Program in Journalism 2021 Senior Colloquium

April 29, 2021

The Program in Journalism hosted its third annual Senior Colloquium on April 29, 2021. Each senior pursuing the certificate in journalism presented a piece of journalism they have created based on field reporting, or that explores the challenges and opportunities facing contemporary journalism.

The colloquium offered the seniors experience in presenting and gaining valuable feedback on their work. The brief presentations were followed by comments from faculty and distinguished journalists.


10:00 a.m. — Welcome and introductions

10:05 a.m. — Session I

Jack Allen
“We’re saying we’re going to be closer to you”: How Newsrooms are Turning to Email to Connect with Readers

Julia Ilhardt
Outrunning the River: A Warming World Melts the Ground Beneath Alaska’s Indigenous Communities

Sophie Li
“We work like it’s our last day on the job”: Life Stories from a Changing Hong Kong

Karolen Eid
Staying Afloat: The Future of Funding for Local Journalism

11:10 a.m. — Session II

Katie Tam
The Secrets in Our Sewage

Regina Lankenau
Finding Resilience During A Pandemic: Lessons from a Venezuelan Refugee

Sophia Cai
“Cheap Bar Slut”: Escalating Online Attacks Target Certain Female Politicians Over Others           

Noa Wollstein
Wednesday at Elizabeth

12:15 p.m. — Lunch

1:00 p.m. — Session III

Francesca Walton
Treachery to Truth: A Fox News Director Gives Her Side of the Story

Remy Reya
Who Gets to Give Back?

Lindsey Schmidt
As Migration Surges, Advocates and Experts say Climate Change Shares the Blame

Benjamin Ball
Reflections on “A Cultural Remix”

1:55 p.m. — Short break

2:00 p.m. — Session IV

Jimin Kang
What About the International Students?

Morgan Carmen
It’s Private: How the Covid-19 Pandemic Has Further Siloed Students’ Sexual and Reproductive Health

Amy Abdalla
Revolutionary Surveillance

2:45 p.m. — Closing remarks and farewell


Amy Abdalla (Near Eastern Studies)
Revolutionary Surveillance

My article will expose the National Security Agency’s strategy of using the 2011 Arab Spring as a way to increase the online presence of dissidents and subsequently track their online activities. I will do this by using documents from the NSA data leak of 2013 along with data on the usage of social networks leading up to and after the Arab Spring. I will argue that the U.S. media was inadvertently complicit in this strategy, as they pushed the narrative of a “social media revolution” despite the reality on the ground proving otherwise. I will prove that social media usage in Egypt skyrocketed after the Arab Spring, not before.

Watch Amy’s presentation here.

Jack Allen (Slavic Languages and Literatures)
“We’re saying we’re going to be closer to you”: How Newsrooms are Turning to Email to Connect with Readers

In both the U.K. and U.S., local journalism has been steadily declining since the 2008 recession. To counter this, journalists have turned to email newsletters—an easy way for individual journalists to start their own outlets and connect with their community, and for large outlets to maintain links with their diffuse audience. In the pandemic, too, it has become a way to quickly distribute information about COVID case numbers, and to stay in touch as audiences stayed home. I spoke with newsletter editors in the U.K. and U.S., at local and national outlets to find more about this burgeoning phenomenon­—one that, according to a 2020 study from Oxford University, is reaching over a fifth of Americans every week.

Watch Jack’s presentation here.

Benjamin Ball (English)
Reflections on “A Cultural Remix”

Following my work with the Prospect section of The Daily Princetonian and in JRN 280 The Literature of Fact: Writing about Culture, where I spoke at length about the science fiction medium’s relationship to politics and culture, my project explores the scientific and cultural ideas behind Zack Snyder’s 2021 movie Justice League. By speaking with a number of scholars, I explored the extent to which pop culture is true to the origins of the ideas it repackages, and why and how that repackaging happens. In short, I aim to provide academic, historical, and scientific angles to what is often considered a “low-art” medium.

Watch Benjamin’s presentation here.

