About Our Team

NY City Lens is a news site produced by students at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The site is staffed by students in the City Newsroom class taught by professors Dody Tsiantar, Mike Hoyt, Simon Surowicz with teaching assistants Edward Robbins and Christine McKenna.


Soraya AuerSoraya Auer reports from Brooklyn for NY City Lens. Soraya, who speaks four languages, is German-Bangladeshi but grew up in Switzerland, India, France and the UK. Prior to Columbia, she worked in Bangladesh as a feature writer for a national daily and wrote on current affairs, development, immigration, and social justice and gender issues. She also worked as a media relations specialist for BRAC, the world’s largest non-profit, where she made short documentaries and assisted international journalists with stories and on trips. After Columbia, she hopes to pursue a career in video journalism and documentary filmmaking.

saa2187@columbia.edu | @SoyaInk | Instagram: s.auer


Ellen BraitEllen Brait reports from Manhattan for NY City Lens. She is originally from Oakville, Ontario, but recently graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Writing Seminars and a minor in Film & Media Studies. Ellen was the editor-in-chief of her college newspaper and has interned at the Baltimore City Paper and Vogue. She hopes to pursue a career in magazine writing.

emb2257@columbia.edu | @ebrait


Justine CalmaJustine Calma reports from Queens for New York City Lens. Justine is a Filipina American multimedia journalist and writer with roots in California and New York. She is a graduate student in the Stabile investigative program at Columbia Journalism School. Justine graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2010 with degrees in literary journalism and international studies.

jmaycalma@gmail.com | @justine_calma


Malena CarolloMalena Carollo reports from Brooklyn for NY City Lens. Born and raised in southern California, she moved to Florida to study international relations and journalism at Eckerd College and became the editor-in-chief of the college’s award-winning student paper, The Current. Her interests include investigative journalism, privacy, security, government and gender issues.

mc3931@columbia.edu | @MalenaCarollo


Azure GilmanAzure Gilman reports from the Bronx for NY City Lens. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in history. She has previously blogged for Freakonomics.com, interned for investigative journalist Wayne Barrett, and worked as a politics and policy reporter for City & State magazine.

cag2105@columbia.edu | @azuregilman


Swati GuptaSwati Gupta reports from Manhattan for NY City Lens. Currently an M.S. candidate at Columbia Journalism School, Gupta did her graduate studies in Electronics Engineering and worked for two years in a software firm. She has also worked as an editor for an Indian news website, NDTV.com for two years. Gupta is interested in covering politics and international affairs.

sg3207@columbia.edu | @sw_gs


Lauren HardLauren Hard reports from Queens for NY City Lens. She’s a part-time student at Columbia and also currently holds an internship at The Today Show. During her time at The Journalism School, Lauren has also worked for Time Warner Cable News NY1 as a news assistant, where she ran around the five boroughs working to report stories. Before coming to the Journalism School Lauren freelanced, made an appearance on Food Network’s Restaurant Stakeout and worked as a web producer at News 12 New Jersey. She earned her undergraduate broadcast journalism degree from Temple University in Philadelphia.

lauren.hard@gmail.com | @laurenhard


Noele IllienNoele Illien reports from Queens for NY City Lens. She grew up in England and Switzerland before coming to the U.S. to study. In 2014 she graduated from Boston College with a degree in international relations. Outside of journalism, Noele loves to travel and to compete in car races. In 2013 she combined the two and drove from Beijing to Paris in a 1955 Citroen.

nai2105@columbia.edu | @noeleillien


Yvonne Marie Juris Yvonne Marie Juris is a reporter, musician and student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She freelances for Jewcy.com and was a former MSNBC intern, where she covered stories on police misconduct and the Washington, D.C. “Justice for All” march. She has covered stories on Hurricane Sandy, education, politics and New York City court cases. She also has a degree in music performance and has reported on the arts and music therapy. Last year she spent a week in Israel reporting in Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Tel Aviv with professor Ari Goldman and the religion reporting class. She lives in New York City.

ymj2103@columbia.edu | @fancifemini


Cara McGooganCara McGoogan reports from Brooklyn for NY City Lens. Cara grew up in the U.K., where she studied English at the University of Nottingham. She has worked at local and national news publications in England, including the Nottingham Post, Vine and The National Student. Cara has visited more than 30 countries and has been the victim of a robbery on almost every continent. Her loves include literature, music and English breakfast tea (from England, only).

cjm2231@columbia.edu | @cjmcgoogan


Ony NwaohuochaOny Nwaohuocha is a student in Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism documentary program. She is a Bronx native and enjoys traveling in her leisure time. She is a graduate of Douglass College at Rutgers University and Vermont Law School. She has traveled extensively in Africa and reports on culture, law, arts, human rights, and social issues.



