Marcella, Byron and Little JJ

We briefly introduced Jiraiya James Ellsworth, the son of Marcella Corona Ellsworth (2013) and Byron Ellsworth, in the last issue, but now there are photos. “Little JJ” was born Aug. 29 in Reno, weighing in at 7.7 pounds. “The hardest part of all of this for me was missing out on sharing my joy with others,” says Marcella, a reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I’ve been isolating myself at home since the pandemic started in March. Our newsroom has been working remotely, and I missed out on sharing the news with my friends at work…Still, my husband and I are so happy to meet our son, and we’re excited to see him grow. I want to teach him to love music, food, animals and nature.”



Ayana, Nora and her grandmothers

Nora Evelyn

Ayana (Stewart) Lage (2015) and Vagner Lage welcomed Nora Evelyn Lage on Aug. 5 in Tampa, Fla. The addition of Nora, who weighed 5 pounds, 5 ounces, and was 18.5 inches long, means Ayana’s family is represented by five generations of women, from Nora to the baby’s great- great-grandmother. “I feel so abundantly blessed that Nora will grow up with so many strong women in her life,” Ayana says. Read more about her maternity experiences in her blog, “XO, Ayana.”






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