A conversation with Rochester editors, reporters and activists envisioning the future of media in our region.
Upheaval, disruption and precarious health continue to pummel the United States, its institutions and residents. In the wake of a pandemic, people are turning to news for information at unprecedented rates. Yet the effects of COVID-19 have “ravaged American newsrooms,” according to the Nieman Lab of Harvard University. This has particularly pernicious impacts on local news and its reliance on local ad dollars. To better understand the future of news in Rochester, especially on the eve of a dramatic presidential election, we turn to the experts—the reporters and editors at our media institutions who are facing, adapting to, and innovating within this media landscape as they fulfill their duties within the singular profession that is written into the Constitution: a free press.
Smriti Jacob is co-founder and managing editor of the Rochester Beacon, a digital nonprofit publication and community forum that provides an in-depth look at the region's complex challenges. An award-winning reporter and editor, Smriti worked at the Rochester Business Journal for nearly 16 years.
She owns Bold Letter Marketing, a content marketing business, working with national clients like Hewlett-Packard, Sitecore and Carestream Health, and is an adjunct in the English Department at St. John Fisher College.
David Andreatta is the editor of CITY, an alternative news publication that combines news and commentary with street-level coverage of the arts, music, and culture in greater Rochester. Prior to joining CITY in 2019, David was a columnist and investigative reporter at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, where he was known for producing both serious and irreverent work. David has also written extensively for the New York Post and The Globe and Mail in Toronto, and is the recipient of statewide and national journalism awards.
Gino Fanelli is a journalist for CITY Newspaper, specializing in city government, social issues, and beer. His work has appeared in USA Today, The Associated Press, and The Washington Times, among many others. He likes banjos, cats, wild ales, and the classic 1988 Bruce Campbell horror film Maniac Cop.
Richard J. McCollough, M.Ed. is an award-winning producer, director, videographer, writer and veteran broadcast meteorologist with 40 years of experience. He has worked at NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS affiliates in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Spartanburg, S.C. and Rochester, N.Y.
Cynthia Benjaminis the emerging audiences editor for the D&C and directs a content strategy to transform the newspaper's coverage of Black and Brown communities. The work has been recognized nationwide and has become the subject of case studies for the Media Transformation Challenge at Harvard, The American Press Institute and It's All Journalism, Maynard Institute via Texas Christian University and a University of North Carolina - Table Stakes Cohort.
Scott Norris is the News Director at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. He started his career in Gannett as a staff photographer at the Iowa City Press-Citizen after receiving his degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Iowa. During his 30 years in the business, he has filled almost every newsroom role you can imagine.
Stanley Martin is a graduate of the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, and a Project Director at the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA). Stanley is also a civil rights organizer with Free the People Roc, an organization focused on Black liberation and ending the state sanctioned violence & occupation of Black & Brown neighborhoods by the police.
Denise Young is editor of the local journalism collaborative in the WXXI news department. She is responsible for the Upstate Insight project, which involves coverage by several upstate New York public radio and TV stations. Denise has more than 20 years of experience in print journalism. She received her degree in magazine journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.