Thursday, May 19, 2022

State News Alumni Notebook for Winter 2021

S'News alums pursue success in and away from East Lansing

<p>A sign welcomes students moving into Case Hall. </p>

A sign welcomes students moving into Case Hall.

A quick recap of just some of the great things happening to your fellow S’News alums and friends of The State News as of late:

  • The State News took home a trio of honors in its first year ever participating in the Pinnacle Awards, sponsored by the College Media Association (formerly known as College Media Advisers) and announced in October 2020. TSN was awarded first place for breaking news photo (shot by Matt Schmucker) and honorable mention for Best 4-Year College Media Outlet of the Year (virtual 4th place) and Best 4-Year Weekly Newspaper of the Year (4th/5th place).
  • Wendy (Stevens) Byard has opened a new marketing business, Word Girl Marketing, at and based in Lapeer, Mich.
  • Nicquel Terry Ellis was named senior writer for race/equality issues at CNN in November 2020. Prior to that she was a national correspondent covering race and inequality for USA Today, based in Atlanta.
  • Bill Frischling found a way to make money doing good journalism: the founder and CEO of FactSquared sold the artificial intelligence-enabled transcription and alternative data firm to FiscalNote,a global technology company that provides software and political intelligence around legislative and regulatory risk, for an undisclosed price. FactSquared gained national attention for running, a website that transcribes and analyzes every word spoken publicly by President Trump. It has been the canonical source for everything the president has said publicly since January 2017, making his speeches, tweets, schedule and announcements instantly searchable in real time, without commentary or opinion. It has been cited more than 4,000 times by CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Fox News, MSNBC and hundreds of media outlets worldwide. “Our AI platform has had an enormous impact in the political information space over the past four years,” said Frischling, who will join FiscalNote’s research and development team.
  • Samantha Le has returned to Mid-Michigan after nearly 7 years in Chicago. She was with The State News as an advertising account executive from 2009-11. After graduating MSU in 2011 with a BA in advertising, Samantha worked briefly in the East Lansing area before moving to Chicagoland. She worked as a regional leasing & marketing director for CA Ventures, a luxury student housing development company, and a senior leasing associate at Sterling Organization, a private equity real estate firm. She moved back to Michigan in 2020 with her husband. She is currently the marketing & communications manager at Martin Commercial Properties in East Lansing.
  • Sergio Martinez-Beltran met with the newsroom staff via Zoom on Nov. 20, 2020 to talk about his career and path to his current job as political reporter for NPR affiliate Nashville Public Radio in Tennessee.
  • Thea Neal met with the newsroom staff via Zoom on Oct. 23, 2020 to talk about her career, using journalism as a springboard to other career possibilities and to take their questions. Thea is the talent marketing manager at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and formerly the social media leader for Hallmark Cards. Forbes Magazine named her to its 2018 “30 Under 30” list of the nation’s top up-and-coming professionals.
  • Omari Sankofa II met with the newsroom staff via Zoom on Oct. 30, 2020 to talk about his career. Omari is the Detroit Pistons beat writer for The Detroit Free Press. Prior to that, he covered the National Basketball Association in Memphis for The Athletic.
  • Omar Sofradzija, the newsroom adviser and alumni engagement director for The State News, was a stringer for The Washington Post covering the presidential election and related fallout in mid-Michigan in November and December 2020. His byline appeared with this story above the fold on the front page of the print Post on Dec. 15
  • Marie Weidmeyer met with the newsroom staff via Zoom on Nov. 13, 2020 to talk about her career. Marie is the public safety reporter for MLive Media Group in Jackson and was editor-in-chief of The State News is 2018-19.
  • Stu Whitney took a buyout of his sports columnist job at the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader, effective Dec. 1, 2020. “Writing about being thankful in the middle of a pandemic is a tough assignment,” he wrote in his farewell column which was posted on Nov. 25, 2020. “In the contest of a nearly 30-year career at the Argus Leader, though, there’s enough positive sentiment to go around. What better time than my last column as an employee of this company to express my thankfulness for the enduring memories the decades have delivered?” You can read the whole column here. And here is a tribute from an Argus Leader cohort and a TV news feature about his departure. 

Do you have a status update to share with the S’News? Please let us know and we’ll consider it for publication in the next newsletter and on SNAA social sites! Email your news to

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