Sophia Cai (Politics)
“Cheap Bar Slut”: Escalating Online Attacks Target Certain Female Politicians Over Others

For decades, gendered violence against women in American politics has largely been ignored or treated as a price women pay for seeking public office. But now­—exacerbated by former President Trump, magnified by the shift to remote work and bolstered by the emergence of masculine identities as a central and organizing element of our electoral politics—rising hostility against women in politics has become an increasingly salient problem. Interviews with over a dozen women—including Katie Hill, Rep. Terri Sewell and Canadian Minister Catherine McKenna—paint a clear and troubling picture of the ways that gendered violence escalates and pervades all levels of office, but disproportionately affects women with multiple marginalized identities (such as Black and queer women) and those who weigh in on a distinct set of policy issues, including reproductive health, climate change and coronavirus restrictions.

Morgan Carmen (Public and International Affairs)
It’s Private: How the Covid-19 Pandemic Has Further Siloed Students’ Sexual and Reproductive Health

Attention on sexual and reproductive health during the Covid-19 pandemic has mostly focused on access: contraception supply chains have been interrupted, changes in insurance and inabilities to afford reproductive goods and services came with job losses, and many have been unable or unwilling to visit gynecologists or other providers for sexual and reproductive health concerns. When college students were sent home, difficulties with contraception (either access or figuring out what to do regarding dissatisfaction) were not relevant, as interpersonal contact was minimized in quarantine. Back on campus, young women are forced to contend with these issues in a new environment. Interpersonal contact is available, which for some makes sexual activity available, so issues of access and dissatisfaction are suddenly at the forefront. This piece aims to understand how these young women at Princeton are navigating such a complicated new space.

Karolen Eid (Public and International Affairs)
Staying Afloat: The Future of Funding for Local Journalism

During times of economic crisis, local journalism often suffers. Without access to proper funding, local journalism outlets disappear, creating “news deserts.” This problem is prevalent in the Midwest, where diminishing advertisement revenue has led to a rapid decline in available news sources. Building on interviews with local journalism experts throughout the Midwest, this article explores the new reality of the local news industry. Underlying this reality are three key factors: the switch from ad-based revenue to consumer-based revenue, the rising importance of the hyperlocal focus and the potential of nonprofit funding.

Watch Karolen’s presentation here.

Julia Ilhardt (Public and International Affairs)
Outrunning the River: A Warming World Melts the Ground Beneath Alaska’s Indigenous Communities

Newtok, Alaska, is a community of 400 indigenous Yup’ik persons. Since the 1990s, Newtok has been in the process of relocating ten miles downriver to Mertarvik, but only a handful of new homes have been constructed. Like dozens of other remote Alaskan communities, Newtok is rapidly losing ground to thawing permafrost, an eroding riverbank and flooding. Newtok’s relocation has been mired in political and financial difficulties, leaving a village split in half. Newtok calls into question the sustainability of life in the Alaskan arctic and highlights the very tangible consequences of climate change for some corners of America.

Watch Julia’s presentation here.

Jimin Kang (Spanish and Portuguese)
What About the International Students?

Each year, over a million international students leave their home countries for the U.S. to be educated in American schools. When the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation in the spring of 2020, these students were hit especially hard: facing travel restrictions, consulate closures and classes taken from opposite time zones, they were forced to reckon not only with unforeseen bureaucracy, but questions of whether it was worth leaving home in the first place. For this project, I followed five international students across multiple countries and class years as they navigated the post-COVID landscape of higher education in the U.S. Told through a mix of reported and first-person writing, it offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of the nation’s foreign students in a turbulent social and political time. The piece, originally reported and published in The Nation in June 2020, has been extended to include recent updates from April 2021.

Watch Jimin’s presentation here.

Regina Lankenau (Public and International Affairs)
Finding Resilience During A Pandemic: Lessons from a Venezuelan Refugee

This project grew out of a summer spent collecting oral histories from resettled refugees across the U.S. for the Princeton Office of Religious Life Oral History Archive and was generously funded by the John McPhee ’53 Award for Summer Projects in Independent Journalism. Although all the stories I had the honor to hear were varied and featured colorful lives, characters, journeys and dreams, a common thread I found was a steadfast resilience in the face of unimaginable obstacles. During a tumultuous 2020 summer spent in quarantine at my family’s home in Houston, I couldn’t help but feel there was so much I had yet to learn from women and men who had left everything behind in search of a better life for themselves and their children. It was a true testament to strength in a time of uncertainty—something that I felt was incredibly relevant to the moment we were living through.

Watch Regina’s presentation here.

