Communicator, Spring 2019

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Journalism graduate Sam Reiser takes an entrepreneurial approach by converting a school bus into a tiny home on wheels

DEAN’S MESSAGE I don’t need to remind the readers of this magazine – who are more media savvy than most – about the pressures facing the journalism profession. Reporters face hostility from the top levels of government. Polls tell us that most Americans don’t trust the news on television or in newspapers. Meanwhile, the ranks of journalists are thinning – putting more stress on those who cover the news. So as public scrutiny is increasing, the possibility for media missteps is also increasing. It’s tempting, under these conditions, to “circle the wagons” in defense of the Fourth Estate. And we certainly need to speak out about the value of accurate, bias-free, ethically reported news, especially as it relates to the health of our democracy. But I also believe that critically evaluating the media, including taking it to task when the need arises, is equally important. As a 2018 survey indicated, most Americans say that although they don’t trust the media, they do believe that trust can be restored. As we improve, we restore trust. That’s why I’m proud of the fact that each year, just after spring commencement, we travel to Washington, D.C., to present the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism at the National Press Club. The award recognizes those who point out flaws in newsgathering practices and in newsrooms – with the aim of making them better. The award, endowed in 1994 by alumnus George Richards and his wife, Ann, is in honor of George’s father. Bart Richards was an editor known by his peers for his “fearless, creative, and persistent” work. He was also a founder of the Pennsylvania Society of Newspaper Editors. The award recognizes analysis and criticism that is meant to improve journalism. Each year, we get a number of outstanding entries, and we’ve awarded work from outlets including “Frontline,” The New York Times, Nieman Reports and “On the Media” in recent years. A panel of three judges, many whom are alumni with significant journalism experience, chooses the winner.

Farhi’s goal is to “watch the watchers.” One column shed light on a longstanding practice at NPR to rely heavily on temporary labor in its newsrooms. The story, which provided an evenhanded view of the problems with NPR’s approach, led to some soul-searching by the organization and improvements in its hiring practices. Another story, on the “panelization” of news in cable outlets, provided a clear-eyed look at the “talk is (literally) cheap” approach to big stories. Reporters and pundits are lined up behind a desk and asked to opine on events – a much less expensive way to fill airtime than sending reporters out into the field. That story isn’t likely to prompt change in newsroom practices, but it makes for smarter media consumers. The story was “spot on,” wrote one judge. Farhi, he added, “is a real beat reporter. He gets both sides, gets comments from everybody, and you still can tell where he’s coming from.” One of my favorite 2018 columns by Farhi asked about the relationship between newsroom diversity and coverage. He observed that the White House press corps is overwhelmingly white, and raised questions about the impact that might have on the stories generated on that beat. The piece was important and thought-provoking. It was an honor to present Farhi the Bart Richards Award on behalf of the Bellisario College. In doing so, we signal our understanding that to support good journalism, we must support efforts to make it better. Every year at the ceremony, I am thankful for George and Ann’s vision in creating this award. We will always need strong media criticism. As you’ll see on page 12 of this issue, the news landscape is increasingly complex. The days when a journalist could ignore the business side of a news outlet are over. That creates new pressures for journalists, who must be much more in tune with the values, habits and preferences of news consumers than before.

The Communicator magazine is published twice a year for alumni, students, faculty and friends of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

DEAN Marie Hardin EDITOR Steve Sampsell (‘90) ASSISTANT EDITORS Trey Miller (’12) Jonathan McVerry (’05) CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Walter Middlebrook DESIGNER Whitney Justice All items relating to the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and its faculty, staff, students and alumni will be considered for publication. Opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by the University, the Bellisario College or editorial staff.

CORRESPONDENCE The Communicator Penn State Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications 302 James Building University Park, PA 16802 Email: Twitter: @PSUBellisario Web:

I was impressed, in reading “Mindset of Marketers,” with the ways our young alumni are adjusting to and leading their peers in this new landscape. As I read, I was also buoyed in knowing that these alumni have been well prepared by our faculty to address the ethical and professional challenges that they will meet on the journey. Thanks for your support of journalism, journalism education, and the Bellisario College.

This year, we honored the work of Paul Farhi of The Washington Post. Farhi, who has worked at the Post since 1988, has covered politics and business but now focuses on the media. The judges looked at his columns from 2018, which covered a range of issues from working conditions for journalists to potential biases in coverage.

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Dean Marie Hardin


This publication is available in alternative media on request. Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to minorities, women, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and other protected groups. Nondiscrimination: html U.Ed. COM 19-30

FEATURES 12 Mindset of Marketers Changing approaches put a high value on analytics for journalism success

18 Pulitzer-Worthy Reporting Alumni deliver coverage when their communities need it most

23 Unchatty Chatbots Research: Adding humanlike features is not enough to win over users

34 A Light in the Dark THON support system helps student persevere during undergraduate career

40 Turning Sweet Ideas Into Tasty Success Robert Gavazzi brings a forward-thinking mindset to The Hershey Company

DEPARTMENTS 2 Dean’s Message

ON THE COVER Sam Reiser spent a large part of his spare time during the 2018-19 academic year converting a school bus into the place he plans to live. (Photos by Abby Drey ’10)


Starting Shots


Crossword Puzzle


Alumni Notes


The Interview



Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Senior Sara Perlowitz lets a curious student peek through the camera while reporting in Puerto Rico for the in-depth sports reporting class. (Photo by Will Yurman)

The Communicator | Spring 2019




Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Two rapellers participating in the “Over the Edge” charity event wave to spectators in the Hyatt Place building in State College on Oct. 11, 2018. The photo won first place in General News in the Society of Professional Journalists Region 1 Mark of Excellence competition. (Photo by Eric Firestine ’19)

The Communicator | Spring 2019




Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Penn State softball player Chelsea Bisi (25) gets welcomed by her teammates at home plate after hitting a home run. (Photo by Yiwen Pan ’19)

The Communicator | Spring 2019



three-time national champion and perennial Top 10 in Hearst Journalism Awards Program, “the Pulitzers of college journalism�



study abroad opportunities


for-credit internships course sections with 20 or fewer students during 2018-19 academic year

The Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State provides the opportunities and resources of a large university with the personalized feel and support of a small school. As the largest accredited program of its kind in the nation, the Bellisario College offers a place where all students can fit in and succeed.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications




Program earns Top 10 honor Penn State was named one of the Top 10 journalism schools for 2019, according to College Magazine, which has 925,000 monthly readers. The online magazine cited the flexibility and variety of major options and the internship support available to students.

Faculty columnist wins SPJ contest Russell Frank, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism who writes a regular column for, won first place in the 2019 SPJ Keystone Chapter Best in Journalism Contest. Frank finished ahead of two writers at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Filmmaker guides Earth Day short Pearl Gluck, an assistant professor in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies, collaborated with The Nature Conservancy and directed a short film that made its debut on Earth Day in April. “The Ice Cream Cake” uses humor to address global warming.

Student secures PR Week honor Recent graduate Elise Bingaman, an advertising/ public relations major who graduated in May, was one of five national finalists for the Outstanding Student Award from PRWeek.


BOYER @laurenboyer


GARRETT @MichaelMGarrett

Lives in: Washington, D.C.

Lives in: State College

Job: Manager, social media intelligence at National Geographic

Job: Associate editor, Penn State Office of Strategic Communications

Big break: My first job in D.C. managing U.S. News & World Report’s social media

Big break: Having my first short story, “Twenty Column Inches,” purchased at professional rates by major London publisher Flame Tree Press for their Cosy Crime anthology

In this issue: Writes about the state of journalism, Page 12 Now reading: “The Membership Economy” by Robbie Kellman Baxter Three things always in my fridge: Almond milk, cauliflower gnocchi from Trader Joe’s, chocolate chips Favorite kind of cookie: The ones in West Halls, obviously. Are those still a thing? Favorite vacation destination: Europe. I’m visiting London and Ireland this summer. Fondest Penn State memory: Serving as student marshal at graduation and getting to sit with my favorite professor. It’s a good day when: My phone battery makes it through a whole day at work. Top three artists on my playlist: Whatever pumps me up for my run.

PET PEEVE: Escalefting … look it up.

In this issue: Writes about THON photo captain Brianna Barker, Page 34 Now reading: “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler Three things always in my fridge: Eggs, bacon, Yuengling My TV/viewing guilty pleasure: I adore “Gilmore Girls,” and will not apologize. Fondest Penn State memory: Opening my acceptance letter with my parents



Lives in: Lewisburg, Pennsylvania Job: Writer/editor and communications professional, Alan Janesch Communications Big break: Every new job I’ve ever gotten In this issue: Writes about alumnus Robert Gavazzi of The Hershey Company, Page 40 Now reading: “Poe: A Life Cut Short” by Peter Ackroyd My TV/guilty pleasure: Low-budget horror movies on COMET Fondest Penn State memory: There are lots. My fondest “professional” memory is of helping to bring the National Governors Association annual meeting to University Park and State College in 2000. Three things always in my fridge: Eggs, cheese, kefir

Favorite vacation destination: O Canada!

Favorite kind of cookie: Homemade chocolate chip

Best advice I ever received: A high school teacher once told me the secret to happiness in life: You need something to do, something to believe, and someone to love.

Pet peeve: Whining


“No one objects to clarity” – a faculty member’s comment on one of my papers for a Penn State English literature class.

I get a text in the morning from my mom wishing me a day filled with joy and love.

It’s a good day when: I check a few things off my to-do list.


The Communicator | Spring 2019


MINDSET OF MARKETERS Changing approaches — in business and the classroom — put high value on analytics for journalism success By Lauren Boyer (’09)

Analytics — from how much attention a story attracts to how long readers spend with it — represent an important part of what drives Jim Iovino, deputy managing editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on a daily basis. (Photo by Steve Mellon)


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications


f newspapers had one dollar for every second editors spent in meetings discussing front page story placement, journalism might have avoided some of the financial hardships of the last decade. To be fair, those meetings all made sense at the time. The words stamped across this sacred surface toppled presidents, signaled the breakout of war and reflected on the greatest tragedies and triumphs of their times. That coveted lettering above the fold, shouted by paperboys in the streets, signaled something momentous – to someone, at least. The pen may be considered mightier than the sword, but it was no match for the hands of a suburban dad, who would collect that morning delivery, rip out the sports section and toss the rest – Page One and all.

The writers, meanwhile, were shielded from this ritual. The faces behind a discarded front page byline would never witness their brainchild languishing, unread, only to be jettisoned into the trash faster than they could recite the 5 Ws. It’s a scene from a bygone era where a medium, so detached from its readership, filled the data gap with assumptions and projections void of contemporary analytic technologies. Today, however, journalists – including a number of Penn State graduates in the industry and faculty members in the classroom – increasingly adopt the mindsets of marketers, bridging this crippling disconnect between the historically separate church (editorial) and state (sales).

The Communicator | Spring 2019


When you assume “As a journalist, I thought everyone was like me,” said Curt Chandler, a former director of photography at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I read the A section.” Chandler, an assistant teaching professor in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, said those were the days when editors “thought we knew what we were doing.” That logic ended in the late 1990s, he said, when the newsroom reviewed the results of a new market study typically reserved for the paper’s business department. The news blew his mind. People bypassed the front page to read – of all things – the classifieds. “This was a revelation to me,” Chandler said. “I thought I knew what I was producing and who I was producing it for, but it turns out, I wasn’t even close.” Now, more than 20 years later, Chandler teaches students how to serve and grow audiences, leveraging website analytics and key metrics that can, for better or worse, hold a reporter accountable for writing into the void. Journalism is, after all, the news business, and those pursuing an editorial career must equally embrace the second word of this pseudonym, despite the symbolic barrier. At The Daily Collegian, a proving ground for generations of students, there was a literal wall between the business and news divisions in both Carnegie Building, which housed the paper for decades until 1990, and in James Building, located in downtown State College and where the paper called home until this year. Ironically, the upcoming demolition of James Building marks an end to that divide. The Collegian newsroom will move this summer, and eventually into a space in the state-of-the-art Bellisario Media Center, which is designed to facilitate collaboration between students across all communications majors and help develop the next generation of great digital storytellers, when it’s completed in 2020. That culture of separation “is an old idea that doesn’t stand up,” said Krystle Kopacz, founder and CEO of Revmade, a company that develops audience-centric content and strategies for associations, brands and publishers. In 2016, Kopacz (’07 Journ) started the company with the 14

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Faculty member Curt Chandler brings an appreciation for technology and strong storytelling — something that can work on a variety of platforms — to the classroom for his students. (Photo by Will Yurman)

idea of helping media clients diversify their revenue streams through better editorial and advertising products, including branded content.

New business model As a student, Kopacz favored the courtroom over the boardroom, craving the adrenaline rush of covering trials and surprise verdicts while leafing through pages of freshly-printed legal motions. But the court reporting beat – a prize in any newsroom – was seldom available to a new hire, and least of all, a recent college graduate. “You couldn’t get that job for 20 years. I couldn’t contend with having to climb the ladder for that long,” Kopacz said. As her peers set their sights on livable salaries at daily newspapers, Kopacz did something bold, accepting her lowest-paying job offer. “My parents thought I was insane,” she said, reflecting on her decision to join an online healthcare news startup near Washington, D.C., as a web producer. The job involved managing a group of freelancers and editing their work for clarity and intended distribution — from search engine optimization to social media and email marketing. “I’m so glad I did it now,” Kopacz said. “I prioritized learning and advancement early on over money.”

