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TFAS Alumni Discuss the Role of a Free Press at Weekend Seminar


What is the proper role of a journalist in a free society? Is objective truth possible? Where does a journalist’s primary allegiance abide? Thirteen TFAS alumni working in journalism and communications gathered to explore these questions during “Liberty and Responsibility in the Media,” a Curriculum of Liberty Seminar co-sponsored by TFAS and Liberty Fund, Inc.

Participant and current TFAS Robert Journalism Novak Fellow Helen Andrews (Novak 17) said discussing challenges – such as the moral dilemma of what stories a journalist covers and the need for producing quality content on a deadline – was precisely what she needed as she faces new demands in her career.

“The philosophical principled discussions from reading these great thinkers is something that has really enhanced and given depth to these tough questions that I’m now being forced to confront,” Andrews said.

The philosophical principled discussions from reading these great thinkers is something that has really enhanced and given depth to these tough questions that I’m now being forced to confront.”  – Helen Andrews (Novak 17)

Mr. Fazil Mihlar lead a discussion session at the 2018 “Liberty and Responsibility in the Media” seminar.

Prior to the conference, participants were assigned readings from distinguished scholars – including John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville, Judith Lichtenberg, Daniel Sutter and more – on the topics of journalistic ethics, partisan bias and public opinion.  Mr. Fazil Mihlar, deputy minister of climate leadership at the British Columbia Ministry of Environment and former associate editor of The Vancouver Sun, served as the conference discussion leader. He guided the alumni participants in important conversations on journalism that stemmed from the readings.

Participant and Dallas Morning News reporter Tristan Hallman (IPJ 10) also valued the topics explored at the conference. He explained that, as a journalist, he has to seek out intellectual discussion opportunities because the day-to-day working world can sometimes seem like a “treadmill” of tasks one must accomplish.

“It’s good to have these sort of discussions,” Hallman said. “It’s healthy for developing a mindset in how you go about your work, which you don’t always get to do. It’s good to be with a group of people who don’t always agree with you, but at least share a common interest in talking about these ideas.”

Tristan Hallman (IPJ 10) shares his thoughts during a discussion session during the weekend seminar.

Since 2011, more than 100 TFAS alumni working in the media have participated in a “Liberty and Responsibility in the Media” seminar, continuing their TFAS Journeys and making them well equipped to report and understand their role in a free society.

Meredith Wohl (IPJ 17) said she was grateful for the opportunity to be immersed in this environment with other young TFAS alumni journalists. She explained that seeing how the programs impacted not only her life, but also the lives of her peers in the industry was inspiring.

“The context of coming back to this space with other alumni has been so exciting and validating…now being an alumna myself, and actually seeing how awesome and engaged our alumni are is a really cool asset of the TFAS program,” she said.

Meet the 2018 TFAS Liberty and Responsibility in The Media Alumni Scholars:

Originally from North Carolina, Helen Andrews (Novak 17) earned a degree in religious studies from Yale University, where she served as speaker of the Yale Political Union. Helen is a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow at The Fund for American Studies. She served for three years as a policy analyst for the Centre for Independent Studies, a leading conservative think tank in suburban Sydney, Australia. Previously, she was an associate editor at National Review. She has written for First Things, The Weekly Standard, National Review, the Claremont Review of Books and American Affairs.

Amanda Aracena (IPJ 15) is a New York based journalist at CBS News. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in telecommunications and political science. Her fascination with politics and storytelling has allowed her to work for NPR, CBS News and the New York Times. She has covered an array of stories such as the Brussels terrorist attacks, the lawlessness of the ocean and Brexit. Her true passion lies in covering stories about those silenced by their government, socioeconomic status and war. Mandy started as a sports reporter in Miami prior to working in Washington D.C., London and New York. The Society of Professional Journalists and the Florida College System Activities Association have recognized her for her work in sports and newscasts. You can often find her studying the new age of terrorism, history and politics. She aspires to become an international correspondent and continue to delve into stories that others might not know exist. 


Haley Britzky (CSS 16) is an alumna of Texas Tech University where she majored in journalism. During the spring of 2016, Haley participated in the TFAS Capital Semester Spring (CSS) program in Washington, D.C. Last summer, she began working as a news desk reporter with Axios, a new and exciting media company near D.C. Haley plans to begin specializing in national security coverage.




