History of the Medill cherub program
A timeline of the institute and a look at notable alumni
By Sam Heller and Caroline Nash
The Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute is designed to teach young journalists the skills they need to enter the field. The program began in 1934 and has run every summer since then except from 1946 to 1950. Click through the timeline, look at pictures and learn about the program’s rich history. Scroll down to read about some cherub alumni from over the years.
Visiting professor of journalism at Stony Brook University
Jim Klurfeld was the vice president and editorial editor of Newsday, where he worked for almost 40 years. He won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for an article that exposed government corruption on Long Island. In 1988, Klurfeld won the American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Award for editorials about the Iran-Contra hearings.
CBS News correspondent
After graduating from Medill, Barry Petersen started his broadcast career in Milwaukee. His reports aired on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Petersen joined CBS News as a reporter in 1978. Three years later, he delivered the first TV news report on AIDS.
In 2010, Petersen published his critically acclaimed book, “Jan’s Story,” about his wife as she battled Alzheimer’s disease.
Petersen received an Emmy Award for a CBS Evening News series on American-adopted Vietnamese orphans. He was awarded his second Emmy for a report on the Siege of Sarajevo. His CBS team’s reporting on Tiananmen Square received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and a George Foster Peabody Award.
Retired; long-time technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal and co-founder and editor-at-large of Recode
Walt Mossberg was the principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He was a co-creator and co-producer of “D: All Things Digital,” a tech conference in partnership with The Wall Street Journal, and the co-executive editor of AllThingsD. He also was co-founder and executive editor of Recode, a technology news and reviews site.
After graduating from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Mossberg worked as a reporter at The Wall Street Journal. He covered national and international affairs for 18 years before becoming a technology columnist. He retired from the Journal in 2013.
Essayist, writer-at-large for New York Magazine, executive producer for the HBO series Veep
After attending Harvard College, Frank Rich became a founding editor of The Richmond Mercury, a weekly newspaper. Before joining The New York Times as chief theater critic, Rich wrote about culture and politics for Time magazine, the New York Post and New Times Magazine. Among other things, he is well known for his work as an op-ed columnist for the Times starting in 1994.
Rich received the George Polk Award for his commentary in 2005.
In a 2013 email, Rich wrote: “I’ve long said that I learned all the basics I needed to know about journalism in my five weeks as a cherub at Medill — from the basics of reporting to meeting a deadline to learning the distinction between factual writing and opinion writing, between constructing a news story and an essay. It also was a lot of fun because of the chance to meet students with similar passions from all over the country, to discover the great city of Chicago, to get an advance taste of college campus life away from home, and to interact with such smart and dedicated young instructors, many of whom went on to stellar careers.”
Chief political analyst for CNN
At CNN, Gloria Borger covered the 2012 presidential election, the death of Osama bin Laden and President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan policy, among many other stories. Borger writes a weekly column that appears on CNN and Time’s websites. Before joining CNN, she worked as a contributing editor and columnist for U.S. News & World Report and as a national political correspondent for CBS.
She was nominated for an Emmy in 2010 for a profile she wrote on two D.C. attorneys.
Professor at the Harvard Law School and former dean of the school
Minow became an assistant professor at Harvard Law in 1981 and a full professor in 1986. She has written 14 books and many scholarly articles published in journals of law, history and philosophy. Minow serves as vice chair to the board of Legal Services Corporation. President Obama nominated her for this position in 2009. She became dean of the Harvard Law School in 2009. As dean, she led the diversification of the Harvard faculty and student body. Minow stepped down as dean in June 2017 to return to the Harvard Law School faculty.
“When I think about good writing on a deadline or about a community devoted to vigorous discussion and fun, memories of my time as a cherub quickly come to mind,” Minow wrote in an email. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale and an honorary doctorate from Northwestern.
Deputy executive editor at The New York Times
Matthew Purdy worked as a reporter on the metro desk of The Times, then as a deputy editor and investigations editor before becoming the assistant managing editor. In 2014, he was named a deputy executive editor. Before The Times, he was a local reporter and Washington correspondent at The Philadelphia Inquirer for 12 years. In 1989, he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in national reporting. While attending Northwestern, he worked on The Daily Northwestern and majored in philosophy and English literature. He graduated in 1978.
Purdy wrote about his experience as a cherub in an email in 2014. “I remember talks we had with law and journalism professors about ethics, the First Amendment and the history of journalism,” he said. “Those talks, along with the Watergate scandal that was unfolding that summer, opened my eyes to the fact that journalism was not just fun but an essential force in the democracy. The cherub program ended up being my only formal journalism training, but it launched me on a rewarding career.”