In 2010, Kopacz took her new expertise – now classified under the umbrella of “audience development” – to Atlantic Media, a Washington-based print and online media conglomerate. Her first task was growing a customer email database, leveraging tactics including onsite promotions and email prompts on popular articles and special reports, with the simple goal of getting to know the reader. On reputable news websites, it’s difficult to click a few links without eventually hitting a pop-up form touting the opportunity to “learn more,” “get the top stories every morning,” or to “make your inbox more interesting.” Supplying an email address allows audience development teams to identify a reader, track their viewing habits and serve them more engaging content. Eventually – publishers hope – readers might pay for what they’re getting. This concept behind email marketing traces its beginnings to 1978, the year Gary Thuerk, a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corp., sent an email promoting his company’s products to 400 users via ARPANET, an early version of the internet. Like the high-waisted “mom jeans” of the same era, email, too, is back in vogue, making its mark as a more valuable tool than ever for keeping journalism viable. “It’s not just about anybody and

anytime,” Kopacz said. “It’s about specific people and having a relationship with them.”

to have deeper dives into policy, and people were interested in talking to each other,” he said.

Working in a business-to-business division of Atlantic Media, Kopacz helped launch Defense One, a website tailored for defense and national security professionals, as well as Route Fifty, a site focused on technology and innovation in state and local government.

Many were eager, he added, to support The Atlantic beyond a purely transactional magazine subscription.

Both sites serve relatively niche audiences, offering hyperrelevant information and updates readers can’t get elsewhere. At the same time, news outlets prioritizing general coverage and politics stare down a bigger challenge in determining what consumers will pay for. In doing so, they’re turning to a concept built on exclusivity and perfected by fraternal organizations, country clubs and the AARP: membership.

Making membership matter At National Public Radio, members donate to local stations in return for a T-shirt or a tote bag combined with the feel-good notion of supporting a shared mission. The Guardian, a British newspaper, revamped its membership program in 2016 and began requesting donations with an emotional plea tied to the current political climate. “At a time when factual reporting is critical, The Guardian’s editorial independence is safeguarded by our readers,” read a pop-up on the site in March 2019. “If you’re able to, please support The Guardian today.” The Atlantic, at more than 160 years old, joined the ranks of paid membership models in 2017 with the launch of The Masthead, a premium offering appealing to its die hard readers. “I had never seen as hardcore of a fan base as the fans of The Atlantic,” said Andrew McGill (’10 Journ), a senior product manager for the D.C.-based publisher. “On the newsroom end, we wanted to find a way to really engage those people and give them stuff they wanted. On the business end, they saw a market for new subscriber revenue.” McGill serves as a liaison between the news company’s technology, marketing, editorial and sales departments in the hope of cementing the success of digital projects.

“If they could send us more money to fund good journalism, they would do it,” he said. “They just didn’t have a way to do it.” McGill and his team plunged right in, adopting the lean startup mentality of launching a “minimum viable product” with just enough features to collect feedback and data on user interaction. “We wanted to get something up and running pretty quickly and put it in front of people to see how it went,” McGill said. The Masthead initially launched at a cost of $100 per year and included a digital subscription to the magazine, a daily weekday newsletter, access to a members-only Facebook group, event discounts and conference calls with Atlantic staffers. “We learned, first off, that people did not like engaging on Facebook,” McGill said. “That was a deal-breaker for some of our members, so we moved to an internal forum format.” The team also learned to prioritize quality over quantity. “Five newsletters a week turned out to be too much,” McGill said, adding that the conference calls – popular with a small portion of members available at a specific time – pivoted to written Q&As. After one month, The Masthead’s membership count was reportedly in the thousands, according to Digiday. While memberships have created a new revenue stream for some media outlets, others benefit greatly from maintaining a paywall in which their products can only be obtained by paid subscription. Among the leaders in that group is The New York Times, which even offers separate subscriptions for cooking or crossword puzzles. Both include digital apps and monthly fees in exchange for exclusive features. These non-news offerings comprise an increasing share of the company’s growth.

“It’s one of those classic hard-to-explain jobs,” he said. “I am making sure we have the trains running on time – and that we have trains at all.” The role wasn’t necessarily on his radar when he graduated Penn State and started a reporting job covering school districts for the Allentown Morning Call. Through self-taught coding skills, McGill started creating interactive graphics for the newspaper’s website, later moving to a position at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette creating web-exclusive experiences. After joining the politics desk at The Atlantic in 2016, McGill decided to combine his editorial and technical skills into a role on its product team, which coordinates the build-out of the newsroom’s digital presence. The Masthead, he said, evolved from surveys and discussions with panels of readers that focused on what The Atlantic could offer to become more valuable.

“It’s not just about anybody and anytime. It’s about specific people and having a relationship with them.”

— Krystle Kopacz, CEO Revmade

“From there, we very quickly got the sense that people wanted to have greater access to Atlantic writers. People wanted The Communicator | Spring 2019


In its 2018 earnings report, the Times announced it had generated $709 million in digital revenue, shy of its 2020 goal of $800 million. Executives decided to set a new goal of more than doubling its current subscribers, hitting 10 million by 2025. While subscriptions are nothing new, the increased reliance on loyalty as a revenue model is a far cry away from the journalism of the early 2010s – an era where clicks were king and Buzzfeed ruled the world. “I do think that the economics of the internet being so based on volume automatically forced journalists to think about popularity versus news value,” Kopacz said. “That’s why the pendulum swinging back toward membership is a good thing.”

‘All about the math’ The traditional digital advertising model – getting as many eyeballs as possible on pages to sell ads – faces new challenges. Digitally-native publications, once heavily dependent on Facebook, report declining traffic numbers as the social network continues to implement algorithm changes that prioritize “friends and family” in its newsfeed. “I think journalism is being bucked by these big trends in technology and society and information,” said Lee Ahern, an associate professor of advertising and public relations in the Bellisario College. “On one hand, publishers are getting squeezed. The revenue that they can get out of their content is going down.” Some point fingers at the so-called “Facebook-Google duopoly.” Digital research firm eMarketer predicts that by 2020 these two tech giants, combined with Amazon, will control more than 60 percent of digital ad spending. This would put a squeeze on publishers to compete for what’s left. “How do publishers survive in an era where they’ve lost control of their content?” asked Ahern. “The dynamics of this industry and what’s powering it are changing. If it’s me, I’d want to know what the heck is going on.” Ahern leads the Bellisario College’s digital media trends and analytics minor, which helps prepare students for the changing communications landscape. 16

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Faculty member Lee Ahern, who leads the popular digital media trends and analytics minor and teaches in the Bellisario College, stresses the opportunity measurement provides. ––––––––––

“It’s all about the math. It’s media. It can be quantified.”

The minor, entering its third year, includes classes on advertising and digital media metrics, familiarizing students with tools they’ll use in the workplace. In the search engine marketing class, students work through the Invent Penn State initiative and are paired with actual start-ups, managing budgets and running real campaigns. “It’s really about current economic trends and how publishers are monetizing their content in the new digital era,” Ahern said. Aspiring journalists who pawned their graphing calculators after their gen-ed math classes might want to retrace their steps. “It’s all about the math. It’s media. It can be quantified,” Ahern said. “It’s not that complicated … you’re not learning algorithms or calculating statistical equations. There’s a platform that does it for you. You just have to interpret it. That’s what we teach.”

Increasing the stakes Take this scenario: A website is visited by two different people, now classified as “unique visitors.” One hits the “back button,” thereby increasing “bounce rate,” which measures the number of people who leave after viewing just one page. Another clicks through a photo gallery, generating seven page views. Maybe this person spent 30 seconds on an article before moving on. An analyst enthusiastically types all these numbers into their mega-tracker – a labyrinth of color-coded, multi-tab

Excel sheets, growing more and more convoluted with each column added. “You can be overwhelmed with analytics. There’s so much out there you can track,” said Jim Iovino, deputy managing editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “What’s really important to your organization? Figuring that out is the hardest part.” Iovino (’98 Journ) has spent the last year in a program called Table Stakes, an initiative funded by the Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to help printfirst metro newspapers navigate the digital transition. Table Stakes helps editors pinpoint the data and metrics that matter. These key performance indicators – called KPIs – help a company measure how well it is achieving its business goals. For the Post-Gazette, KPIs include digital subscriptions, page views and time spent by loyal visitors, and a user’s path that leads to becoming a digital subscriber. “We want to make sure that people are invested in these stories, and they aren’t just flying by,” said Iovino, who leverages data to help his team do what journalists do best: ask questions. In the process, they learn to scrutinize the kinds of things newsrooms do “just because they’ve always done it.” Several years ago, for example, the Post-Gazette started publishing a weekly gas price story at a time of skyrocketing per-gallon costs. Reporters continued the weekly update, because no one told

them to stop. “We looked at analytics, and no one was reading that story,” Iovino said. “No one actually cared about it.” Editors eventually scrubbed the piece without any public outcry, freeing up reporters to work on other stories with more bottom-line impact. “You want people to read your stories. You’re not just writing them for yourself,” Iovino said. “You don’t get this with newspaper. There are no analytics involved.” Such was the case when Iovino began his career as a sports reporter at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. At that time in 1998, however, Iovino and his friends had already shifted their attention to the blossoming World Wide Web. They wrote about the National Hockey League in a Usenet group, one of the earliest types of discussion boards in the dawning days of the internet. Their website,, saw three to four million pageviews per month at its peak, Iovino said. “It was kind of a blog before blogs were blogs,” he said. “I knew that was where everything was headed.” After a couple years, Iovino joined a company that managed websites for TV stations, moving eventually to NBC when the network brought its websites in-house. He started at the Post-Gazette in December 2016, helping to promote a digital-first culture at the paper. “It’s on everybody to pitch in at this point to make sure they’re doing what they need to do to continue in this business,” said Iovino. “You can’t just rely on an advertising department.”

Not your grandpa’s advertorial Another strategy that news organizations are using to boost revenue is the increased incorporation of branded content, a modern-day spin on the advertorial. These articles, podcasts, native social videos and other offerings are designed to blend in with their environments and resonate with readers on an emotional level. Journalists creatively weave narratives that don’t outwardly tout a product and – short of tearing down the proverbial wall – they provide a perfect blending of the two worlds. For example, in 2014 The New York Times ran a 1,500-word report on female incarceration for Netflix ahead of the release of “Orange is the New Black,” a show based on a book about one woman’s experience in prison. The piece, which mimicked the editorial content around it, never explicitly asked readers to watch the show.

In the documentary film industry, branded content also sees increased demand, said Chandler, who covers this type of storytelling in his class. He cited the short documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” The film takes place in a sanitary napkin factory, making points about global acceptance of menstruation and access to hygiene products. The 25-minute video, now on Netflix, is paid for by The Pad Project, a California-based organization that raises money for machines to manufacture sanitary pads. In 2019, the film won an Academy Award. “The skills are the same,” Chandler said. “It used to be that you couldn’t move back and forth between journalism and advertising. Once you left journalism, you didn’t come back. But now good storytellers are moving back pretty consistently.” When executed correctly, branded content can be a win-win, sustaining journalistic integrity while supporting an advertiser. It leads to 59 percent better recall than traditional ads, according to a study published in 2016 by IPG MediaLab. In the same study, consumers viewing branded content reported a 14% higher likelihood of seeking out additional information about the sponsor. “Every brand today wants to be a media company,” added Kopacz. “They want journalists on their team. They want to interact with audiences in a more authentic way.” One recent Penn State grad who took advantage of that trend is Adriana Lacy (’18 Journ), who snagged a job at The New York Times after a post-graduate internship at the newspaper. She started on the SEO desk at the Times, mining Google Trends and internal search data for patterns to optimize coverage on anything from mid-term elections to Lady Gaga’s fashion statements at the Grammys. “It made me start looking at journalism by the numbers,” said Lacy, now an audience engagement editor at The Los Angeles Times. “Using analytics can help your reporting and teach you a lot about your audience – what they’re interested in, what matters to them, what piques their interests.” For some, that’s the classifieds. For others, it’s the sports section. As they rip out – or post to Facebook, bookmark and tweet – their favorite sections, the next generation of journalists will follow their journey from click to credit card. Understanding how these discriminating audiences connect to their stories will ultimately determine survival of the industry. “Try to commit yourself to a really well-rounded understanding of the media business,” said Kopacz. “It will only make you better at your job – whatever your job ends up being.”

(Photo by Steve Mellon)

Alumni deliver Pulitzer-worthy reporting when communities need it By Jonathan F. McVerry (’05) but the coverage continues for both newspapers. “We are still committed to covering this story,” O’Matz said. “I wrote two stories about Parkland last week. There are still changes, still fallout and unanswered questions. This story will not quit.”


egan O’Matz was on assignment riding in her car when she heard the reports of a shooting on the radio. Lillian Thomas got an alert on her phone while enjoying a visit from her daughter. Jim Iovino was home in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh when he heard sirens go by. Almost immediately, they each got to work on what would become the biggest and most tragic news stories their communities ever experienced. These were also the first steps toward Pulitzer Prizes — an honor each described as “bittersweet.”

O’Matz (’87 Journ), an investigative reporter for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, won a Pulitzer Prize along with her team for covering the country’s deadliest high school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were killed, including 14 children. It was Valentine’s Day 2018. Iovino (’98 Journ), the deputy managing editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Thomas, the news editor; and their staff won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018, that took the lives of 11 people. It is the deadliest attack on Jewish Americans in the country’s history. There wasn’t a lot of time to think or reflect. Instead, the three journalists responded by focusing on their work and delivering their communities the information needed to cope, heal and learn from those atrocities. The harrowing hours, non-stop days and long nights may be in the past now, 18

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

And neither will the journalists.