Natasha PayésNatasha Payés reports from Queens for NY City Lens. Natasha graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, where she majored in Latin American Studies. Before coming to Columbia, she worked for three years as a college admissions director. Her journalistic interests include community health, religion, and culture. She was born and raised in San Francisco.

njp2128@columbia.edu | @natashapayes


Ayana OssonAyana Osson reports from the Bronx for NY City Lens. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she currently resides. Ayana recently graduated from City University of New York-York College where she majored in English with a creative writing emphasis and minored in Journalism. She worked as the Assistant Producer for a weekly online Hip-Hop radio show Digital Empire Nation for a year and a half while maintaining her studies. Ayana hopes to work behind the scenes in broadcast and write about arts and culture. In her spare time, she loves to watch and critique movies, explore her city and dance.

ao2509@columbia.edu | @ayanaosson


Tess OwenTess Owen reports from Manhattan for NY City Lens. Canadian-born and British-raised, Owen graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 2012. After graduating, Owen moved to Turkey for six months, and then moved to New York, where she worked on the editorial team for Bullett, a publication that focuses on the cutting edge of art, music and fashion. Owen’s interests include social justice issues and subcultures.


Jaclyn PeiserJaclyn Peiser grew up in Dallas, Texas but spent the past four years in Baltimore, Maryland at Goucher College where she double majored in Communications & Media Studies and American Studies. Jaclyn had two internships at The Baltimore Sun and spent a summer in Washington, D.C. interning with CBS News’ White House and politics units. She was active in her college newspaper and was editor-in-chief her senior year. Jaclyn’s journalistic interests include breaking news, politics, policy and business.

jmp2243@columbia.edu | @jackiepeiser


Siyu QianSiyu Qian grew up in Beijing and spent her undergraduate years there. She chose to pursue broadcast journalism because storytelling intrigued her. She has worked for a school TV station and school music station, did a few internships, and went -to the Netherlands as an exchange student for one semester in her junior year. She returned to China to graduate in 2013 and then went to pursue her master’s degree in international journalism at Communication University of China. She loves to travel and never tires of visiting new places.


Joanna SochaJoanna Socha, a native of a small town in Poland, worked as an editor for the Polish edition of Harvard Business Review before coming to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in documentary studies from the University of Warsaw. A former intern for Rep. Shelley Berkley (D.-Nevada), Joanna enjoys hip-hop dancing and watching documentaries. Joanna reports from Brooklyn for NY City Lens.

jhs2200@columbia.edu | @joa_soc


Seema Somshekar Born and raised in Bangalore, India, Seema Somshekar graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, psychology and literature, following which she completed her post graduation in mass communication. Prior to pursuing her master’s, she worked as a web producer at Star India Pvt. Ltd., an Indian television network. She is also a freelancer and contributing writer for The Hindu, The Better India and Shiksha.

ss4740@columbia.edu | @seemasomshekar


George SteptoeGeorge Steptoe reports from Brooklyn for NY City Lens. George’s previous work has been published in Vice, The Daily Telegraph, The Diplomat, Southeast Asia Globe, Prospect Magazine, East End Review and others. George was formerly a freelance reporter for a local paper in Northeast London before decamping to correspond from Cambodia.

george.steptoe@gmail.com | @georgeLsteptoe | (347) 217-2084


SolangeSolange Uwimana reports from Manhattan for NY City Lens. She worked as an editor and writer at a progressive media nonprofit in Washington, D.C., before coming to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. A graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, Solange is interested in photography, multimedia journalism, and narrative storytelling.

su2189@columbia.edu | @dcGisenyi


Shengying ZhaoShengying Zhao grew up in Zhengzhou, China, and reports from Brooklyn for NY City Lens. Before coming to Columbia, she studied journalism at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Shengying utilized her bilingual skills when interning at Metro in New York, where she covered breaking news such as the crash of Asiana Airline Flight 214. Her interests include human rights, nonprofits and immigration.