How the Lenfest Constellation News Leadership Initiative helps advance careers

Lessons from the mid-career accelerator program for Philadelphia journalists and media professionals of color.

By Samiya Green

July 28, 2022

Eight of the 10 members of the 2022 class of the Lenfest Constellation News Leadership Initiative advanced in their careers during the seven-month fellowship program through a promotion, increased recognition and responsibilities in their current role, or by moving to a new job with more room for growth. 

The Constellation Initiative provides career development support to mid-career media professionals of color in the Philadelphia-area through training from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, mentorship from Executive Advisors who have advanced to positions of leadership in Philadelphia-area news organizations, and career coaching from Crawford Leadership Strategies, a Black-owned leadership development firm. 

“The Constellation News Leadership Initiative is one of my favorite programs in the Institute portfolio because it has the greatest impact on the individual fellows and on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the Philadelphia news ecosystem as a whole,” said Lenfest Institute Program Director Shawn Mooring. “Our initial foray into providing professional development was the Lenfest Fellows program which provided two-year positions to emerging journalists of color at The Philadelphia Inquirer. However, after listening to BIPOC media executives and seeking to identify opportunities for the greatest, long term impact on the field, we opted to restructure the program to invest in mid-career media makers of color. The results continue to be outstanding.” 

The 2022 class of Constellation Fellows included: David Auguste, WPVI 6abc web producer; Lisa Bryant, Generocity freelance journalist; Kerith Gabriel, The Philadelphia Inquirer Senior Editor (Sports); Angelica Irizarry, The Philadelphia Inquirer director of events;  Nia King, WHYY editor; Ariel Miller, WPVI 6abc producer; Ezequiel Minaya, New York Times metro desk reporter (formerly with The Philadelphia Inquirer); Melissa Simpson, Next City audience engagement editor; Kristal Sotomayor, ¡Presente! Media co-founder and cinéSPEAK editorial board; and Jillian Wilson, HuffPost wellness reporter (formerly The Philadelphia Inquirer service editor).  

The Executive Advisors for the Constellation Fellows were Maria Archangelo, Open Campus chief revenue officer; Anthony Cuffie, The Philadelphia Inquirer vice president in advertising sales, local advertising labor, & advertising operations; Cherri Gregg, WHYY host/anchor; Emma Carew Grovum, Kimbap Media newsroom consultant; Michael Huang, The Philadelphia Inquirer Managing Editor – Sports; Richard G. Jones, The Philadelphia Inquirer managing editor – opinion; Shawana Perry, WPVI 6abc executive producer; Melony Roy, WHYY director of digital news, Jameel Rush, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s former vice president of diversity, equity, & inclusion; and Ernest Owens, Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists president.  

The Constellation News Leadership Initiative is supported by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, M&T Charitable Foundation and the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation. 

Every fellow in the Constellation class noted the benefits of the networking opportunities provided by the program enabling them to connect with their peers — which was especially important as we continue to deal with the ongoing pandemic and the challenges from the continued racial reckoning that began in 2020. 

Nine of the ten fellows said coaching sessions with Joyel Crawford, CEO and founder of Crawford Leadership Strategies, helped them navigate their career challenges and support their personal and professional wellbeing. 

“Joyel was a great sounding board and provided guidance that was invaluable. I am on the path to a potential new job because of her coaching,” one fellow said. 

Even though the Constellation class operated remotely, the fellows were mentored by their executive advisors who played a critical role serving as a reliable source of support for their career development. The Executive Advisors provided high-level one-on-one coaching and mentorship to each fellow, while the fellows learned new skills and expanded their networks.

Nine out of 10 fellows said the Executive Advisors took a “significant” or “very significant” interest in their work. The advisors engaged them through regular check-ins and served as valuable sounding boards as the fellows navigated new career opportunities.  

“She really made herself available to me, gave me feedback on my resume and cover letters, and reached out to places I was applying to on my behalf,” one fellow said of her executive advisor. “I’m not sure what else I could have asked for.” 

In addition to the extensive coaching, the fellows found that the program curriculum, led by the J+ team at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, helped them advance critical thinking and leadership skills. Lessons on digital newsroom transition, audience strategies, product thinking, and revenue modeling helped fellows deepen their understanding of skills that are essential for modern enterprises. 

Guest speakers included Charo Henriquez, New York Times head of newsroom development and support; Shazna Nessa, Wall Street Journal global head of visuals; and Michael Bolden, American Press Institute chief executive officer. 

The Lenfest Institute is proud of the success of the most recent class of Constellation Fellows, and we look forward to continuing to grow the Constellation Network with the next class of accomplished BIPOC media professionals. We plan to incorporate more opportunities for fellows and their executive advisors to interact and build community, strengthen the mentorship bond, and broaden their networks. Learn more about how you can apply here, and please feel free to reach out to [email protected] with any questions.

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