Worst fears Iovino had heard sirens go by before, but these sirens didn’t stop. He checked in with some colleagues to find out what was going on and heard there had been a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, seven blocks away from his home. “I set up shop on my dining room table and began reporting,” he said. “I started getting people to the scene and working to get a story online as soon as we had something we could go with.” As the details came over the speaker of the police scanner, reality began to sink in for Iovino. Thomas, the Bellisario College’s professional-in-residence this past spring, called the Post-Gazette’s news desk, which had already sent reporters and photographers to the scene. When she arrived at the newsroom, writers and photographers from all the divisions were there, ready to help. The Post-Gazette, which won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news report-

ing, posted its first story about the shooting on its website at 10:33 a.m., less than 45 minutes after the gunman reportedly entered the synagogue. As an investigative reporter, O’Matz’s work as not as immediate. She focused on revealing the “why” and “how” of the Parkland story through in-depth and, at times, long-term reporting. “I knew right away that it would impact our community for a year or more,” she said. “I think about those children every day. The sadness is always there, but it was very emotional early on.” The first step for O’Matz and her team was learning as much as they could about the shooter.

Ongoing challenges The Sun Sentinel’s reporting, which won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, would unearth a range of failures at many levels, from high school administration to the FBI. But there were also obstacles to learning about the shooter’s background and motivations. Children’s school and mental health records are protected and particularly difficult to get in Florida. Working parallel to a criminal investigation made it even harder. Authorities could legally important information.


“We depended on people to leak us records to help us, which also put them

in jeopardy,� O’Matz said. With that help, “it became apparent early on that the shooter was a very troubled boy.�

we had to cover, because that’s what we do, and we are proud of our coverage.�

Answers started to emerge for the Sun Sentinel investigative team. The student suffered many different disabilities. He had been moved to the “academically rigorous� Stoneman Douglas from a specialized school. He was fascinated with guns. Standing outside the school that day, his classmates were not surprised when they learned who the shooter was.

O’Matz was stunned. She had been a Pulitzer finalist in 2006 and could not recall if the whole staff was invited to watch the results. This year, the Pulitzer Prize for public service was one of the first prizes announced.

“The school district did not want to release records or tell us about him,� O’Matz said. “It was very difficult, but the community deserved answers. Parents wanted accountability.� Details about Pittsburgh’s shooter were also elusive. He didn’t have a criminal background. There were no records on where he lived or where he worked, but his online presence displayed an interest in radical right-wing social media formats.

“I didn’t hear anything after that,â€? she said. “There wasn’t celebration or raised fists. We were crying ‌ tears of joy and sadness. It’s quite an honor.â€? The journalists pointed to the responses from their communities as the true reward. These included long discussions, posts on social media and emails from grieving families thanking them for their hard work.

“These were platforms we never heard of, so we quickly learned about them,� Thomas said. In the aftermath of both shootings, the local reporters had a different type of challenge. The shootings garnered national and international attention, and soon O’Matz, Thomas and Iovino were competing with CNN, The New York Times and the many other national media outlets.

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“We were competing against every news outlet imaginable,â€? O’Matz said. “It made it more difficult to get the records. There was a fatigue element too ‌ key people were giving interview after interview over and over.â€?

Thanks to the newspapers’ longstanding roles in their communities, the local reporters had an edge. “We are a part of our community,� Iovino said. “You’re not going to get this kind of coverage from a national outlet when they jump into a scene. They won’t know the ins and outs. I don’t think they can compare.� Thomas said her news team is a collection of “consummate professionals� who wanted to deliver this vital news story to the people of Pittsburgh.

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On the Friday after the shooting, the Post-Gazette’s front-page headline was the first lines to the Jewish mourner’s prayer printed in Hebrew.

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“It was an attack on our community. It was an attack on all of us,â€? she said. “It was shocking and disorienting. We felt like we were in the same position as all of our readers ‌ channeling it into what we do was the best way to handle that shock.â€?

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In an open letter to the Pulitzer Prize Committee, some of the Parkland victims’ fathers wrote that the Associated Press named Parkland its biggest news story in 2018, but “only the South Florida Sun ! ! Sentinel covered the real story.� # ! ! "

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O’Matz, Iovino and Thomas found out about their Pulitzer Prizes in similar ways. They got a message to be in their newsrooms at a certain time for an announcement. They gathered with their colleagues and watched a screen. When their newspapers were called, a unique type of excitement followed.

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Similarly, the reaction from the people of Pittsburgh was overwhelmingly positive. A note from the Tree of Life congre“I didn’t know how to react,� Iovino said. “You just won a Pulitgation thanked the newspaper for the “accurate, honest and zer Prize and it’s amazing, but given the circumstances I’d rather compassionate� coverage of the synagogue’s darkest moments. have all those people back and not have gone through any of this.� --*$0 5(2' 1'-5$01 72(+$ '(&' 2-,(&'2:1 *-5

The mood in the Post-Gazette newsroom was “not jubilation, but mostly gratitude and pride,� Thomas said. “The speeches all reflected that this was a horrible thing and it was something

Sun Sentinel reporter Megan O’Matz. (Photo by Carline Jean/Sun-Sentinel Staff Photographer)



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“They felt we were fair and in sync with their community,� Thomas said. “The feedback was of gratitude and appreciation.� The Communicator | Spring 2019


A TALENTED TEACHER Affleck selected as Penn State Teaching Fellow

John Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, was one of three faculty members from across the University to receive Penn State’s Alumni/Student Award for Excellence in Teaching and be named a 2019 Penn State Teaching Fellow. Affleck, who is director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, is a veteran journalist who worked for more than two decades as a national manager in news and sports for the Associated Press. Affleck said he wants to develop students who think critically and communicate effectively, but he also drives them to use those skills in a professional setting. Under his direction, Curley Center students tour the globe, covering sports on the international stage. In recent years, his students covered the Penn State football game in Ireland for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association (PNA), the Penn State baseball trip to Cuba for PNA and the Rio Paralympics in 2016 for the AP. In 2017, Affleck’s class created an award-winning sports documentary featuring European fans who are passionate about the NFL. The film, “Quiet Sundays,” premiered in 2018 at the Southampton International Film Festival and won several awards, including best editing in a documentary. Students praised Affleck’s passion, patience and his dedication to immersing them in real-world experiences. “There’s only so much journalism students can learn in Carnegie Building, where we are taught AP style, journalism ethics and

reporting methods,” a nominator said. “But we cannot truly make it as journalists if we don’t know how to apply these skills on the job. That’s the beauty of the Curley Center and the brilliance of John Affleck.” Affleck also serves as faculty adviser to the Penn State chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media, which was named national student chapter of the year in 2017-18. The other winners of the University-wide award were: Jeremy Blum, associate professor of computer science at Penn State Harrisburg; and Cheryl L. Nicholas, associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State Berks. The Penn State Alumni Association, in conjunction with undergraduate and graduate governing bodies, established the award in 1988. It honors distinguished teaching and provides encouragement and incentive for excellence in teaching.

Mozley-Bryan earns staff award Karen Mozley-Bryan, manager of facilities in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, was honored with Penn State’s 2019 Award for Administrative Excellence. Colleagues respect Mozley-Bryan as a master planner who manages buildings, equipment and technology at several locations across campus. Because communications technology is ever-evolving, she’s tasked with keeping pace with the technology while ensuring its availability and reliability for both faculty and students. Mozley-Bryan manages the largest budget in the Bellisario College and oversees the most staff members.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

She’s also the Bellisario College’s liaison with the Office of Physical Plant for maintenance, construction and repairs. “This combination of responsibilities means that in a single day she may be meeting with administrators about large purchasing decisions, fielding requests from faculty members, driving out to the television studios or equipment room at Innovation Park to help staff tackle a challenge or plan for space needs, placing work orders with OPP for any number of maintenance and repairs, huddling over blueprints to solve a location challenge, filing an audit report or reviewing a policy proposal or walking to our research lab downtown to meet with faculty members about their needs,” one award nominator said. Mozley-Bryan’s other duties include:

• assisting with the selection and coordination of internal and external engineering and architectural resources and other professionals for project development throughout the design and construction process; • serving as department, college or unit representative for ongoing initiatives and committees; • hiring, training, supervising and evaluating staff and technical service employees; and • evaluating proposed changes and enhancements to quality improvement practices. The award, established in 1970, is given to a faculty or staff member whose performance, methods and achievements exemplify the highest standards of administrative excellence.

(Photo by Trey Miller ‘12)

Annual awards honor faculty and staff Six faculty members, two staff members, two graduate students and two adjunct lecturers were honored during the annual Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications Faculty and Staff Awards and Recognition Reception. The annual awards recognize people who put the mission of Penn State and the Bellisario College into practice on a daily basis.

Deans’ Excellence Awards for Faculty • Colleen Connolly-Ahern, associate professor, advertising/public relations: Service • Pearl Gluck, assistant professor, film-video: Integrated Scholarship • Steve Kraycik, assistant teaching professor, journalism: Teaching • Jessica Myrick, associate professor, media studies: Research and Creative Accomplishments • David Norloff, assistant teaching professor, telecommunications: Teaching Deans’ Excellence Awards for Outstanding Staff • Julie Evak, coordinator of undergraduate education • Jonathan McVerry, communications strategist

Djung Yune Tchoi Graduate Teaching Awards • Erica Hilton, doctoral student • Wunpini Fatimata Mohammed, doctoral student Deans’ Excellence Awards for Outstanding Faculty Affiliate • Jim Dugan, TV Studio Lab instructor, adjunct lecturer in telecommunications • Jenna Spinelle, communications specialist for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, adjunct lecturer in journalism 25 Years of Service • Anthony Olorunnisola, head of the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies

Faculty member publishes book about American wines After books about the legacy of Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Jr., the future of the First Amendment, and mass communications law in Pennsylvania, a book about American wines seems like a big departure. That’s not at all the case for “Wine Savvy,” written by respected faculty member Robert Richards. Richards (’83 Lib, ’84MA Lib), the John and Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies, brought the same level of intellectual curiosity and passion to his latest project as he did the others. Richards, an expert on the First Amendment, media law and freedom of information, was the founder of both the Penn State Hollywood Program, which just completed its fourth year, and the

Stanley E. Degler Washington Program, which has been running for more than two decades. Those on-location experiences, combining classroom work and internships, provide a testament to Richards’ ability to pair interests and opportunities. He does the same with “Wine Savvy.” He wrote the book, cooked pairing meals and coordinated photography for the book’s publication. Richards has passed the first-level examination of the Court of Master Sommeliers. He writes a monthly magazine column on wine and has written and hosted a television segment on the subject. He also is a winemaker and Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators. The Communicator | Spring 2019


By whatever name, messaging key for high-tech vehicles


ully autonomous vehicles may not be crisscrossing the United States yet, but they are causing traffic on news sites and social media. New research shows this heavy media coverage influences how the public perceives the vehicles, which can have lasting effects on the emerging technology and society. In a study on promotional messaging and labeling of autonomous vehicles, researchers from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications found that emotional responses to messages about autonomous vehicles have significant effects on people’s views. People who were curious about autonomous vehicles were more likely to support stricter regulations, while those who were excited about the technology had stronger intentions to hop in and try it out. “You can’t wait until the vehicles are on the road to suddenly decide the way you’ve been explaining the technology isn’t the best way,” said Jessica Myrick, associate professor of media studies. “Our goal is to understand how the public will understand these technologies in light of different types of media and message exposure.” It is an important time for autonomous vehicles. As technologies emerge, people begin forming their opinions. Myrick, the lead author of the study, says once people begin to form those opinions, it’s much harder to change their minds later.

By Jonathan F. McVerry (’05)

The researchers, whose findings appear in the journal Science Communication, showed more than 700 Americans real marketing and promotional materials associated with autonomous vehicles from companies like Intel, Toyota and Uber, among others. During their preliminary research, the researchers found companies and media outlets use different names for this emerging technology: autonomous vehicles, driver-less cars, intelligent transportation, self-driving cars, robot cars, unmanned vehicles, to name a few. The research team altered the captions on promotional messages from the vehicle companies to test how participants would respond to these different names for the technology. A term like “self-driving cars” seemed to dampen excitement among participants. Myrick thought self-driving may imply that the car is a “self,” which could make people feel uncomfortable.

engagement with policy decisions, and possible acceptance. The vehicle technology has the potential to alter whole industries, policy, and the way of life for millions of people. In addition to safety concerns, these types of changes can cause anxiety. To ease some of that anxiety, automakers have signed up celebrities — Lebron James, Mark Cuban and Neil Patrick Harris, for example — to appear in advertisements. The researchers found celebrity presence had little effect for most audiences. Instead, emotions about the product drove the likelihood that a person would be OK with sharing the road with driverless cars.

“It makes it seem less neutral and more like a person than ‘driverless’ or ‘autonomous,’ which may creep some people out a little bit,” she said. “Changing one little word has effects.”

“Using celebrities only worked well for people who were already really into novel technology,” Myrick said. “The celebrities were effective in making what we call ‘novelty seeking’ consumers even more excited and more curious about these vehicles.”

That is why it’s important for companies, consumer groups, policy-makers and reporters to be aware of how media can shift public opinion right now, long before the technology is widespread. Early communication plants the seeds for future understanding,

Other researchers on the project were Lee Ahern, associate professor of advertising-public relations and director of the Science Communication Program at Penn State, and Bellisario College graduate students Ruosi Shao and Jeff Conlin.

Sundar earns seed grant for Twitter data


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications professor is a member of one of six interdisciplinary teams of Penn State researchers to win more than $100,000 in funding to support research aimed at developing innovative research programs using Twitter data.

S. Shyam Sundar


S. Shyam Sundar, the James P. Jimirro Professor of Media Effects in the Bellisario College, is collaborating with Nilam Ram, a

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

professor in the College of Health and Human Development, on a proposed project to study the predictive power of social media engagement on election results. The research will focus on bandwagon effects using large-scaled geo-tagged tweets. The funding is from Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute in collaboration with the Institute for CyberScience and the College of Information Sciences and Technology.