Sophie Li (Politics)
“We work like it’s our last day on the job”: Life Stories from a Changing Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a city defined by “new normals”: one where the distance between then and now is best measured not by linear time, but by the gulf between what was once ordinary and has now become unthinkable, just as the previously unthinkable has become the norm. Though it is typically used in American headlines as a symbol, a metaphor, and a geopolitical flashpoint, Hong Kong is also home: a place where 7.5 million people are making a life for themselves, each in their own quiet ways. When your life and career has been built on political possibilities which no longer exist, how do you adapt? Resist?

Remy Reya (Public and International Affairs)
Who Gets to Give Back?

People experiencing homelessness face plenty of barriers to stable employment and housing. Many also have to overcome a feeling of shame—a sense that they might not be worthy of a job or even housing because of internalized stigma and disappointment at their living situation. On the path to stability, some in the homeless community find dignity and purpose in giving back. Although often characterized only as dependent beneficiaries of social services, many unhoused people engage in volunteer work and informal giving that might belie their own need. These pursuits can function as crucial stepping-stones for those who want to earn stable employment and housing by providing stability, a caring community, and critical housing resources and job opportunities; the daunting burden of judgement often melts away in the face of generosity. But they are also actively beneficial to the housed community. Over two months in 2019, I followed along with individuals experiencing homelessness in California who supported others and built community even amid challenging personal circumstances. For some of them, giving back is not a privilege; it’s a duty that transcends status and even need.

Watch Remy’s presentation here.

Lindsey Schmidt (Public and International Affairs)
As Migration Surges, Advocates and Experts Say Climate Change Shares the Blame

This article provides insight into the current surge of migration along the U.S.-Mexico border by presenting information about the push factors driving northern Central Americans from their homes. The current conversation around these factors focuses on the severe economic and physical insecurity in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. What this article and my thesis contribute is not just information about these conditions, but also details about a contemporary challenge that has already and will continue to displace millions of people across the world: climate change. Although it is understudied, climate change will have widespread implications for migration, which desperately need research and policy attention.

Watch Lindsey’s presentation here.

Katie Tam (Molecular Biology)
The Secrets in Our Sewage

As the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the country, and testing shortages became common, a new method of tracking community spread of the coronavirus emerged: analyzing sewage. During the summer of 2020, I embarked on a (virtual) exploration of what else was in our sewage, and what scientists are starting to find out about our health using our waste. It turns out, there is a lot: From nutritional biomarkers to the microbiome, I spoke to researchers in the field of wastewater-based epidemiology leading a sewage science revolution—and as always in science, working out the problems along the way.

Watch Katie’s presentation here.

Francesca Walton (Public and International Affairs)
Treachery to Truth: A Fox News Director Gives Her Side of the Story

I believe profiles are one of the best ways to tell a story. Over the course of five months, I spent many hours “zooming” with a Fox News Media executive. She recounted intimate experiences from within the walls of 1211 Avenue of the Americas; she voiced her concerns about the company’s journalism standards and overall integrity, specifically regarding how Fox promotes their opinion content. Her determination to help the most-watched news network find its footing in a world that is highly critical of conservative media has been a reminder of how powerful women can be when they stand their ground.

Watch Francesca’s presentation here.

Noa Wollstein (English)
Wednesday at Elizabeth

Wednesday at Elizabeth tells the story of Mabel, an asylum seeker detained at an ICE detention facility. Tormented by hope for release and fear of deportation, Mabel’s story provides a harrowing view of the U.S. migrant detention system.

Watch Noa’s presentation here.


Joe Stephens
Director, Program in Journalism
Ferris Professor of Journalism in Residence

Watch Professor Stephens’s opening remarks here.
Watch Professor Stephens’s closing remarks here.

Nick Chiles
Journalist and author
Former visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism

Barbara Demick
Journalist and author
Incoming visiting McGraw Professor of Writing

Joanna Kakissis
Contributing international correspondent, National Public Radio
Current visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism

Kimbriell Kelly
Washington bureau chief, The Los Angeles Times
Current visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism

James Martinez
Breaking news investigations editor, The Associated Press
Current visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism

Joe Richman
Founder and executive producer, Radio Diaries
Current visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism

Helen Thorpe
Journalist and author
Incoming visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism

Deborah Amos
International correspondent, National Public Radio
Ferris Professor of Journalism in Residence

John McPhee
Staff writer, The New Yorker
Ferris Professor of Journalism in Residence

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