Gabriella Ciuffetelli (IPJ 16) is a production assistant at Fox News; a contributor for Red Alert Politics, where she writes for the site’s news and opinion pages; and a political columnist for the Hofstra Chronicle, where she pens “The Weekly Gab.” In 2017, she received the Press Club of Long Island’s Robert W. Greene award. She previously spent two semesters at Fox News as a college associate, and has interned as a news writer at The Washington Examiner, a politics writer with Pasquines, a politics and business writer at Fortunat Life and a political blogger at Degree180. She also served as a TV/film production instructor at Dream Makers Performing Arts School from 2013 through 2017. She is currently a graduate student at Hofstra University, where she is expected to earn a master’s degree in journalism in May 2018. She attended Hofstra as an undergraduate as well, graduating from the school’s honors college program and earning a degree with dual majors in journalism and political science in May 2017. During her time as an undergraduate, she served as the editorial editor and news writer for the Hofstra Chronicle, an associate producer for the TV news station Hofstra Today and the copy chief of The Screening Room, a radio show and blog presented by WRHU. She also worked with the school’s communications team during the September 2016 presidential debate. Academically, she was named “Senior of the Year” of Hofstra’s journalism department and was a member of the Phi Eta Sigma academic honor society.


William Garbe (IPJ 12) is a journalist with Cox Media Group Ohio reporting on general assignments, local politics and investigations for the Dayton Daily News and WHIO. William joined Cox’s converged newsroom in 2013 through internships on the Breaking News Team and I-Team. He joined the Cox reporting staff in April 2016. He previously covered the Iowa Caucus and Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois politics for the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa. In 2017,William’s reporting revealed a Spirit Airlines pilot fatally overdosed on cocaine and carfentanil. The U.S. DOT Office of the Inspector General soon after announced it would review the fatality during an upcoming audit of the Federal Aviation Administration.William’s assignments with Cox include reports from the Ohio Statehouse, the Republican National Convention and the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. His reporting has been featured by outlets including CBS “This Morning,” Stars & Stripes, Palm Beach Post, Austin American-Statesman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a host of Cox television and radio stations. Garbe is a 2014 graduate of the University of Dayton and attended the TFAS Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) in 2012. As an IPJ student, he interned with the Defense Media Activity at the U.S. Department of Defense.


Sara Haire (IEIA 15) graduated from the University of Alabama in 2016 after completing a semester at Oxford University. She majored in international affairs and economics with a minor in Italian. She currently works as an economic data reporter in the Washington, D.C. area. She primarily works on analyzing and synthesizing data as it pertains to real-time. She also serves as an anglophone and francophone country liaison for a microfinance organization. As a student in the TFAS Institute on Economics and International Affairs (IEIA), Sara interned at Center for a Secure Free Society. In the near future, she plans to go to graduate school to further her involvement in the international economics field. She enjoys reading and also learning new languages, hoping to one day be a polyglot.


Tristan Hallman (IPJ 10) is the City Hall reporter for The Dallas Morning News. He officially joined the paper in 2013 after two internships in Dallas and Washington. Previously, he covered public safety, including the Dallas Police Department and breaking news events such as the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion, the assassinations of the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife and several murderous rampages. In 2017, he was named the best print reporter in Dallas by D Magazine. Previously, he interned for The New York Times, The Texas Tribune and the Houston Chronicle’s Austin bureau. As a TFAS student in the Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ), he interned with Gannett’s Washington Bureau in 2010. He has a master’s degree in journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. He hopes to continue covering politics and government in the years ahead.


Anna Kalandadze (AIPES 00) has been the Chief of Georgian Service of Voice of America in Washington, D.C. since 2001. Anna started her journalism career in 1998 in Georgia, at a weekly English-based resonance newspaper and then enjoyed PR stints in public and private sectors and international development. She is a graduate of a prestigious exchange scholarship program through the U.S. government, specializing in American studies and public relations. This led to a trilingual-language internship experience at Voice of America in Washington D.C. in 1999. Anna holds a number of solid professional awards, including several of the highest Gold Medal Awards in the U.S. broadcasting community for serving as a distinguished example of initiative, dedication and excellence to the mission of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. She has also authored successful flagship projects in the Georgian Service on TV, radio and web platforms via its growing affiliate network in Georgia. She prides herself as journalist and a media manager, having academic degrees and professional experiences in Georgia, Europe and the U.S. She keenly follows and reports on U.S.-Georgia relations, U.S. Congress, expanding Russian propaganda efforts in its neighborhood, and the development of free press and civil liberties worldwide. Anna holds a bachelor’s degree from the Tbilisi State Institute of Foreign Languages and Cultures in English and Spanish languages and an master’s degree in public policy from the American University in Washington, D.C. Anna is an avid tennis player, loves fiction writing and enjoys spending time with her family in the U.S. and Georgia.