Adding humanlike features is not enough to win users By Matt Swayne (’05)


orry, Siri, but just giving a chatbot a human name or adding humanlike features to an avatar might not be enough to win over a user if the device fails to maintain a conversational back-and-forth with that person, according to researchers. In fact, those humanlike features might create a backlash against less responsive humanlike chatbots. In a study, researchers found that a chatbot that had human features — such as a human avatar — but lacked interactivity disappointed people who used it. However, people responded better to a less-interactive chatbot that did not have humanlike cues, said S. Shyam Sundar, the James P. Jimirro Professor of Media Effects, co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory and affiliate of Penn State’s Institute for CyberScience. High interactivity is marked by swift responses that match a user’s queries and feature a threaded exchange that can be followed easily, according to Sundar.

Sundar said the findings could help developers improve acceptance of chat technology among users. He added that virtual assistants and chat agents are increasingly used in the home and by businesses because they are convenient for people. “There’s a big push in the industry for chatbots,” said Sundar. “They’re low-cost and easy-to-use, which makes the technology attractive to companies for use in customer service, online tutoring and even cognitive therapy — but we also know that chatbots have limitations. For example, their conversation styles are often stilted and impersonal.” Sundar said the study reinforces the importance of high interactivity, broadly speaking. “We see this again and again that, in general, high interactivity can compensate for the impersonal nature of low anthropomorphic visual cues,” said Sundar. “The bottom line is that people who design these things have to be very strategic about managing user expectations.”

“People are pleasantly surprised when a chatbot with low anthropomorphism — fewer human cues — has higher interactivity,” said Sundar. “But when there are high anthropomorphic visual cues, it may set up your expectations for high interactivity — and when the chatbot doesn’t deliver that — it may leave you disappointed.” On the other hand, improving interactivity may be more than enough to compensate for a less-humanlike chatbot. Even small changes in the dialogue, like acknowledging what the user said before providing a response, can make the chatbot seem interactive, said Sundar.

“Identity cues build expectations,” said Go. “When we say that it’s going to be a human or chatbot, people immediately start expecting certain things.”


“In the case of the low-humanlike chatbot, if you give the user high interactivity, it’s much more appreciated because it provides a sense of dialogue and social presence,” said the lead author of the study, Eun Go, a former doctoral student at Penn State and currently an assistant professor in broadcasting and journalism at Western Illinois University. Because there is an expectation that people may be leery of interacting with a machine, developers typically add human names to their chatbots — for example, Apple’s Siri — or program a human-like avatar to appear when the chatbot responds to a user. The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Computers in Human Behavior also found that just mentioning whether a human or a machine is involved — or, providing an identity cue — guides how people perceive the interaction.

The researchers recruited 141 participants through Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourced site that allows people to get paid to participate in studies. The participants signed up for a specific time slot and reviewed a scenario. They were told that they were shopping for a digital camera as a birthday present for a friend. Then, the participants navigated to an online camera store and were asked to interact with the live chat feature. The researchers designed eight different conditions by manipulating three factors to test the user’s reaction to the chatbot. The first factor was the identity of a chatbot. When the participant engaged in the live chat, a message appeared indicating the users was interacting either with a chatbot or a person. The second factor was the visual representation of a chatbot. In one condition, the chatbot included a humanlike avatar and in another, it simply had a speech bubble. Last, the chatbots featured either high or low interactivity when responding to participants, with the only difference being that a portion of the user’s response was repeated in the high condition. In all cases, a human was interacting with the participant. While this study was carried out online, the researchers said that observing how people interact with chatbots in a laboratory may be one possible step to further this research.

The Communicator | Spring 2019



Passion and personal experience drive those who support travel funds


elene Eckstein remembers her study abroad experience as a Penn State student fondly and specifically.

“The reason I was selected, I believe, was because I had very good grades,” Eckstein (’64 Journ) says. “I came back on probation.” Still, a bit more sightseeing than studying while she was based in Strasbourg, France, was not a problem in the bigger picture. Eckstein says the trip shaped her life in many ways — and it has subsequently shaped the lives of dozens of Penn State students. “Berlin was a closed city. The only way an American could get in was on one autobahn and it was a five-hour trip. We didn’t have a car. A German man picked us up and took us to the city. Then, when we got out of the car, he gave us 2 marks and wished us luck,” Eckstein says. “We were confused. “If anything, we should’ve been paying him. But, because President Kennedy had said ‘I am a Berliner’ in a speech, the man told us we were welcome in his country. When you study abroad you view the world as an American with a world view.”

Eckstein created a study abroad scholarship that has been used to support students in the international reporting course, which makes a working trip every spring. She has traveled with the group in the past, including trips to Greece and Panama. Morris created the Jim and Martha Morris Travel Fund, named for his parents, which has also supported student travel. Morris started his journalism career at his hometown paper in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and eventually earned statewide and national opportunities — including roles covering the White House for The Associated Press and Bloomberg. In those positions, he traveled regularly, covering presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He knows the importance of being present and gathering details. “On one occasion Clinton was home in Arkansas for a memorial to his mother, and he went on a duck hunting trip at 3 in the morning,” Morris says. “Our main White House correspondent passed on the trip, so I was there. It was one of the rare times when Clinton was very expansive.”

Kennedy’s speech (known as the “Ich Bein Ein Berliner” Speech) was delivered June 26, 1963, less than a year before Eckstein’s trip.

When the president stopped for lunch at a small general store that had a few tables and a specialty buger named the Hub Cap, Morris and his colleagues stood outside in the rain. After a few minutes, the president invited the press corps in to eat.

Eckstein built several different careers after she graduated. She was a guidance counselor for mothers receiving welfare support, an insurance adjuster, and started a color separation company. She later sold that company and started her own travel business. With Spectrum Travel she found her passion and, subsequently, a reason to support student travel endeavors for Penn State communications students.

Morris was also traveling with Bush on Sept. 11, 2001. From all of his travels as a journalist, he knows the importance of being present for a story. His support of travel opportunities is both pragmatic and personal. “Supporting the fund is my way of honoring my father and mother,” he says. “Fortunately we got it started and it was operating for a year or two before my father died in 2017. Mom had died in 2011.”

Similarly, David Morris (’77 Journ) traveled as a student — often on assignment for The Daily Collegian. Those trips came at a cost, some of which was covered by the student newspaper and some that was shouldered by the students and their families.

Similar travel funds supported by Philadelphia-based sportscaster Mike Missanelli (’77 Journ) and Alan and Rungnapa Routh (whose daughter, Alexandra, graduated with an advertising/ public relations degree in May and whose son, Nicholas, earned an economics degree from the University in 2015) provide options to support the growing number of students who are taking advantage of the many international opportunities in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

“We were covering bowl games and we had X amount of dollars in the Collegian budget. We decided we would split it up and drive, rather than fly, so more of us could go,” Morris recalls. “For the first one, in 1974, my father was a steelworker and he was laid off. I remember how hard my parents struggled to make sure I had some spending money. They always found a way to make it work.”

Additionally, alumnus Marty Aronoff (’60 Lib) endowed the Marty & John Aronoff Travel Fund in the Curley Center for Sports Journalism in May. Each of the Bellisario College’s five majors conducts an embedded program in the spring semester and more than 260 study abroad options exist overall. “Many of our students know the importance of studying abroad to expand their understanding of the world, but they don’t have the means to do it,” said Dean Marie Hardin. “These endowments and funds opens doors to change lives. That’s incredibly exciting.”

Helene Eckstein reviews some student work with former Foster Professor Tony Barbieri, who led international reporting student trips for several years. (Photo by John Beale)

STUDYING PERCEPTIONS Doctoral student focuses on refugees in the media By Jonathan F. McVerry (’05)


or graduate student Bumgi Min, experience drives his research ideas. It was a chance meeting with North Korean refugees that sparked his interest in refugee communications, and it was a conversation with a student that led Min to his dissertation idea. The fourth-year doctoral student in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications found a wealth of research on immigration issues in the United States, as well as how refugees from Central and South America and Eastern Europe were portrayed in the media. The average news consumer, however, may not be aware that several Asian countries, like China, Taiwan and South Korea, are also dealing with their own immigration issues.

“We don’t hear very much from the Asian perspective,” Min said. “I want to give a voice and context to Asian countries.” The Bellisario College opened a door for Min to find and share those voices. It’s been a long journey from his home city of Seoul, South Korea, where Min met North Korean refugees while attending a book-release party. At the time, he was majoring in journalism and mass communication at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. The relationship he’d form with that group of refugees would alter his academic path. “Even though the South and North share a common historical background and language,” Min said, “I found that they had a hard time adapting to South Korean society — particularly the value systems.” South Korea is capitalist; North Korea is socialist, and the gap between cultures is cavernous, said Min, adding that the media, which is heavily regulated and government-controlled in North Korea, play a significant role in how each country’s culture has developed over the past several decades. Min said the North Korean refugees often couldn’t understand what their new South Korean neighbors were saying and found it difficult to fit in. This gap in communication guided Min to graduate school and he moved 7,000 miles away and enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Texas at Austin. “My master’s thesis was on how North Korean refugees use social media to adapt to South Korean society,” Min said. “My research focused on telecommunications and the digital divide.” While in Austin, Min met his future wife, Jinsook Kim, who also shares an interest in communications. Today, the two live in State College with their 2-year-old daughter and are both finishing doctorate work. Kim is focusing on online misogyny and feminist activism while finishing her dissertation for the University of Texas, while Min completes his for Penn State. “We are both preparing for a life in academia,” Min said. “We study different areas of communications, but she provides great insights for what I’m working on. I do the same for her.”

Min’s adviser, Krishna Jayakar, said, “Bumgi is part of an emerging power couple. I am excited to see how bright the future shapes up for those two.” In addition to learning how to conduct research, Min is training in the classroom too — as a teacher. Jayakar, a professor of telecommunications, said Min has become a thoughtful and inspiring instructor. “He has a casual, likable, easygoing presence in the classroom that makes people relax and open up,” Jayakar said. “But he is anything but casual in his approach to class preparation. He prepares painstakingly.” During a class, one of Min’s students brought up some news about refugees. The student had seen the news story on a friend’s social media feed and was adamant about its authenticity. Unfortunately, it wasn’t true, said Min; the story was legitimate “fake news.” Min was fascinated that a younger person, presumably highly literate in digital media, would believe misinformation on social media. He redirected his research interests toward this type of misinformation and how it affects the perception of refugees. “I will look at fake news and focus on the message and the reaction of the audiences,” Min said. “I will also look at factors like digital accessibility, literacy and social capital, and what roles they have in that perception.” Min is still developing the experiment that will test participants but plans to compare American and South Korean audience reactions. The experiment will measure the accessibility, digital literacy and social capital of participants and show them either accurate or inaccurate information about refugees. The goal will be to measure how the reader perceives refugees’ roles in their country. (For example: Are they a problem? Are they a benefit?) “Bumgi’s research is ambitious in scope, but he approaches it with his characteristic humility and thoughtfulness,” Jayakar said. “He has a lot of patience, and though he is asking the big questions, he brings meticulousness and persistence to it. He realizes that getting the right answers takes time, and he wants to get it right.” Min said Bellisario College faculty members have been incredibly supportive and helpful during his journey toward a doctoral degree. The experience, he said, has guided his research and their advice has always been sound. “I’ve come a long away,” Min said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to continue to progress.” Min plans to complete his dissertation and graduate by spring 2020. He and Kim will be applying for academic jobs in both North America and Asia.

The Communicator | Spring 2019


Where some people hear construction noise and sense a nuisance, Monica Reed hears only “the sound of progress.” Reed, a project manager for the Office of the Physical Plant at Penn State, has been a key leader and liaison on the construction of the Donald P. Bellisario Media Center. In recent weeks, she has heard — and seen — a lot of progress, with more to come. The $43.5 million project will transform the oldest part of Willard Building, built in 1949, into the Bellisario Media Center. The 63,131square-foot project will impact all four floors in the building and will be a hub for student media at the University, and the new home, together with Carnegie Building, of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. The completed facility will benefit students — working in agency and corporate environments, film, journalism, television and more — in every major of the Bellisario College for years to come.


APRIL 21, 2017



SEPT. 15, 2017



Gift announced to support students and programs, and to establish state-of-the-art media center

University groundwork and approvals

Benchmarking as faculty and staff tour facilities across the country to help shape the design process of the Bellisario Media Center

Studios Architecture approved after review of proposals from more than 30 firms

Construction approvals, hiring contractor

Construc begin

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

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Hearst Foundation’s $100K Grant Supports Bellisario Media Center The William Randolph Hearst Foundation, one of the largest, most respected, media-related charitable foundations in the United States, has provided a $100,000 grant to support construction of the Donald P. Bellisario Media Center — a state-of-the-art facility at Penn State that will prepare students and faculty to collaborate, use the latest technology, and engage in groundbreaking storytelling. “The Bellisario Media Center will inspire students to perform at their very best while at Penn State, and it will prepare them to thrive within the kinds of media environments they will enter as professionals,” Dean Marie Hardin said. “The center will be, hands down, the most exciting place on campus for Penn State communications students and faculty. It will be a vital resource as we prepare the next generation of great digital storytellers.” As recognition for its gift, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation Open Team Space will be named on the first floor of the building. The space is designed to facilitate the collaborative work that has become essential to produce great multiplatform stories. The space will allow student reporters, photographers, videographers, writers and designers to work together on projects that bring together a variety of elements. The space also can be used by students in other communication majors for collaborative projects in television and film production, as well as strategic communications. “The Hearst Foundations are pleased to support the Bellisario Media Center, enabling the journalists of tomorrow to hone their craft across a range of evolving media disciplines,” said George Irish of the Hearst Foundations. “This gift reflects William Randolph Hearst’s penchant for embracing new technology to perpetuate journalism as a central tenet of our democracy, and we look forward to Penn State students and faculty benefiting from the center’s best-in-class resources.” The Hearst Foundations are national philanthropic resources for organizations and institutions working in the fields of education, health, culture and social service. The Hearst Foundations identify and fund outstanding nonprofits to ensure that people of all backgrounds in the United States have the opportunity to build healthy, productive and inspiring lives.