Managing editor, money and work channels editor at Next Avenue and People Magazine book reviewer
Richard Eisenberg graduated from Medill in 1978. He has worked as an editor at Money Magazine and CBSMoneywatch.com, in addition to freelance writing, producing and editing. Eisenberg was Yahoo!’s front page finance programmer until November 2011.
In a 2014 email, he reflected on his summer at cherubs. “Being a cherub solidified my love of journalism and led me to a) apply to Medill early decision and b) pursue the career I’ve enjoyed since graduating,” he said.
Executive in residence at General Catalyst Partners, former CEO of Akamai Technologies, ProPublica board chairman
After graduating from Medill, Paul Sagan worked at WCBS-TV in New York. In 1991, he joined Time Warner Cable to launch news channel NY1. He later rose to the position of president at Time Warner, where he oversaw online operations. He joined Akamai Technologies in 1998 and served as CEO from 2005 until 2013.
In 2010, he was appointed to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. He became chairman of the board of ProPublica in 2017.
Sagan is a three-time Emmy Award winner and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He graduated from Medill and is a trustee of Northwestern University.
Freelance writer, host of CNN’s “The Entree”
Joie Chen worked as a CBS News correspondent based in Washington, D.C. starting in 2002 and as a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning.
While with CNN, Chen received an Emmy for her reporting on the bombing at Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. She won a second Emmy for her coverage of the Beltway sniper attacks in Washington, D.C. Chen is a member of Medill’s Hall of Achievement.
In 2013, Chen became an Anchor for Al Jazeera America’s daily primetime news program “America Tonight.” Since Al Jazeera America’s shut down in 2016, Chen has worked as a freelance writer and hosted CNN’s “The Entree,” a branded-content show developed with KPMG Advisory.
New York Times international editor
Michael Slackman has written for Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. He has been posted as bureau chief in Cairo, Berlin and Moscow.
In 1997, Slackman was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Newsday in spot news reporting. The team reported on the crash of TWA Flight 800 and its aftermath. He also won the 1997 National Award for Education Reporting. Since 2003, Slackman has worked for The New York Times and held various positions ranging from metropolitan desk reporter to Berlin bureau chief to, most recently, international editor.
Chicago Tribune arts and jazz critic
Howard Reich joined the Chicago Tribune in 1983. He has written five books, including “Prisoner of Her Past: A Son’s Memoir,” which chronicles his mother’s experience during the Holocaust. This book inspired a PBS documentary, which Reich wrote and narrated.
Reich attended Northwestern University as a piano performance major and freelanced for the Chicago Daily News. He has served on the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Music four times and has received several awards including Northwestern University’s Alumni Merit Award and an Emmy Award. He was named Chicago Journalist of the year in 2011 by the Chicago Journalists Association.
Reich spoke about his experience as a cherub in a 2016 interview. “For me, the cherub program was kind of opening the door to the world of journalism and work and ideas,” he said. “Up until I was in the cherub program, journalism was something I did in my high school, for my high school newspaper, so it was very much a student activity. For me, the cherub program was a bridge to professionalism.”
President of CNN Worldwide
After receiving an undergraduate degree from Harvard, Jeff Zucker went to work for the Today show on NBC and eventually was named executive producer of Today. He became president of NBC Entertainment in 2000. He was later named CEO and president of NBC Universal. In 2012, he was appointed president of CNN Worldwide. Zucker has overseen the rise in viewership at CNN and its coverage of the 2016 election.
Reporter on the culture desk of The New York Times
Robin Pogrebin has been a reporter for The New York Times since 1995. Prior to joining The Times, she worked as an associate producer at ABC News and as a staff reporter at The New York Observer.
Pogrebin has written for Vogue, Departures, Architectural Digest and New York Magazine.
“Being a cherub in Northwestern’s summer journalism program taught me how to chase a breaking news story, hone a strong lede and make a tight deadline,” Pogrebin wrote in an email.
Play-by-play announcer for the Miami Marlins
Glenn Geffner began his broadcast career at Northwestern calling baseball, football and basketball games before graduating in 1990. He started his baseball announcing career as the voice of the Rochester Red Wings and has done play-by-play for Boston Red Sox Minor League baseball and served as a host and reporter for the Red Sox and the San Diego Padres. In 2008, he returned to his hometown of Miami, where he remains part of the Marlins radio team.
Geffner said cherubs “certainly helped me nail down what I wanted to do and exactly how I was gonna get there. It was a remarkable summer.”