Lewis McCrary (Novak 14) is executive editor of The American Conservative (TAC), where he directs foreign policy and urbanism coverage. He began his career in journalism as an editorial assistant and later senior editor at TAC. Before returning to TAC, he was managing editor of The National Interest and a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow at The Fund for American Studies. His writing has also appeared at RealClearPolitics, The Atlantic and Next City. An alumnus of The Catholic University of America, Cambridge and Georgetown, he now resides in central Indiana with his wife and son.


Oriana Pawlyk (IPJ 10) is Military.com’s air warfare reporter covering everything from the latest personnel trends, investigations and defense technology, to Air Force operations all over the world. She is also an active member of the Pentagon Press Association. Oriana previously covered air campaign operations in the Middle East and Europe, plus uniforms, cyber, Guard and Reserve duties, physical training and technology for the Air Force Times. She edited the Military Times Early Bird Brief newsletter in 2015, compiling the top national security stories driving the day. She began her national security news career as the deputy news editor for Air Force Times. She became a Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow through the National Press Foundation in July 2013. Through the nine month program, she was given the opportunity to correspond with officials, experts and seasoned journalists in the Washington, D.C., area while also learning from newfound peers and colleagues. She attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she received a bachelor’s in journalism and English literature. Oriana was an editorial editor and columnist for the university newspaper, The Miami Student. She is an American Ukrainian from Chicago, is proficient in Ukrainian and grew up learning about Ukrainian arts, culture, history and literature.


Robby Soave (Novak 17) is an associate editor at Reason.com. He enjoys writing about college news, education policy, criminal justice reform and television. He is also a columnist for The Daily Beast and has penned articles for The New York Times, New York Post and CNN. In 2016, Forbes named him to the “30 Under 30” list in the category of law and policy. Robby is a 2017-2018 TFAS Robert Journalism Novak Fellow, and also a member of the D.C. Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He appears regularly on the Fox Business Network and HLN.Robby is perhaps best known for his early skepticism of Rolling Stone’s investigative reporting on sexual assault at the University of Virginia. He won a 2015 Southern California Journalism Award for his commentary on the subject. A graduate of the University of Michigan, he now lives in Washington, D.C. He is currently writing a book about campus activism in the age of Trump.


Steff Thomas (IPJ 13) grew up among the soybean, wheat and corn fields of northeast Indiana. Being raised by two legally blind parents, she found comfort in learning and questioning everything. Originally studying to become a marine biologist, Steff decided instead to put her love of knowing and self-teaching to the test by becoming a journalist. In May 2014, she graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and new media, focusing primarily on political science and Russian. She fell in love with Washington, D.C. in 2013 as a student in the TFAS Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) and intern with National Defense Magazine. She moved to the nation’s capital in July 2015 to start graduate school at American University in August of the same year. While studying for her master’s, degree she was also a graduate fellow at Bloomberg BNA covering issues on Capitol Hill and think tank events related to food, agriculture, transportation and commercial spaceflight. In August 2016 she graduated with a master’s degree in investigative journalism and public affairs. Currently she works as a digital news editor and reporter with Federal News Radio in Washington. When she’s not writing, you can also find Steff drinking excessive amounts of flavored coffee, trying to keep to the rhythm in her Zumba classes or immersed in the fictional world of a good book.


Meredith Wohl (IPJ 16) is the general audience publicity coordinator at PBS’ national headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. She is a recent graduate of the College of Charleston, where she earned a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in history and communication, with areas of concentration in journalism, political campaign communication and American Civil War history. Along with her full-time work at PBS, she works part-time as a freelance live music photographer in the Washington, D.C. metro area. While still a student, Meredith worked at several radio stations and digital publications in Charleston, South Carolina. Through her work with these media outlets, she covered twelve music festivals across the country as a credentialed photographer and reporter. From the radical sounds of SXSW to the celebration of local flavors at the Charleston Wine & Food Festival, her work at large-scale events across the country provides her with a dynamic perspective on documenting events and developing visually-grounded stories. In the summer of 2016, Meredith attended the TFAS Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) and interned at the American Trucking Association.


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