FALL 2020

Construction complete

Bellisario Media Center opens

The goals of the foundations reflect the philanthropic interests of William Randolph Hearst, the businessman, newspaper publisher and politician known for developing the nation’s largest newspaper chain and media company, Hearst Communications. The Hearst Foundation Inc. was founded in 1945. In 1948 Hearst established the California Charities Foundations, later renamed the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. Both foundations are guided by the same charitable mission.

Journalism graduate Sam Reiser takes an entrepreneurial approach by converting a school bus into a tiny home on wheels by Nina Trach (’21)

(Photo by Felipe Rosario)

From gutting the inside to eventually running pipes for the sink, Reiser took a hands-on approach from start to finish. (Photo by Felipe Rosario)

Sony a6000 camera, a 65-seat 2001 Blue Bird International school bus, and a passion for people and the outdoors are all Sam Reiser needs. Reiser, born in the United Kingdom and raised in Australia, completed his senior year and graduated with a degree in journalism from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications in May. He added a psychology minor to his studies, and he complemented his academic and athletic interests (he was a member of the Penn State track team) with a lot of time spent in a school bus. Having developed a love for the outdoors at a young age from family camping trips and a year at an outdoor adventure high school in Australia, Reiser has been developing skills that can turn his passion into a career and lifestyle. In each of his three summers while studying at Penn State, Reiser traveled with friends across the United States, visiting both easilyrecognizable and off-the-beaten-path destinations and becoming a self-taught adventure photographer. His academic focus was print and digital journalism. With three coast-to-coast trips under his belt and just five states left to visit in the U.S., Reiser has seen and photographed more of the country than most people who have lived here their whole lives. One of his favorite aspects of traveling is bringing along people who would not have taken a trip on their own. “That’s been a really nice portion of it, just taking people outside of their comfort zones and just showing them what they’re capable of,” Reiser said. Though Reiser’s adventures keep getting larger and more ambitious — with each journey he finds himself packing less. Living minimally on trips inspired him to do the same in his everyday life. (Photo by Jack Hirsch ’19)


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

To do so, Reiser spent much of his senior year transforming a school bus into his own tiny home. By essentially eliminating rent for himself in the future, Reiser said he will be able to focus less on material things and more on what he is constantly looking for in his travels and life: experiences. Reiser turned one of these experiences — his summer 2018 road trip from Mexico to the Arctic Circle — into a for-credit independent study with assistant teaching professor Curt Chandler. John Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and faculty partner to the track and field team, connected Reiser and Chandler after seeing the senior’s high-quality photography from the trip. Chandler worked with Reiser throughout his fall semester to turn his photographs and drone footage into a multimedia storytelling piece with a written essay, photo gallery and video component. (See box, page 32.) “Sam is just so eager to get better at this. He’s got a lot of natural ability; he’s a terrific photographer,” Chandler said. “It’s really fun to work with somebody who has this much energy and passion for what we’re doing.” The two enjoyed working together on the project, a dynamic Reiser found productive and meaningful. He said receiving feedback from a faculty member who treated him as an equal was a valuable learning experience.

Reiser brought the same collaborative approach to his bus project. Learning as much as he could from friends, family and the internet, transforming the bus has been its own adventure for Reiser, who had no prior experience in construction. Reiser handled the electrical work on the bus “watching a lot of YouTube” and working through things one wire at a time. Additionally, a friend’s father helped him prepare for the commercial driver’s license test necessary to drive the bus. He was never shy about explaining and sharing the project to anyone who would ask. Nor was he shy about enlisting help from anyone who showed an interest. “From people that I don’t know to people that I’ve known for years, everybody’s been awesome about getting around it,” Reiser said, crediting more than 25 friends and community members who helped him bring the bus to life. “Everyone’s been super stoked to get on board and work on something that I think a lot of them think is unattainable, but as they work more and more some of them are now talking about building their own tiny home or getting their own bus or traveling more, so it’s been cool to see perspectives shift.” Reiser’s tiny home includes all the necessary amenities — bathroom, bedroom and kitchen — and that’s just the inside. The roof will have solar panels, along with a rooftop deck and tent, all accompanied by a deck to house a motorcycle on the back of the bus.

That’s been a really nice portion of it, just taking people outside of their and just showing them what they’re capable of. – Sam Reiser (Photo by Sam Reiser ’19) The Communicator | Spring 2019


A winning ‘Why Not?’ story Sure, Sam Reiser has a story with his bus-to-tiny home transformation. He also knows how to tell a story. Reiser started converting the bus in part to support his avocation — traveling the world to see different places, pushing his comfort zone and stretching those around him. While practicality plays a part (he plans to live in the bus wherever he secures a job and whenever he visits destinations across the United States), the bus was in large part a “Why not?” effort. So, Reiser wrote about his story and shared his accompanying photos — beautiful high-quality images from the mostly self-taught photographer — and the package earned third place nationally in the multimedia competition of the Journalism Awards Program conducted each year by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. It was the highest-placing effort by any Penn State student this year. Reiser’s work, titled “Why Not?” may be found at online. (Photo by Sam Reiser ’19)

“If you want to live tiny and make those sacrifices of comfort, which I would argue isn’t even uncomfortable — you have hot water, electricity on demand, a full-size bed, kitchen — everything that you’re going to need, and you’re going to be a homeowner straight out of university and you can start putting that money towards whatever you want,” Reiser said. “Why is that seen as uncomfortable?” It was challenging for Reiser to find time for the project, even though it helped to keep him grounded and enhanced his time management skills. Working through rain and snow, he made it out to where the bus was parked about five miles off campus almost every day. Focusing on the project between the fall and spring semesters was especially productive, he said. By late spring, he moved the bus to another location and then, a week before graduation, he conducted an “open house” on campus near the Berkey Creamery that attracted more than 100 people on a rainy Sunday afternoon. With his work visa in hand, Reiser was planning another cross-country trip after graduation – this time in his completed and comfortable bus. He eventually hopes to work for an outdoor company, combining his love for nature and adventure with his skills in communications and photography to inspire even more people to get outside. His long-term plans include a cross-country motorcycle trip 32

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

with his mother and a trip from London to Australia. Reiser said while his plans are getting more ambitious it has always been the people who have made the experiences worthwhile. Especially the experience of building the bus. “Everyone thinks that I’m doing this for travel, but I’m doing this to live out of it; I’m going to have a 9-5 and I’m going to be commuting every day,” Reiser said. “This bus isn’t built specifically to travel the country, that’s just one of the benefits.”

Those interested in keeping up with Reiser’s adventures can find him on Instagram for travel photography (@_justroaming_) and for bus/tiny home updates (@bus.roaming). Or, for a bit of both.

The Communicator | Spring 2019 (Photo by Felipe Rosario)


With THON as a support system, student perseveres during her undergraduate career By Michael Garrett (’14)

Brianna Barker served as THON 2019 photography captain after enduring two bouts with cancer herself. (Photo by Pat Mansell)

y the time she came to Penn State, THON 2019 photography captain Brianna Barker had already overcome more than anyone her age should have to live through.

said. “All those things I missed out on, they seemed small at the time, but I realized that they added up to a normal life. That’s what I was missing.”

Diagnosed at age 7 with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood, Barker spent much of her childhood in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices, unable to join in many of the everyday activities her friends and classmates were able to enjoy. Things as simple as gym class were always beyond her grasp.

Once unable to attend a sleepover with her friends without worrying about her health, she was now able to come to Penn State with a new sense of security and throw herself into her life. She quickly got involved with the Penn State Dance Marathon, or THON — the largest student-run charity in the world, which every year raises millions of dollars for pediatric cancer research and support for families impacted by cancer.

At age 13, she started to experience heart failure. Hospitalization and life support followed. Then, one month before her 14th birthday, she received a heart transplant — giving Brianna something she hadn’t realized she’d been missing.

Having personally known children battling pediatric cancer, Barker’s own experiences with childhood health struggles fueled her interest in helping THON fight this disease, even if she had never been personally impacted by cancer herself.

“It really gave me a life that I didn’t even know existed,” Barker


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

That is, until her own diagnosis.

A song in her heart Barker could feel Penn State was the place for her after her second visit to the University Park campus. More than just the world-renowned academics, Barker, a dual major in premedicine with the Eberly College of Science and telecommunications in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, experienced a feeling of home at Penn State and an instinct that she belonged. It was an instinct that proved to be right, as she and her colleagues at THON quickly became as close as family. As a member of the THON 2017 photography committee, Barker met some of her closest friends — “people with souls of gold,” she calls them — whose friendship and words of encouragement didn’t just help her become a better photographer, but helped her become more self-assured as a person. “Literally, getting that position with THON changed my entire educational experience. I’ve gained so much confidence in myself, being surrounded by such a loving and accepting community that constantly supports me,” Barker said. “It’s a community that accepts you for who you are. I had so many people assure me that I was talented, encourage me to shoot for the stars, to break boundaries — and even if I fell, I know everyone is there to catch me.” Those bonds would grow even stronger when, only two weeks before THON 2017, Barker’s father suffered a fatal heart attack. Her THON colleagues grieved with her, comforted her, stood by

her with shoulders ready to cry on, and helped her find the strength to carry on. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without the THON community,” Barker said, reflecting quietly a moment. “I saw so much strength that weekend. If all those families can have so much strength, and the dancers have the strength to carry on, I knew I could too.” She returned for her junior year in fall 2017 with a spring in her step and a song in her heart, ready once again to dedicate herself to THON, for the kids. Then she got a call from her doctor.

‘It’s in my bones’ As the fall semester of her junior year drew to a close, Barker noticed a lump in her armpit growing larger and more painful with each passing day. After a series of tests over the holiday break, she received the fateful call from her doctor on the first day of spring 2018 semester. She had post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder — a proliferation of cells caused by the immunosuppressants she had to take so that her body wouldn’t reject her transplanted heart. Whether or not those cells were cancerous, the doctor told her, was really something she would need to discuss with her oncologist. “I remember sitting on my floor, sobbing. I felt like I had worked so hard for all of this, I had my friends, I was a resident assistant, my research and

Barker takes a photo of a THON supporter and says the community was a vital part of her recovery. (Photo by Pat Mansell)

tutoring position, I had THON — and it was all being taken away from me,” Barker said. “When I finally had to call my THON captain and tell her, we were alternating between crying and laughing together. But, again, I felt so much love and support.” Barker ultimately had to withdraw that semester. The following period was “truly awful,” one that she doesn’t care to discuss much. She remembers sitting on the couch with her mother one night, while they were still waiting for test results, and she said to her mom, “Whatever it is, it’s in my bones now. I can feel it.” It was cancer. Barker was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that originates in the lymphatic system and one of the most aggressive forms that the disease can take. By the time the diagnosis was official, Barker already was in stage four, indicating the cancer had spread widely outside of her lymph nodes. “It was everywhere,” recalled Veronica Barker, her mother. “It was very difficult … harder than the transplant. But during that time she did have one good day. She made it to THON.” The good news about Barker’s diagnosis was that, while her form of cancer was one of the most aggressive, it also was one of the forms most responsive to treatment. If she could just push through her chemotherapy, if her recovery went well, then maybe she could still be on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center with her closest

(Photo by Brianna Barker ’19) The Communicator | Spring 2019


friends during every February.







While her cancer did respond to the chemotherapy, the treatment took its toll. Even so, and though she was still battling her illness and the lingering effects of the chemo, she was able to make it back to Penn State and onto the floor for the final hours of THON 2018. Her THON colleagues were overjoyed. Cara Santoleri, THON 2018 photography captain and one of Barker’s closest friends, recalls that the entire photography committee “knew we had to do something for her.” “We raised money to pay for a hotel room for her and her mom for THON weekend, we made bracelets that we wore that said ‘Bri Brave,’ and we made her a scrapbook with photos of each of us saying that ‘We THON for Bri,’” Santoleri recalls. “She told me later that she had really been struggling, and that she’d needed that, that it helped bring her back up.” The book, especially, made an impact. Barker took it with her to all of her remaining chemotherapy appointments. She showed her doctors and nurses, and explained how much THON and her friends meant to her. She read the scrapbook over and over again, counting down the days until she could return to the place she knew she belonged.

A light in the dark Barker knows that not every story has a happy ending. Some children live with cancer their whole lives, and die tragically young. That’s why, even though she says she struggles with survivor’s guilt, she feels so blessed that her story has a happy ending — or, perhaps more accurately, not an ending, but a happy beginning for whatever comes next. With her cancer eradicated and a successful THON 2019 behind her, Barker is looking toward the future. After graduation in May, she plans to spend the summer completing an internship with the American Heart Association, helping the foundation tell the stories of survivors of heart disease. And she looks forward to continuing her work with THON.

She’s happy she was able to return to Penn State with the people she loves, and do the work she loves as well. “I credit Penn State, I do, and the community of friends she has there, for helping her get through treatment,” said her mother. “I knew that going back to school was the best place for her to be. I credit Penn State with everything — with saving her life.” Her journey has made an impact on many of the people closest to her, who praise her as an inspiration to persevere during difficult times — the same inspiration that Barker praises them for sharing with her.

I knew that going back to school was the best place for her to be. I credit Penn State with everything — with saving her life.

“’It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,’” said Caela Camazine, co-captain of this year’s THON photography committee. “I think Brianna embodies that idea. She is that light in the dark.”