Independent reporter and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism
Lisa Pollak won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing when she was a reporter at The Baltimore Sun. She told the story of a family who lost a son to a genetic disease and had to live with the knowledge that their other son shared the same disease.
She was also a radio producer at WBEZ radio program “This American Life.” Since January 2014, Pollak has been an independent reporter, reporting stories for various podcast outlets including NPR and WNYC.
Pollak also won the Ernie Pyle Award for human-interest writing.
Mary Lou Song
Executive chairman of FuelX, an advertising technology company
Mary Lou Song joined eBay as its third employee in 1996, just five years after graduating from Medill. After leaving eBay, she joined another startup, Friendster. She later launched Tokoni, a story-sharing site, and Ongo, a news aggregator.
Song is a Medill graduate and a former Northwestern University trustee. She talked about her experience as a cherub in 1986.
“At cherubs, I learned the one lesson that shaped my entire career, and it started with the quote from Confucius, and that was ‘choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day,’” she said. “That quote has guided me ever since.”
Associate surgeon of the Trauma Division, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor of surgery, Harvard Medical School
Zara Cooper received her undergrad degree from Northwestern University and her medical degree and Master of Science in Community Medicine from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Cooper began working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2008. Her work focuses on improving end-of-life care for patients, and she received the BWH President’s Young Investigators Award and the BWH Faculty Development Award.
Trade & agriculture editor at Politico
Pradnya Joshi graduated from Medill School of Journalism in 1993 and worked at the Los Angeles Times as a business reporter. She later worked at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a reporter and as a senior writer at Newsday. In 2003 and 2009, she was chosen for the Asia Foundation’s Freeman Fellowship to Southeast Asia to discuss the political, economic and educational ties between the United States and that region. Joshi now edits the DealBook for The Times. From 2006 to 2017 Joshi worked as the Assistant Business Editor for the New York Times.
In a 2016 message, Joshi spoke about her time in the Medill cherub program in 1988. “The cherub program was a fun, real-world experience in reporting and writing,” she wrote. “It helped a glimpse into what days [and nights] would be like as a journalist. And of course, I had a lot of great friends who ended up at Northwestern and became journalists.”
Executive editor and editor-in-chief at LinkedIn
Daniel Roth is one of the founding members of Wired magazine, where he worked as a senior writer. He started his journalism career at the Triangle Business Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina. A year later, he moved to Forbes magazine and then to Fortune magazine, where he worked as a reporter and editor for eight years. Roth’s story about the creators of Skype was named the Best Story on Entrepreneurship at the Business Journalist of the Year Awards in 2005. He is now the executive editor and editor-in-chief of LinkedIn.
Daniel Roth is married to a former cherub, Lisa Fingeret.
Enterprise editor for the East region of The Associated Press
Jeff McMillan has been at the AP since 2005, where he has worked as national desk editor, then assistant East editor, and as of 2015, Eastern U.S. enterprise editor. He previously worked as a graphics and copy editor at Newsday and a copy editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Author of young adult novels “Illuminate” and “Infatuate”
Aimee Agresti previously worked as a staff writer at Us Weekly. Her work as an entertainment journalist has appeared in People, Premiere, DC Magazine, The Washington Post, Boston magazine, Women’s Health and the New York Observer, among other publications. She has also appeared on Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, E!, The Insider, Extra, VH1, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel.
In a 2014 email, Agresti wrote about her summer at Northwestern. “I had an absolute blast that summer!” she said. “Every day I felt like I was becoming a better writer, editor and interviewer. It was so exciting to work with Roger and so many Medill professors. And I had never worked so hard! Best of all, my cherub roommate actually became a great lifelong friend — we roomed together freshman year at NU and we later worked together at Us Weekly.”
Editor at Bloomberg Businessweek
Bret Begun graduated from Medill in 1998. He worked at Newsweek magazine for 13 years after that, where he covered three Olympics and was national affairs editor during the 2008 presidential election. He was also a cherub instructor for 15 years. He is the former Articles editor at Conde Nast Magazine.
Begun spoke about how his summer as a cherub shaped his career.
“If I hadn’t been a cherub, I probably would not have thought to go into this field at all,” he said. “So, in many ways, it was really my entry point into the field.”
He also talked about how he has seen the program change since 1993.
“In a lot of ways it has changed a lot and in a lot of ways it hasn’t changed at all,” he said. “There’s much more of an emphasis on the web. There was no Internet when I was a cherub, so that’s obviously a big difference.”
Economics editor at The Associated Press and co-director at the Asian American Journalism Association Media Institute
After graduating from Medill, Tomoko Hosaka worked as a staff writer at The Oregonian for two years before getting a degree in international relations from Waseda University in Tokyo. She worked as an editor for Dow Jones Newswires and as a Tokyo-based reporter for the AP.
