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Alumni Discuss the Message of Freedom in the Media at Weekend Conference


TFAS alumni working in journalism and communications convened for a weekend seminar on “Liberty and Responsibility in the Media” in Arlington, Virginia from Feb. 24–26. Throughout the weekend, alumni participants discussed the ethical and professional dilemmas the media face, as well as the role and responsibilities of a free press in a democratic government.

Prior to the seminar, TFAS alumni scholars were assigned readings on the topics of media bias, public opinion and the marketplace of ideas. Authors included John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville, Judith Lichtenberg, Walter Lippmann and more. Mr. Fazil Mihlar, deputy minister of climate leadership at the British Columbia Ministry of Environment and former associate editor of The Vancouver Sun, guided the thoughtful discussions throughout the weekend.

Alumni participants from a wide variety of outlets and organizations were able to share their professional experiences and benefit from the advice of their peers. Erin Mundahl (Novak 16) commented that the weekend was a unique opportunity to converse and learn from other professionals in a field that can sometimes seem isolating.

This seminar was an opportunity to meet journalists and editors from around the country in order to discuss the themes that drive all of our work. Although our readings guided the themes and issues we talked about, the group itself showed how different outlets and media wrestled with these challenges.” – Erin Mundahl (Novak 16)

The weekend seminar was part of our TFAS Curriculum of Liberty Seminar series, co-sponsored by Liberty Fund, Inc. To learn more about this continuing education opportunity for alumni, please visit the TFAS Curriculum of Liberty Seminars page.

Meet the TFAS Alumni Liberty and Responsibility in the Media Scholars

Amanda Finnegan (IPJ 07)
is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist. She’s currently a homepage editor at The Washington Post where she manages breaking news and enterprise content for The Post’s desktop, mobile and app home pages. Amanda served as the lead homepage editor for breaking news events including the Boston Marathon bombing, the 2014 invasion of Gaza and the eighteen-day government shutdown. She also oversaw the planning and execution of coverage for the 2014 Olympics and men’s and women’s World Cup across all of The Post’s platforms. Before moving to D.C., Amanda spent three years in Las Vegas reporting on the casino industry for the Las Vegas Sun and helped launch VegasInc.com, the paper’s business news website. Shortly after its launch, the site won an Editor & Publisher award for best business news site. Amanda has reported on multibillion-dollar resort openings, profiled top executives, investigated scandal in the city’s nightlife industry and analyzed the financial crumbling of one of Las Vegas’ most affluent communities. In 2011, she was named the Nevada Press Association’s Journalist of Merit. She’s covered education at The Philadelphia Inquirer, helped produce Bloomberg’s government news initiative, reported on trends at the world’s largest technology expo and traveled to the Middle East to learn about the Iraqi refugee crisis through displaced persons. Amanda is a New Jersey native, went to college in the Philadelphia suburbs and now lives just outside D.C. in Maryland.

Lois Goh (IPJ 13)
works in online communications for the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice. She started out as a copywriter for a digital agency, writing copy for the Singapore government, and later worked with the digital media and editorial team at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Lois received her Master of Arts in communication, culture & technology from Georgetown University in Washington D.C., her Bachelor of Arts in communication from Flagler College in Florida, and her Diploma in Law and Management from Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore. She aims to use communication to bridge the silos that international development sometimes falls into.

Jory Heckman (IPJ 11) is a multimedia journalist with a passion for politics and government. He has been a digital news writer and editor for Federal News Radio since September 2014. Jory got his start at Federal News Radio as an intern in 2011 while also completing the Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) program. Jory worked as a desk assistant for CBS News Radio in New York after interning at the CBS News Washington Bureau. He was also a report for the Citizens’ Voice, a newspaper based in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In 2013, Jory graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and political science. He is an avid bicyclist and runner and has completed five marathons.

Andrew Kugle (IBGA 12)
graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in economics. He currently works at the Washington Free Beacon, an online news publication, as a social media editor. Before the Free Beacon, he worked in the House of Representatives for Congresswoman Kristi Noem of South Dakota. Andrew believes his purpose is to advance the ideals of a free society, free markets and the importance of individual rights.

Catherine McDonough (IPJ 12)
is a 2014 graduate of Benedictine College. Upon completion of her bachelor’s in journalism and mass communication, she now takes residence in Kansas City, Missouri working for Cerner Corporation. Outside of her role as a Population Health Consultant, she is involved in the Independence Messiah Choir, a recruiting ambassador for Cerner, the social planning committee chair for City on a Hill, a Kansas City Catholic Young Adult Ministry, and is also a founding member of Kansas City Catholic Young Professionals (KCCYP), where she fills the role of news coordinator and board member. Catherine’s history with TFAS extends back to her participation in the Institute of Political Journalism (IPJ) during the summer of 2012 and time as a year-long Freedom Scholar in 2013. Her favorite pastimes include reading, frequent visits to the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, talking sports, politics and religion, and discovering all the restaurants in KC.