– Veronica Barker, Brianna’s mother

But for all the ways she’s made a difference in the lives of those around her, Barker remains humble. If her work with THON can help Four Diamonds families, or if she’s able to pass on just some of the joy that her friends and colleagues have brought her, then she is happy.

Although she’s still not exactly sure where life might take her, she hopes to be able to use her communications and her science degrees to empower patients and survivors of serious medical conditions through telling their stories “with dignity, correct medical and scientific knowledge, humanity, humor, and accuracy.” “My goal would be to produce a show that patients and survivors of serious illnesses can watch, find solace in, and can also feel is a true representation of struggles they’ve faced in their own health journeys,” Barker said. “It’s an ambitious idea of mine, and I don’t know how on earth to get there, but it would be the dream.”


As much as Barker served others through THON, she says the experience and related friendships were what made her Penn State experience special. (Photo by Pat Mansell)

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

“I think what I learned is that no matter what’s going on in your life, even if it’s absolutely god-awful, you can make it through if you have the support of people who make you feel like gold inside,” Barker said. “I didn’t have a choice to have to go through what I did, and I only got through it because of the people around me who gave me the strength to persevere. “If you’re a Penn Stater, never turn down the opportunity to surround yourself with the amazing people here,” she said. “We’re here for you.”

FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT A camera, a foreign country and a historic fire By Lindsey Toomer, ’21

Lindsey Toomer’s photo of a burning Notre Dame Cathedral. She was among the crush of people who rushed to the scene. (Photo by Lindsey Toomer ‘21)

A Penn State student studying abroad in France during the spring semester saw the fire that consumed Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15 in person. Lindsey Toomer, a rising junior majoring in photojournalism and global and international studies from Milford, Pennsylvania, shared her first-person account and some photos. I am studying abroad in Paris for the semester with the IES Paris French Studies Program. It is a program dedicated to immersing American students into French culture. I live with a host mother who speaks only French, and all of our classes are taught strictly in French. My host mother received a call from her son while we were at dinner Monday night informing her of the fire at the Notre Dame, and she updated me shortly after. Almost immediately after dinner I grabbed my camera and ran out the door to go see what was going on. As I got closer to the island where Notre Dame stands, the crowds continued to

grow larger and larger. Police had the island completely blocked off as firefighters tried to cease the flames. I made my way through the crowds all the way to the front where I found a view of the fire. After staying and watching the fire for about two hours, I decided I had seen enough. On my way out I witnessed hundreds of people joining in song and prayer in front of l’Église SaintJulien-le-Pauvre. It was a chilling experience, as nobody could walk through there without feeling the emotion of the crowd. I was lucky to see the Notre Dame a few times this semester before the fire, but I unfortunately was not able to make it inside the building. The line was always hours long, and I kept telling myself I would go inside the next time I went. It was hard not to feel the sadness all the Parisians were feeling during this tragic event. It was interesting to have been able to witness such a historical moment, and I can only hope the Notre Dame will be restored to its original glory. The Communicator | Spring 2019


Class of 2019 Student Marshals

Spring 2019 student marshals for the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications were (from left): Kathryn Mellett, film-video; Kennedey Bell, journalism; Tess Kearns, telecommunications; Alison Kuznitz, overall; Bennett Nesley, media studies; and Elise Bingaman, advertising/public relations. (Photo by Trey Miller ’12)

Three seniors among Oswald Award winners Three of the five Penn State students honored with the 2019 John W. Oswald Award were seniors in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. The John W. Oswald Award, established in 1983, annually recognizes graduating seniors who have provided outstanding leadership in at least one of several areas of activity at the University. The award consists of a medallion honoring John W. Oswald, president of the University from 1970 to 1983. Bellisario College students honored were: Marissa Works, creative and performing arts; and Alison Kuznitz and Brandon Pelter, journalism, speech and the mass media. Works, a double-major in public relations and music education, combined her passion for music with her education in promoting it. Kuznitz, a double-major in journalism and marketing, was the third place winner in the 2018 William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards Program writing championship in the personality profile category. Pelter, a broadcast journalism major, has worked in radio, television and print journalism for campus sports, the NFL and the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon. 38

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

Senior embraces opportunity working at Kentucky Derby Most seniors celebrate graduation day by walking across the stage during commencement and spending time with family and friends.

She followed the Derby with similar assignments at the Preakness Stakes on May 18 and a return to the Belmont Stakes on June 8.

But, while most were on campus, one May graduate from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications was at the Kentucky Derby with behind-thescenes access.

“Horse racing is unlike any other sport. It’s absolutely just a different world,” Rowley said. “There’s so much that goes into it — the outfits, the events beforehand and after, the families that are dedicating their entire lives to this horse and this jockey for 30, 40 years or even more than that. That’s kind of why I’ve fallen in love with it.”

Katie Rowley, who graduated with a degree in journalism, decided to work as a talent and production assistant/stage manager for NBC Sports at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on her graduation day. Don’t worry; she consulted with her parents and family beforehand. “My education has always been my priority but as long as I knew I was graduating on time and getting that diploma, that was what mattered to me,” Rowley said. “So, it still allowed me to graduate just like everyone else, but I got to be in the middle of all the action at Churchill Downs and that’s where I knew I’d be happiest.” The opportunity wasn’t anything new for Rowley. It was her third time working a horse racing event for NBC, having traveled to last year’s Belmont Stakes as well as the Breeders’ Cup in the fall.

After working the races, Rowley will start a yearlong postgraduate corporate services internship with the Philadelphia Eagles — an opportunity that came about from networking. Rowley reached out to Brian Napoli, vice president of corporate partnerships for the Eagles, just to connect. One thing led to another and she ended up securing a position. While she has lived in North Carolina for most of her life, her dad is from Philadelphia and her mom is from New Jersey. Rowley has been a die-hard Eagles fan for as long as she can remember. “It was what I’ve always wanted to do. My parents say this all the time but I knew the Eagles fight song before I knew my ABCs,” Rowley said.

Katie Rowley chose a different outfit, and location, on commencement day. (Photo provided)

Creating scholarship a logical act of support for dedicated alumnus For Paul Levine, Penn State is a feeling, something special and something he hopes to share with generations of students. Levine (’69 Journ), who served as sports editor and editor of The Daily Collegian as an undergraduate, began his career as a journalist with the Miami Herald. He then attended law school and was a trial lawyer and law professor before embarking on a successful career as an author. He’s a longtime supporter of the communications program at his alma mater and, with a recent gift, he hopes to make an impact on the lives of students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications for years to come. He endowed the Paul Levine Journalism Scholarship to support full-time undergraduates enrolled in the journalism major who have a demonstrated financial need. “Tuition has increased greatly since my time at Penn State and the state of Pennsylvania has consistently decreased its support of public education. That puts a lot of students in a tough spot,” he said. “Any help that can be given to hard-working students, even if it’s just a little bit, to get them through college and not have a gigantic burden of debt is important.

I think anything a person who has Penn State in their heart and soul can do, they should do. Levine, who regularly returns to campus, clearly has Penn State in his heart and soul. He was named an Alumni Fellow in 1993 and Distinguished Alumnus in 2003. His son, Mike Levine (’03 Journ) graduated from the Bellisario College and worked in communications and sports media before moving to higher education and, in 2018, back to Penn State in the Division of Development and Alumni Relations. From his home in Santa Barbara, California, the elder Levine regularly follows Penn State news. Levine has won the John D. MacDonald fiction award and he has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, and James Thurber prizes. His novels have been translated into 23 languages. The title character of one of his popular series, Jake Lassiter, was a Penn State linebacker turned lawyer. Levine is also the author of the “Solomon vs. Lord” series. Along with his novels, Levine wrote more than 20 episodes for the CBS military drama “JAG.” He co-created (with Donald Bellisario) the Supreme Court drama “First Monday,” starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna.

Watching the watchers Columnist Paul Farhi of The Washington Post accepts the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism from Dean Marie Hardin at the National Press Club. Judges for the award voiced unanimous support for Farhi’s work in 2018, which was cited by one as “… excellent writing, memorable turns of phrase, and an interesting breadth of story approaches.” (Photo by Trey Miller ’12)

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Search Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, Penn State – Alumni and – Ad/PR Network to join the groups and connect with your peers and professors.

The Communicator | Spring 2019


Turning Sweet Ideas Into Tasty Success Robert Gavazzi brings a forward-thinking mindset to The Hershey Company By Alan Janesch (’76)


obert Gavazzi has a big job at The Hershey Company. He’s responsible for developing the company’s innovation strategy, new products, and new business opportunities around the world. But one of his biggest success stories was literally something very small: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures. “It was one of the best projects I was ever involved in because we got to a really interesting place in a short amount of time,” recalls Gavazzi, a two-time Penn State alumnus. The idea of Reese’s Minis had been around for maybe 10 years, but initially the technology didn’t exist to make the product efficiently at the necessary scale and cost. What sparked a new look at the idea was a focus group Gavazzi was running in Edison, New Jersey. “We were interviewing somebody who had a 9-to-5 job and commuted 20 minutes to work,” Gavazzi says. The man was a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup aficionado, but he had a big complaint. “You know what really bugs me about your product?” Gavazzi recalls him saying. “I’ve got to put two hands on the steering wheel while I’m driving, and I’m looking at my Peanut Butter Cup the whole time. Why can’t you guys come up with a small pack that you rip open, that has tiny Peanut Butter Cups in it, that I can just pour in my mouth? What’s wrong with you guys?” That helped kick into motion a project that resurrected Hershey’s earlier work on the idea. “The big unlock was the technology,” Gavazzi recalls. “It was an exciting project to be involved in. It performed at three times the X [in sales] that we thought it would in year one.” It also received a Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation award in 2013. To receive this award, a company must deliver a new value proposition to the market, generate a minimum of $50 million in year-one U.S. sales, and achieve at least 90 percent of year-one sales in year two. Gavazzi (’91 Brcab, ’98 MBA) is currently Hershey’s senior director of global innovation. The process he manages for Hershey — known in corporate circles as the “innovation funnel” or the “stage-gate process” — is complex and lengthy. Typically, inputs going into the front end of the funnel may include trends, general ideas, consumer needs, technology,


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

research, data analysis, financial viability, competitive concerns, or “white-space opportunities” — areas that haven’t been previously tapped by other companies or are being “underserved” by products currently in the marketplace. The process is divided into distinct stages, separated by decision points known as gates. More people get involved as the number of ideas is whittled down — and only a few workable, financially viable ideas emerge at the end of the process and actually become products. The process can take years, Gavazzi says. “What I’m working on right now is to be launched in 2021.” At Hershey, where Gavazzi has worked for more than 22 years, each of his job titles except one has had the word “innovation” in it. Gavazzi says anybody can be an innovator and urges people to spark innovation by breaking out of their normal routines. “Just change up what you’re doing,” he says. “Park in a different place. Take a different car to work. Take a different route to work. Take a different route home. Listen to a different radio station. Read a different publication. Go to a different website. Just change up your perspectives a bit.” Gavazzi says he wouldn’t change his undergraduate degree for the world, crediting “some really good professors” who helped show him “that a communications degree could really take you anywhere.” He also credits his MBA with setting him up well to understand finance, operations, legal, and other functionalities, and a job selling ads for the Daily Collegian for teaching him “the power of maintaining a relationship [with clients] early on.” A huge fan of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk and hockey (both the Penn State and NHL varieties), Gavazzi says both music and sports have influenced his thoughts on innovation, the creative process, and his work style. What Gavazzi likes about Monk is not only his unique improvisational style but also his grounding in earlier jazz traditions. “He wasn’t afraid to try anything. He can traverse different styles, blend elements, and bring it all together.” Recalling a series of ESPN ads in Sports Illustrated, Gavazzi points out how the parallels he sees between hockey and business have shaped his “playmaker” approach to innovation. “We’re very big on giving the assists to the brands in the business. That’s a big part of what we do. We don’t necessarily get the credit for being the goalie and making the game-winning save, nor for being the defenseman, but that’s not the role we necessarily play in innovation.”


Work ethic helps alumnus thrive at ABC News


roblems? No problem.

Every day offers some challenges, maybe even problems, and every day Austin Hinton finds ways to solve them. Hinton, a media production specialist for ABC News, manages preventive maintenance for some 1,400 behindthe-scenes systems that enable shows like “Good Morning America,” “GMA Day,” “The View” and others to reach millions of viewers all over the world. “I enjoy the challenge,” said Hinton (’08 Telecomm). “There is something going on in our environment every day. It’s never dull.” He’s been with ABC News full time since December, previously working for the company as a contract broadcast engineer. He also focuses on prevention — daily, weekly and monthly — working to avoid problems before they happen. It’s a mix that Hinton, a former Penn State football player, finds familiar, with a game plan and the subsequent action-andreaction challenges. He appreciates the preparation and thrives in potentially hectic situations. “There’s a work ethic I try to bring to everything I do, and I learned that at Penn State. It’s discipline and time management,” he said. “It’s also managing a challenge, not complaining and trying to figure out what you can learn from a situation.” He’s found a comfortable situation at ABC News, part of the larger Disney-owned environment. “There’s a lot of opportunity and good people,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to test your skillset in a company like this. Someone could get overwhelmed, I guess, but I’m a loud enough person to make myself heard and I do really enjoy learning. It’s never about what has happened for me, it’s about what’s going to happen next and how we can improve.” Hinton’s background includes work on emerging communications technologies, including time at NBC Sports with its livestreaming efforts. He earned Emmy Awards for his work at the Olympic Games in Rio and Sochi.