She was later the news and politics manager at Ustream. She was COO of Plympton and a governing board member of the Asian American Journalists Association until spring 2014. She is a former UNITY Journalists for Diversity board member.
Director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post
Before joining The Post in July 2014, Jeremy Gilbert worked at National Geographic as deputy digital editor. He was associate clinical professor and director of technology and space design at Medill in 2013 and an assistant professor of media product design at Medill for five years before that. He has been an editor at Poynter and sports design director for the St. Petersburg Times.
Gilbert graduated from Medill in 2000 and was a guest instructor at cherubs from 2011 to 2013.
Freelancer and former political editor for Slate
After attending Medill, Craggs covered the cops and crime beat in New Orleans. As editor-in-chief of Deadspin, Craggs was part of a team of journalists who broke the Manti Te’o story. After investigating Te’o and the death of his girlfriend Lennay Kekua, the Deadspin team proved in a January 2013 article that she never existed at all.
Before he worked at Deadspin, Craggs reported for the business section of The Wall Street Journal, SF Weekly and Slate Magazine. Craggs was executive editor of Gawker Media and the political editor of Slate Magazine from March 2016 to February 2017.
Julie Hirschfeld Davis
White House reporter for The New York Times
Julie Hirschfeld Davis began her journalism career in 1997 as a writer for Congressional Quarterly. After reporting on government and politics for the Baltimore Sun, The Associated Press and Bloomberg News, she joined The New York Times in 2014 and currently serves as the Times’ White House correspondent. She also appears regularly on PBS.
In 2009, Davis won the National Press Foundation’s 2009 Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Distinguished Coverage of Congress by a print reporter for her coverage of the federal response to the 2008 financial meltdown. She is a graduate of Yale University.
Director Product Management at Penguin Random House
Brian Orloff was an associate editor at People Digital for six years, then worked as mobile news editor until 2013. He was also the product manager at CBS Interactive until August 2016 and then the editorial product manager at Shutterstock. Before that, he was an online assistant editor and contributing writer at Rolling Stone and a feature writer at the St. Petersburg Times. Orloff has been the director of product management at Penguin Random House since February 2017. He graduated from Medill in 2006.
Orloff wrote about his cherub experiences in a 2014 email. “Some of my favorite memories were having long, late-night conversations in and around the dorm—we were in CRC—and feeling inspired to come home and start my senior year and get more involved in my school paper,” he said. “I feel like being a cherub pushed me to remember to always ask lots of questions—and to always be motivated by curiosity.”
Novelist and contributor to the Shouts & Murmurs section of The New Yorker and executive producer of “Man Seeking Woman” and the host of a BBC Radio 4 Series
Simon Rich has written five books, including the Thurber Prize-nominated humor collection “Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations.” He is a former television writer for Saturday Night Live, where he was the second youngest writer hired.
Rich and the staff of SNL were nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Series three times. He was also a writer for Pixar’s “Inside Out.”
Rich is currently executive producer of the comedy “Man Seeking Woman.” His BBC Radio 4 series, “The World of Simon Rich,” premiered in June 2017.
Francesca Jarosz Brady
Vice president, VOX Global, Indianapolis
Francesca Jarosz Brady is a vice president at VOX Global, a public relations firm with offices across the country. Based in Indianapolis, Jarosz Brady develops communications strategies for clients, with a focus on media relations.
Prior to joining VOX, Jarosz Brady worked for The Mind Trust, a nonprofit in Indianapolis that focuses on K-12 education. She began her journalism career at The Indianapolis Star, covering Indianapolis city government and public safety.
Jarosz Brady also covered state and local government, banking and finance for the Indianapolis Business Journal, and delivered a weekly TV business report on Indianapolis’ FOX affiliate station.
She graduated cum laude from Northwestern University in 2007 with a degree in journalism and was a cherub in 2002.
In a 2017 email, Jarosz Brady wrote, “I gained so much from my time at cherubs – from valuable insights that have stuck with me throughout my career, to new friendships, including my freshman year roommate, who remains a close friend today. Applying for the program was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It shaped the course of where I went to college and helped me hone a passion for learning and writing that I still apply in my job every day.”
Editor-in-chief at Bustle
Kate Ward graduated from Medill in 2007. She went on to write and edit for the print and online publications of Entertainment Weekly. Before becoming editor-in-chief for the online news site Bustle.com, Ward was executive editor of Hollywood.com.