Marina Minas (IPJ 15)
was born and raised in Fresno, California where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications broadcast journalism. After graduation, she came to D.C. for the TFAS program. While at TFAS, she interned at American Media Institute and was offered a full-time job there following her internship. Shortly after, she moved to Fox News Channel where she has been working as an associate producer for more than one year.

Erin Mundahl (Novak 16)
is a young journalist with interests in a wide range of topics and issues. In 2016, Erin received a TFAS Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Award for her project, “Pipe Dreams: America’s Shifting Attitudes Towards Addiction.” She works as a reporter for InsideSources, where many of her stories look into details of the pipeline protest movement.  Prior to joining InsideSources, she was a Collegiate Network Fellow at The Weekly Standard. Her writing has also been published in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, the Minneapolis-Star Tribune, The Washington Free Beacon and The Federalist. She graduated from Hillsdale College in 2014 with degrees in English and French and continues her pursuit of the liberal arts by studying Russian.

Bethany Ricciardi (IPJ 14)
anchors VStv’s morning show in Rockport, Maine where she is also a field reporter. Before joining VStv, Bethany worked at WBKB in Alpena, Michigan as the news director and evening anchor/reporter, her first job after college. She graduated from Keene State College (KSC) in Keene, New Hampshire. After only three years, she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism, feeding her passion to become a TV journalist. She is also a 2014 graduate of the Institute on Political Journalism (IPJ) TFAS program. During her time at KSC, she worked for their college newspaper, The Equinox. Starting as a news reporter, she moved up to news editor and then completed her final year as the managing executive editor. While running the paper, Bethany brought it to the number one collegiate newspaper in the nation. In addition to working for the newspaper, she was also a reporter/anchor for her college’s TV station, KSC-TV News.

Around two weeks after graduating from the State University of New York at Oswego with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Elizabeth Sauchelli (IPJ 11) started a job as a night copy editor for the family-owned newspaper, the Valley News, which covers the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire. After two years on the night desk, which included running the news desk on Sundays, she received an offer for the (mostly) day editor role that she currently holds. Elizabeth has a strong interest in community journalism and the role of the press as both an advocate and watchdog for the towns it covers. She is part of the team that has been named the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s best Sunday newspaper of the year award for their circulation size three years in a row. She enjoys hiking, reading, ice skating, knitting and visiting the many small towns in New England.

After attending Hofstra University in 2014 and earning degrees in journalism and political science, Sarah Sicard (IPJ 13) spent time as a data analyst, a defense reporter and in public affairs. She currently works as a journalist covering military affairs and attends New York University’s master’s program, where she studies American politics.


Abigail Smith (IPJ 14) is a political journalist in Washington, D.C., where she works for a subscription-based trade publication covering climate policy. At InsideEPA/climate, she is constantly immersed in the policy and politics of the effort to curb climate change, covering the issue on both a domestic and global scale. She has wanted to be a journalist for as long as she can remember. Her interest in politics came later, sparked during a high school experience with Politico and solidified during summer internships with the Washington bureau of The Columbus Dispatch and with The Hill — the latter during her time with TFAS. Abigail graduated from Lehigh University with highest honors in 2015 with degrees in journalism and political science. At Lehigh, she spent much of her time working for the student newspaper, where she climbed the ranks to serve as editor-in-chief her senior year. She received several journalism awards in college, including the TFAS Institute on Political Journalism’s John Chamberlain Award for Excellence in Print Journalism. She looks forward to building her skills as a political journalist and eventually hopes to be chasing candidates on the campaign trail.

Cynthia Washicko (IPJ 13)
participated in the 2013 IPJ program, returned to D.C. to intern with the Washington Business Journal the following summer and graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2015. After graduation, she moved to Washington state to cover business and general assignment news for a newspaper group on the Oregon and Washington coast. In 2016, she moved back to California to cover the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze and Southern California News Group. Cynthia hopes to move on to covering California politics and eventually national political news.

Aubree Eliza Weaver (IPJ 11)
is currently a senior web producer with POLITICO Pro and a frequent contributor to Pro’s various policy sections. Aubree is also working toward her master’s degree in public administration and policy at American University — something she hopes will complement the degree in communications and print journalism she received from Le Moyne College in 2013. Since moving from Syracuse, New York to D.C. more than three years ago, Aubree has remained involved in TFAS as a mentor to summer program students and a Public Policy Fellow. When she’s not waking up before dawn for work or catching up on readings for class, Aubree also enjoys trying new local coffee joints, playing guitar, fitting in a yoga class or two and spending quiet evenings at home in the company of her cat and a good book.


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