Austin Hinton, a media production specialist, helps shows like “Good Morning America,” “GMA Day” and “The View” reach viewers all over the world. (Photo provided)

Before that, his efforts with what became Microsoft-owned Skype TX, a studio-grade software designed to connect broadcast and media productions from around the world, were valuable. Among the many projects Hinton worked on was one that closed out a TedTalk with a virtual live choir, featuring 50 participants from countries all over the world. Hinton has grown through his varied professional experiences and he remains connected to his alma mater. In New York City, he helps with events such as the Hope Gala fundraiser for the Penn State Dance Marathon, and regularly coordinates events and watch parties at Jack and Fanny’s in the city.

Join the Conversation @PSUBellisario The Communicator | Spring 2019


Bellisario College among

“Top 10 Journalism Schools 2019” — College Magazine (

74 companies a record number

that participated in an on-campus job fair in the spring. It’s one of three communications-specific sessions offered by the Bellisario College every academic year.

Television: Best All-Around News Magazine, in 2018 National SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards “Centre County Report in Israel”

TOP 2 REGIONAL FINISH for Bellisario College students participating in the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition

“I really am thankful for Penn State and, the University Fellowships Office. Basically every opportunity I’ve had here is the reason that I got this.” Alanna Powers,

selected for a post-graduate English teaching assistantship in the Czech Republic for the 2019-20 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

I wanted to create my own experience, and I felt like Penn State offered that for me. It made my dreams possible. Jon Gross, who graduated in May and will begin work as the University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s lead sports broadcaster

Countries visited by students in “embedded” courses during the spring semester (Belize, Guyana, Poland, Puerto Rico and South Africa)

37 episodes available of Penn State

COMMversations the Bellisario College podcast.

Find us at or on Apple Podcasts.


Commonwealth Campus Hijinks ACROSS

1. Male voice 6. Web code 10. Period 13. Spanish sign-off 14. Driving machine 15. Catamount 16. Commonwealth Campus treat? 18. Gets by, with “out” 19. Licensed caregivers 20. Swiss artist 21. Matures 23. Stir-fry pans 24. Roper’s gear 25. Disinclined to 28. Court officers 31. Jazz singer Vaughan 32. WWI battle site 33. “Are we there _____?” 34. Ice mishap 35. Pitcher Satchel 36. Sound quality 37. Mimic 38. Wilkes-_____ 39. Madcap comedy 40. Soft shoe 42. Low pitch 43. “Am not” reply 44. Songbird 45. Mexican desert 47. Hat material 48. Greek T 51. Unfreeze 52. Commonwealth Campus barriers? 55. Paintings 56. Start of a news story 57. German city 58. Sure, for short 59. What _____ is new? 60. Justice Kagan


1. Penn State kicking family 2. Red Sea port 3. Generic male addressees 4. Brillo rival 5. Wisconsin town 6. 19th president 7. London transit 8. NYC subway runner 9. Alsace-_____











23 28




























43 45



















10. Commonwealth Campus nobleman? 11. Portent 12. Russian news source 15. Cola war combatant 17. Actress Sommer 22. Small land mass 23. Cover-up? 24. Size between S and XL 25. Tea region 26. Indiana school, in sports headline 27. Commonwealth Campus waterways? 28. Scottish child 29. Stolen goods seller 30. Pilot 32. Former NY Gov. Cuomo 35 C-quality 36. Lose on purpose


38. Boxer Max 39. Yule greenery 41. Boasts 42. Reduced-price event 44. Chevy destination in song 45. Word on an octagon 46. Pennsylvania neighbor 47. Rages 48. Zap 49. “Couldn’t agree more!” 50. Midshipman’s school 54 Internet Connection 53. Slippery fish Need help? Answers on page 51

This is the fourth crossword faculty member Russell Frank has created for The Communicator. The Communicator | Spring 2019




Alumna turns passion into major-market radio career By Trey Miller (‘12)


t age 16, Loren Raye hosted a junior class fashion show as part of a fundraiser at her high school.

“I got to play the part of Joan Rivers-ish and I loved every second of it,” Raye said. “I was like, ‘This is so fun. I should just do this for a living’ and my parents were like, ‘Sure, go for it.’ I had always been one of these people that really enjoyed public speaking.” Fast-forward to 2019 and Loren Raye, also known as Loren Cicalese-Bosso (‘08 Journ), has made the art of public speaking her career. Raye is now a two-time Gracie Award recipient for Outstanding Morning Drive Personality and working in Boston as a co-host on “The TJ Show” on 103.3 AMP Radio (WODS-FM). It’s a RADIO.COM station that’s a part of Entercom, a leading American media and entertainment company and one of the two largest radio broadcasters in the country. It took Raye a lot of hard work and a few timely opportunities to get to this point. Growing up, Raye was a dancer and an actor, always comfortable as a performer. That helped lead to her aspirations of being a broadcaster, whether it be on TV or radio. Penn State was the only place she applied, and while the New Jersey native didn’t think she wanted to be in Pennsylvania, one step on campus changed her mind. She got involved from the start. Her favorite class was the capstone broadcast journalism course that produces the award-winning “Centre County Report” newscast. It was television, and the skillsets she learned were vital. “It really, really helped me prepare for the live aspect of a show and understanding deadlines and interviewing people and all of that kind of stuff,” Raye said. “I loved all of that. That was the best.”


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

The radio thing started on a whim. She had a crush on a student at Penn State and his roommate needed a partner for a show on CommRadio, the internet-based station housed in the Bellisario College. “The feminist in me cringes now to admit that a crush is what started me on this path, but I was like, ‘Sure, whatever, I’ll give it a shot. Who cares?’ It ended up being the best decision ever,” Raye said.

I always joke that in a matter of 48 hours, I went from someone who went to bed at like 3 in the morning to someone who was waking up at 3 in the morning for this morning show. Heading into her senior year, she still hadn’t decided between television and radio. An internship with “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show” on Z100 in New York City, a nationally syndicated program, changed all that. She had grown up listening to that radio station and had the opportunity to spend the summer there prior to her senior year. After she returned to campus for her final year, she got a call in November. The person who answered phones for Duran’s show was getting promoted and they encouraged her to apply. After interviewing, Raye found out New Year’s Eve — right before her final semester at Penn State — that she got the job. “It was this whirlwind because my parents were like, ‘Hey, we’re really proud of you, but also you just spent the last three and a half years working toward this degree. You really need to finish this,’” said Raye. She drove back to Penn State, packed her things and headed back to her hometown in New Jersey to start

working as a phone operator for Duran’s show. In the process, she completed her Penn State degree online through the World Campus. That’s when she met TJ Taormina, who was a producer on Duran’s show. After working with Raye for about six years at “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show,” Taormina, who co-hosted the show for about three years, had the opportunity to start his own morning show in Boston. He encouraged Raye to apply. Raye proved to be the most qualified and joined Taormina to start “The TJ Show.” “I was so, so impressed with her passion for the industry and how much she wanted to learn and how she just wanted to do a great job,” said Taormina. “I think that’s so rare in any line of work and I think when you find people like that, you find a way to hang onto them.” The show, which was started from scratch and recently celebrated its six-year anniversary, has been on an upward trajectory since it began. Targeting a younger audience and focusing on being a positive show has a lot to do with the success. “I think that’s what differentiates us a lot from some of the other shows, especially here in Boston,” said Raye. “Boston people, we’re gruff and gritty. It’s kind of funny to be negative, which we totally get, but that’s not our show. We don’t love that. We just try to put out as much positivity as we can. “I kind of liken it to Ellen (Degeneres). I don’t mean we are as successful as Ellen, that’s not what my comparison is, but she’s built a really beautiful brand just by being kind to other people and sharing other people’s stories. I think that’s what we try to do as well.” Raye keeps the positivity going with her “Badass Chicks” segment every week,

something she’s really proud of. The idea started unexpectedly in 2012 when she was with “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.” Raye was filling in as co-host the morning that Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died. When announcing Ride’s passing, Raye called her a “badass chick.” Duran approached her after the show and asked if she’d like to do a “Badass Chicks” segment. She has continued it as a weekly segment on “The TJ Show” in Boston, focusing on women in the community. “It’s just sort of my way of nodding to these pretty spectacular women that just live in our communities among us and we wouldn’t know otherwise,” said Raye. In addition to the people she works with, the community is what Raye believes is the best part about working in radio. “We meet these people every day and we invite them into our lives and we’re invited into their lives,” said Raye. “That’s one of my favorite things about what we get to do. It’s just this deep connection that you really can’t find anywhere else.”

Alumna Lauren Raye, also known as Loren Cicalese-Bosso, has crafted a strong career in radio. She’s a two-time Gracie Award recipient. (Photo by Steve Prue)


1970s Richard Matukonis (’74 MassComm), known professionally as Rick Mason, was the recipient of a 2018 Woodlands Bank Everyday Hero award for his involvement with numerous nonprofits and charities in the Williamsport region. He was nominated by the Lycoming County Arts Council. Marilyn Weisser Stemp (’76 Journ) was inducted into both the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame and the Las Vegas Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2018, in recognition of her work in moto-journalism over almost three decades. She co-founded IronWorks Magazine in 1989, edited the magazine from 2001 to 2014, and now edits Iron Trader News online. Stemp also authored “Harley-Davidson CVO Motorcycles,” a large-format, case-bound history of the company’s custom vehicle operations. Katie O’Toole (’77, ’05 MA, ’10 PhD), a lecturer in the Department of Journalism, and, before that, an award-winning broadcaster for Penn State Public Broadcasting, was named a Scripps Howard Journalism Institute Fellow. Participants in the program, limited to 15 instructors from across the county, spend a week at Arizona State University learning about infusing the concepts and practices of entrepreneurial journalism into their teaching.

1980s Glenn Stickley (’86 Film and Lib) was named senior vice president of Condé Nast. He lives in Lawndale, California.

Chris Lindsley (’87 Journ) has published his first book, “Land of Fun: The Story of an Old-Fashioned Amusement Park for the Ages,” which focuses on Funland Amusement Park in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware. Lindsley worked at the park when he was a teenager and has visited annually for the past 50 years. Lindsley works for the University of Maryland Medical System. Brenda K. Foster, MPA (’89 Journ), senior vice president of Vanguard Communications in Washington, D.C., was named a PR News 2019 Top Woman in PR for her “far-reaching impact on the field of strategic communications and public relations.” Foster was honored for her 30-year career helping nationally prominent nonprofits and government agencies, such as Farm Aid and the American Psychological Association, achieve their social change goals. Laura Pace Lilley (’89 Journ) is the public information officer for Mt. Lebanon Municipality and editor-in-chief of Mt. Lebanon Magazine. Her career has included writing positions at the Centre Daily Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to work at CBS Radio in Pittsburgh.

1990s Deborah Reber (’91 Brcab), author, keynote speaker and founder of TiLT Parenting, recently published a new book titled “Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World” (Workman Publishing). In November 2018, she spoke at TEDxAmsterdam, delivering a talk titled “Why the Future

Will Be Differently Wired,” and she spoke at TEDxPSU in February 2019. She recently moved back to the New York City area after living in the Netherlands with her husband and son for the past five years. Evan Cuttic (’98 Telecomm) is manager of global creative marketing for original series at Netflix in Los Angeles. James F. Gerraughty, MBA (’98 Telecomm) assumed duties as president of the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC) in March 2019. APTAC is the professional organization for Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) across the country, providing training and legislative knowledge on government contractingrelated issues. The PTACs are divided into 11 regions across the country, with approximately 300 offices and 600 employees. Gerraughty is currently the program manager of the Southern Alleghenies PTAC in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and has been there for six years. Sloane Keane (’98 Ad/PR) was promoted to CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire. The local organization is one of the largest chapters in the nation and annual serves more than 3,500 children.

2000s Josh Altman (’01 F/V) was the editor of “Minding the Gap,” nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Joe Machi (’02 Media Studies) made his stand-up comedy debut on “The

Amoros joins Schneider on Board of Trustees The number of Bellisario College alumni serving on the Penn State Board of Trustees doubled in the past year when Abraham Amoros (’90 Journ) was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf effective Oct. 17, 2018.

Fellow alumna Mary Lee Schneider (’84 Journ) was elected

Amoros is president of Amoros Communications. He complemented his bachelor’s degree from Penn State with a M.S. in governmental administration from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2018, Latino Connection named Amoros one of the 100 Most Influential Latinos in Pennsylvania. He served three terms on the Bellisario College Alumni Board and provided volunteer support to the Bellisario College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Technology, an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

to the Board of Trustees effective July 2015 representing business and industry. Along with her bachelor’s degree, she has a master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Business and a master’s in medical informatics, both from Northwestern University, in 1996 and 2012, respectively. She is the former president and chief executive officer of Follett Corp., which specializes in education-related products, services and technology. She was named a Penn State Alumni Fellow in 2006.

To submit an alumni note, vi

Alexis Collins (’19) high fives the alumni coaches and faculty members at the end of the Short Doc Workshop in the Carnegie Cinema. The fourth annual workshop had 15 students working with six alumni in an intensive three-day workshop. The students’ work can be seen at (Photo by Will Yurman)

Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Dec. 16, 2018. He was also the inaugural stand-up headliner for the Central Pa. Festival of the Arts in his hometown of State College in July 2018, playing before a sellout crowd at The State Theatre.

relations for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the Eastern League affiliate of the New York Mets.

Ryan P. Chase (’03 Journ) is a lawyer representing catastrophically-injured victims in Philadelphia at the law firm of Ross Feller Casey LLP. He was promoted to partner in December 2018. His firm biography covers his background ( Before joining Ross Feller Casey in 2010, he worked at Dechert LLP, one of the largest law firms in the nation. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

Erica Bercher (’12 Journ) is the weekend anchor at WIVB-TV, Buffalo’s CBS affiliate, after four years at WGRZ-TV. In 2017, she married alumnus Andrew Baglini (‘10 EMS). They work on-air at the same station.