In 2015, Ward was named one of Forbes’s 30 Under 30 in Media.
On Medill’s alumni page, Ward wrote that her time as a cherub gave her “the confidence to start in journalism.”
Banking reporter focusing on J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo for The Wall Street Journal
Emily Glazer previously covered bankruptcy and restructuring and has written about consumer product companies like Procter & Gamble for the Journal. She interned at Dow Jones Newswires, The New York Sun and the Austin American-Statesman.
Glazer graduated with honors from Medill in 2010 and lives in New York City.
Chief content officer at Thrive Global, and former editorial director for audience strategy for Time Inc.
Callie Schweitzer graduated from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2011. Her work has appeared in Time, The New York Times, Mashable, The Huffington Post and People magazine, among other publications. She previously worked as director of marketing and communications at Vox Media and deputy publisher of Talking Points Memo. In October 2014, Schweitzer became the editorial director for audience strategy for Time Inc. She became chief content officer at Thrive Global in April 2017.
In 2012 and 2013, she was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in media and one of Business Insider’s 30 Most Important Women in Tech Under 30.
In a 2014 email, Schweitzer wrote about her time as a cherub in 2006. “The highlight of my cherub experience was being surrounded by passionate people—both other cherubs and instructors—who chose to spend their summers nerding out about journalism,” she said. “I owe so much of my career to cherub instructor Cynthia Wang, who put in a good word for me at People when I applied for an internship the summer after cherubs.”
Tania Karas graduated from Medill in 2011 and then covered U.S. immigration and New York courts for the New York Law Journal. In 2015-16, she was a U.S. Fulbright Fellow and went to Greece as an independent freelance writer to cover the country’s refugee and financial crises. Her work has appeared in Refugees Deeply, IRIN Humanitarian News, Foreign Affairs Online, among others. In 2017-18, she is enrolled in a graduate program in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford.
In a 2017 email, she wrote about her experience as a cherub in 2006. “Being a cherub taught me the power of storytelling, both to hold public officials accountable and to help people understand each other,” She said. “Cherubs gave me invaluable advice on writing, interviewing and ethics that I use every single day in my career.”
Staff writer at Time magazine and co-host of Sirius XM Radio show “Alter Family Politics”
After graduating from Harvard University in 2012, Alter worked at Time Magazine, where she wrote two cover stories. At Time, she covered the 2016 election and wrote that year’s Person of the Year Runner-Up story about Hillary Clinton.
Alter also co-hosts the Sirius XM Radio show “Alter Family Politics.” She has been published in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
In a 2017 message, Alter wrote, “My cherubs experience was really tough but it was also my best and only formal training in journalism.”
Senior political correspondent for McClatchy DC
Katharine (Katie) Glueck graduated from Medill with honors in 2012 and went on to publish work in The Wall Street Journal, Washingtonian magazine, and the Austin American-Statesman. She worked as a reporter at POLITICO for five years. In that time, she covered the 2016 presidential campaign and was recognized for her coverage by The New York Times. Since 2017, Katie has been covering the Republican Party as a senior political correspondent for McClatchy DC.
In a 2017 email, Glueck wrote about her experience as a cherub in 2007. “I learned so much from my summer as a journalism cherub—lessons that remain with me a decade later, from how to handle irritated sources to cultivating the crucial practice of double-checking everything (or in cherub parlance: If your mother says she loves you, check it out!) I remember my cherub summer as a very inspiring period that solidified my interest in pursuing journalism, and I’m so glad I attended!”
Freelance producer and communications onsultant and former broadcast associate for CBS News
In 2004, Kendall Ciesemier, then only 11 years old, founded the volunteer organization Kids Caring 4 Kids, which raises money to improve the lives of children and families in sub-Saharan Africa. She became one of the Prudential and the National Association of Secondary School Principals Top 10 young volunteers. In 2013, she co-founded OWN IT, which holds conferences and summits for young women to become and learn from female leaders.
President Bill Clinton visited Ciesemier in 2007 and took her to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where he presented her with half a million dollars, courtesy of a friend, for Kids Caring 4 Kids.
Ciesemier was given the Daily Point of Light Award for volunteer service and in 2014, she was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Women for her volunteer work. She received a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 2015.
Kendall worked as an assistant producer for CBS This Morning’s Norah O’Donnell until Dec. 2016. She is now a freelance producer and communications consultant.
Some of the reporting and writing for this story was done in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 by Sammy Norrito, Caitlyn Rosen, Emily Kim, Natasha Roy, Jonathan Rolfe, Julia Jacobs, Kirsty Jacobs, David Fishman and Kelly Martinek.