Amanda Gifford Lockwood (’04 Journ and Edu) was promoted to coordinating producer at ESPN, providing content planning for “SportsCenter” and studio shows and providing oversight of the group that books guests for all ESPN shows and platforms. Andrew Johnson (’09 Journ) is a special agent with the FBI, assigned to the San Francisco field office. Alexa Keeley (’09 Journ) has been promoted to lead video editor at ESPN. She has worked at ESPN since 2013.

2010s Jacob Wilkins (’10 Journ) was named director of broadcasting and media


Lexi Belculfine (’11 Journ) is deputy managing producer at

Kaila DeRienzo (’12 Journ) has been a communications specialist at Telecare Corp. in Alameda, California, since July 2018. Additionally, she is completing her personal trainer certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and was recently hired by Orangetheory Fitness as a coach in the Northern California region. Dave Andrews (’13 Journ) is a photographer and video producer for the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland. Ashley Liotus (’13 Journ) is a sports reporter at NBC 33 News in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Mary Kate McCurdy (’13 Ad/PR) has been promoted to director at Genesco Sports Enterprises. McCurdy has worked at GSE in New York since 2016. Maggie Quinn (’13 Ad/PR) has joined the Distilled Spirits Council, the leading

voice and advocacy group for distilled spirits in the United States, as director of public relations. She promotes spirits trends, cocktail culture and industry heritage through media relations, special events and media tours, as well as digital and social media activities. She also works closely with media to disseminate the latest industry data and category statistics, resulting in hundreds of yearly articles for the industry. Greg Harriott (’14 F/V) contributed cinematography for “Free Solo,” which won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Maria Bryant (’14 Journ) is a producer at WGAL-TV in Lancaster. Kacie Lazor (’14 Journ) is a news production specialist at the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She helps customers across the globe with training and technical support with the newsroom software program ENPS. Deesha Thosar (’16 Journ) is a sportswriter for the New York Daily News. Hannah Beckman (’17 Ad/PR) works as an account executive in the corporate communications group at Zeno Group in New York City. Kevin Dunn (’18 Media Studies) is a communications assistant for PECO, an Exelon Company.

The Communicator | Spring 2019


What did your design colleagues think of Gritty? “They liked it and that was great. Initially, there was some backlash from fans and the public. If the designers and freelancers did not like it, though, that would have been tough. Designers understand the perils of drawing something that’s too safe and too boring. And that was, I think, part of the backlash at first. He doesn’t look like any other mascot — and that’s the point.”

The first few days were rough, though, right? “I’ve gotten some feedback before but never so much so publicly. There’s one moment that sticks out. It was maybe the second day and a lot of news stories were negative, asking ‘What the heck?’ But there was a woman who does this amazing Etch A Sketch art, she’ll draw the Mona Lisa on an Etch a Sketch, and she sent me a portrait of Gritty in an Etch a Sketch. When I saw that, I thought things could turn around.”

So why has Gritty succeeded? “They allowed the performer in the costume to have a lot of control over what’s happening. That’s what, I think, won everybody over. Had they chosen to make him stale and cold it would’ve failed. Now you see Gritty art everywhere. I was at a convention and a guy came up to me and thanked me because they made a Gritty cake for their wedding cake.”

How has Gritty’s success changed things for you?


ure, there was a slip and fall during his home debut eight months ago, but it’s mostly been slip, some lip and all rise for Gritty — the Philadelphia Flyers mascot designed by Bellisario College alumnus Brian Allen (’04 Ad/PR). With a just-right touch of attitude and energy, Gritty has come to life in a way neither Allen nor Flyers officials could have imagined. He’s an orange-haired, googly-eyed fan favorite, with nearly 250,000 Twitter followers. Allen, the entrepreneurial owner of Flyland Designs based in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, reflects on the concept and design, as well as the rollout and aftermath of Gritty.

How was Gritty conceived? “The art directors gave me freedom and some parameters. They wanted him to be a monster. They wanted him to be tough but appealing to kids. I just sat down and drew about 25 concepts, trying to get as unique as possible from one sketch to the next, and that’s normally how I work when designing mascots. The only difference was I knew this one was a much bigger deal. I guess really the only thing that was unusual about it was the fact that he became a phenomenon. That doesn’t happen very often.” (Art provided by Brian Allen ‘04; Portrait by michael black | BLACK SUN®)


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

“It’s flattering and humbling to be part of something so big like that. It feels like kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Maybe something like this will happen again. But, if it didn’t, I’m pretty content. As far as my business, there have been some opportunities for me to name drop Gritty and I think that helped. It’s definitely exposed me to some other clients. But I’ve learned there’s never one project that will elevate you to the next level. The day that Gritty was released I just kind of patted myself on the back and got back to work. It helped, but it wasn’t like winning the lottery.”


Barbara Palmer (’87h)

Barbara Palmer, whose lifetime of philanthropy is evident across Penn State and beyond, died Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. She was 93. Recognized by the University as an honorary alumna in 1987, Palmer was deeply engaged as a donor and a volunteer on campus and in many organizations in the region.

Nadine Kofman (’66, ’67)

Longtime State College historian and writer Nadine Kofman died March 30, 2019. She was 75.

(Photo by Trey Miller ’12)

Although not graduates of Penn State, Barbara and James Palmer made the University their home, giving generously to areas ranging from the colleges of engineering and communications to Outreach and the University Libraries. Their philanthropy is perhaps the most visible in the College of Arts and Architecture, where they supported many areas, including student scholarships and, most notably, their namesake Palmer Museum of Art.

Kofman was a former Centre Daily Times reporter, and a local historian and columnist for various publications, including Town & Gown. Her husband was former State College Mayor Bill Welch, who died in (Photo by Will Yurman) 2009. Kofman started working at the CDT in 1967 and also worked for the Pennsylvania Mirror. She was part of the group that created the Bill Welch Award for Excellence in Journalism for local high school students and was a tireless community supporter and volunteer for a variety of causes.

Josephine Rider Chesworth (’60 Journ)

Barbara Raeder, a Baltimore native, met James Palmer at Iowa State University. She graduated in 1946, and the couple married in 1948. They moved to State College in 1953. James was the president and CEO of C-COR Electronics and Centre Video — now Comcast — for 25 years, while Barbara served on the company’s board of directors.

A longtime State College journalist, volunteer and writer, Josephine Rider Chesworth died April 13, 2019. She was 80. Jo came to Penn State from Mt. Lebanon High School near Pittsburgh. She started her career at The Daily Collegian and remained in State College the rest of her life. She and her husband Tom were married for 59 years before his death in September 2018.

Because of their involvement in the telecommunications industry, the Palmers created an endowed chair for Penn State’s program in the field. Over the years, they invested in programs as diverse as the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, Penn State Public Broadcasting, and the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Their gifts to scholarships have assisted hundreds of students.

A local historian, she started as a freelance writer and then worked for the Barash Group and later for the Penn State Alumni Association, writing more than 240 feature articles for “Town & Gown” and “The Penn Stater” magazines. She wrote a book for State College Borough’s Centennial Celebration in 1996 that chronicled the people, places, events and milestones of the borough and dozens of local businesses. Her career included positions with WMAJ Radio and WPSX-TV (now WPSU). She reviewed plays for the Pennsylvania Mirror and taught journalism classes at Penn State.

Bob Quarteroni (’75 Journ) Bob Quarteroni died April 15, 2019, after a four-month battle with ALS. He was 71. Quarteroni worked as a reporter, editor and columnist at the Centre Daily Times in State College. Starting in 1985, he worked in communications and public relations roles for several colleges. He complemented that work with freelance work for several decades as a writer and editor for The Washington Post, The New York Times and other outlets. This spring, through his a bi-weekly column for — something he had done for four years — Quateroni announced his illness and told the world he had just weeks to live. That was March 5, 2019. The column began this way: “I am dying. I have ALS: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lucky me. One of the select 16,000 Americans to get bitten by this evil bastard every year. When you’re diagnosed with it at my age, life expectancy is about a year.” Quateroni wrote one more column for PennLive. That was published March 22, 2019, and titled “My body is collapsing around me.”

In 1993, she left the Alumni Association to work fulltime publishing three technical newsletters for her husband’s business. The couple traveled the world on business and took a personal cruise every spring. In later years the couple wrote a column for the Centre Daily Times about affordable wines.

Victor Danilov (’45 Journ) A journalist, museum president and director, and author of 28 books, Victor Danilov died July 26, 2018. He was 93. Danilov worked at The Daily Collegian as an undergraduate and later earned his master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern. He worked at the Chicago Daily News before teaching journalism at the University of Colorado and the University of Kansas. In 1962, he became executive editor and vice president of Industrial Research Inc., a science magazine publisher. By 1971, he was vice president of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. He retired as museum president and director in 1987. The Communicator | Spring 2019




As a filmmaker and teacher, Pearl Gluck is on a constant search for authenticity. She looks for it in her actors, her students and even her own scripts. It’s not easy, but the assistant professor of film-video in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications says it’s vital for the filmmaking process. Many of her films tackle pressing issues that don’t always make headlines. Gluck’s “The Turn Out” addresses human trafficking, specifically at truck stops in the Midwest. The film is based on true stories and stars real-life survivors and truckers. It was released in 2018 and won several awards, including Best Debut Feature at Toronto’s Female Eye Film Festival and Best Experimental Feature at the 2018 Cutting Edge Film Festival. Each character is a product of research, creative direction and a constant pursuit for authenticity.

“The Turn Out” features real people acting in a fictional story about a real issue (human trafficking), how did you decide that was the best way to tell your story? I did a lot of research and interviews that involved survivors and truckers. I was recording what these people had to say and using what they shared to craft the fiction. We teach documentary and fiction separately, but sometimes a story doesn’t fit perfectly into one or the other. For example, I recorded the interviews documentary-style, but when I heard one woman’s story I asked her if I could craft it into the film. She said “absolutely,” and now it’s a scene. What do people not understand about human trafficking? It’s not always a lack of willingness to help these children, but a lack of training and awareness. That’s changing, which is great. For example, in the interview with the woman, she shared how her mother allowed her to be assaulted in exchange for a hit. Her sister was able to save her from the situation and the two ran to their grandmother’s. Hours later, the mother showed up with the police claiming the daughter had run away. The policeman, who didn’t know any better, said, “Don’t run away from home” and returned her to the mother. Things are changing, and I like seeing that shift toward more awareness.


Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

You have a story. You’ve done the research. How do you translate it for actors in the film? I love working with actors. It’s magical. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I can’t do what they do, and watching it all happen … it’s like “wow.” I love helping them find the reason their characters are where they are. How did they end up there? Why are they there? The actor’s job is to make it authentic, so I need to let them do their jobs while making it clear what’s at stake. There is a lot of work for every single moment. What matters is the passion, desire and heart everyone puts into the project. Are your students willing to put passion, desire and heart into their work? That’s the work. It’s the process of an artist, whether you’re in your 40s or in college doing film for the first time. We learn. It’s helpful to see others go through the process. The more filmmakers we can bring to campus and the more faculty there are to work with, the better. We can tell students about our struggles and be open about our process. My students know what I go through as a filmmaker. I have had students involved on all my sets so they can experience first-hand the pursuit of that passion. If you don’t show the students, the willingness won’t be there, and they won’t see the payoff at the end.

What’s a challenging part of being a new student interested in film? My classes are notoriously full of work. I throw a lot of triggers at students. I tell them that we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants and we know more than they do because we’re on their shoulders, and I ask them whose shoulders they’re standing on. They sometimes know and sometimes they don’t. It’s anyone who has made a difference in their lives, good experiences and bad experiences. I ask them, “What made you feel something?” I am an activist in my work and that’s what drives me. Some students are driven to entertain, some see comedy in certain things and some students are driven to science fiction. But in all that, authenticity is the hardest part. We need to make our stories authentic as possible.

(Photos provided by Pearl Gluck)


Fall Semester Classes Begin


Labor Day Holiday


Commencement speaker Tom Verducci (’82 Journ), who works for Sports Illustrated, Fox and MLB Network, told graduates: “Don’t think you have to change the world. Just think how, in your unique way, you can make it better.” (Photo by Steve Manuel ‘84, ‘92MA)






B A S S O 13 A D I O S 16










H T M L 14 A U T O






K L E E R I P E N S 24 W O K S L A S S O 25 26 27 28 29 30 A V E R S E B A I L I F F S 32


S A R A H M A R N E Y E T 34 35 36 S L I P P A I G E T O N E 37 40





(6 p.m., Campus and Downtown)

OCT 17

Bellisario College Recognition Dinner

OCT 19

Whiteout vs. Michigan

Homecoming Parade

(TBA, Beaver Stadium)

NOV 22-30

Thanksgiving Holiday

DEC 13

Fall Semester Classes End

DEC 16-20

Fall Semester Final Exams

DEC 21

Fall Commencement

(No Classes)




M O C C A S I N S I N K E R 43 44 A R E S O L A R K


(2:30 p.m., Alumni Hall, HUB-Robeson Center)




Bellisario College Involvement Fair


D O T 15 P U M A 22

(No Classes)






T A U S O N O R A F E L T 51 52 53 54 B E A V E R D A M S T H A W 55









Fall 2018 Corrections: The clue for 37-across should have been “Singer Minnelli.” The clue for 50-across should have been “Dumbfound.” In the answer key to the puzzle, the answer to 32-across should have been EASEL. The answer to 22-across/13 down should have been LAOTZU/TABU.

(12:30 p.m., Bryce Jordan Center)

The Communicator | Spring 2019


The Communicator

The Pennsylvania State University 302 James Building University Park, PA 16802 / @PSUBellisario

Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications Presents

COMMversations A weekly podcast focused on the people and programs of the Bellisario College.