1990s Class Notes

Heidi Barker (BSJ91)

Heidi M. Barker is the new vice president of corporate communications in the ethics and compliance department for Carnival Corporation.

Based at the company’s headquarters in Miami, Barker will report to Carnival Corporation Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer Peter Anderson, starting in March.

Barker joins the companywide ethics and compliance team led by Anderson, which was formed last year to help ensure a culture of compliance, learning and integrity inside Carnival Corporation and across its nine global cruise line brands, according to a press release.

The program’s goals are to meet or exceed all legal and statutory requirements, as well as to promote the highest ethical principles, the company said.

In this newly created position, Barker will lead all ethics and compliance communications for Carnival Corporation, including the key focus areas of health, environment, safety, security, culture and training, among others. As part of this role, she will coordinate compliance-related communications across the organization, working closely with Roger Frizzell, the corporation’s chief communications officer, and the compliance and communications teams within the company’s nine cruise brands.

Additionally, Barker will oversee communications for Operation Oceans Alive, Carnival Corporation’s environmental commitment and stewardship program, officially launched in 2018. Designed to promote a culture of transparency, learning and commitment within the corporation, Operation Oceans Alive ensures that all employees receive environmental education, training and oversight, while continuing the company’s commitment to protecting the oceans, seas and destinations in which it operates.

Medill Research Uncategorized

Medill’s Local News Initiative leaders discuss findings, future plans

Photo by Andrew Skwish
Story by Thea Showalter (BSJ22)

Amidst a national crisis for local news organizations, Medill is seeking ways to save and strengthen the local news industry through the Local News Initiative (LNI), a groundbreaking project that aims to diagnose the challenges facing smaller news organizations and develop solutions.

For the past year and a half, Medill has collaborated with three newspapers, receiving hard-to-get data to analyze in exchange for providing the papers with crucial research on how to navigate the changing terrain of news media.

“LNI is developing new insights into reader behavior that is helping local news organizations grow their numbers of digital subscribers,” said Tim Franklin, senior associate dean of Medill and leader of the Local News Initiative. “This work is critically important now as local news organizations pivot from an advertising-supported business model to one focused on reader revenue.”

Newspapers have historically made the vast majority of their revenue from advertising, according to Associate ProfessorTom Collinger, Executive Director of the Medill IMC Spiegel Digital & Database Research Center. But as the habits of readers change, news organizations are increasingly depending on revenue from subscribers, not advertisers, leading to a pressing need to understand subscriber behavior.

In the fall of 2018, researchers from Medill’s Spiegel Research Center received 13 terabytes of subscriber data from its three partner papers— the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Indianapolis Star (Indy Star). The data would help the researchers probe questions about local news readership that had never before been answered.

“I’m especially proud that the analytical work that we have been doing is work that in many other industries would be easily available now online,” Collinger said.

But understanding local news subscriber behavior was far from easy. Researchers at The Spiegel Research Center had to merge two vast sets of data— subscriber data and clickstream data— to map how individual subscribers behaved when reading online.

In February of 2019, LNI came out with initial findings: in order to keep readers as digital subscribers, news organizations must encourage them to develop a regular reading habit and provide unique local content to make their subscription valuable.

Over the summer and fall of 2019, Franklin, along with Spiegel Research Center Director and Professor Ed Malthouse, presented LNI findings at the annual conferences for the Newspaper Association Managers, News Leaders Association, and Online News Association.

“We’ve gotten a whole lot of publicity on this,” said Malthouse. “It’s been very satisfying to see the work take off like this.”

For the Chicago Tribune, partnering with the LNI has provided an “outsider’s perspective” on audience data that, alongside the Tribune’s internal data analysis, has helped to “paint a broad picture of what content areas are the most valuable” to readers, said Christine Taylor, managing editor of audience at the Tribune.

The findings have shown the Tribune that its readers are “overwhelmingly” smartphone readers, prompting the Tribune to focus on its app in 2020, and explore tools to boost mobile engagement.

“It forces us to think about how we prepare and produce our content to meet those readers,” said Taylor. “It just makes us think differently about our deadlines— it makes us think differently about how we construct our stories. It’s really forcing the newsroom to just think very differently about how it approaches content.”

A year after the LNI began working with the subscription data, the LNI won a Google Innovation Award in October 2019 in order to build what is called a “subscriber engagement index,” a digital tool that will show local newspapers how their actions are impacting their subscribers in real time.

A newspaper that shares its data with the index will be able to see how its subscribers behave compared to other papers using various metrics, and how those behaviors contribute to retention and subscription rates.

“That’s where we’re going. We’re building this out as we speak,” said Collinger. “And it’s a significant piece of data work….The industry has never seen anything like this.”

In the next few months, LNI will also examine the “finances of customer retention,” said Malthouse. Finding strategies to encourage a reader to subscribe to a newspaper is only the first step.

“If you have a new customer, you have to nurture that relationship,” said Malthouse. “Teaching the news organizations how to take this new customer and nurture that relationship, and turn that person into a regular reader who values your content is the name of the game. So that, I think, is going to be a big part of where we go.”

Collinger added that Medill is uniquely qualified to lead the way on local news research, because the Local News Initiative is a product of all the programs that make Medill different.

“Medill uniquely has a world class journalism program and a world class integrated marketing communication program, and the integration of the best of those two things made this possible,” said Collinger. “It is not what makes Medill the same, but what makes us different in complementary ways that has allowed this to be such a wonderful expression of where we believe media is going.”

Giving Back

Medill grad turned serial entrepreneur gives back through the Mike and Kass Lazerow Graduate Scholarship

By Kaitlyn Thompson (BSJ11, IMC17)

Michael Lazerow (BSJ96, MSJ96) and his wife Kass recently made the decision to gift a scholarship to support Medill graduate journalism students. Lazerow, a serial entrepreneur, has co-founded several successful media and software companies. The most recent, founded with Kass, sold to Salesforce for $800 million. Kass and Mike are now two of the most prolific technology investors in New York City – a departure from Mike’s time as a Medill student studying political reporting in D.C.

We spoke with Mike about his time at Northwestern, how he went from Medill student and Daily Northwestern writer to entrepreneur, and he and Kass’s decision to create a scholarship to help Medill graduate students.

Thompson: Early in your career, you moved away from traditional journalism and into entrepreneurship. Did you always know that’s what you wanted to do with your career?

Lazerow: If you would have asked me at Northwestern what I would do and what I was interested in, I would have said I would be a political reporter based in D.C. I worked at Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, and finished my Medill career in the D.C. program with Professor Ellen Shearer. My class had a bunch of people who would later become political journalists. I thought I wanted to do that, and it was the closest thing I had to a dream until the commercial internet came along.

Thompson: So far, you’ve co-funded over 50 different investments and founded several companies in your career. What do you think makes you a particularly good investor?

Lazerow: I started my first company back at Northwestern, and since then, I’ve been through a lot – financings and acquisitions, hirings and firings. I know what it’s like to run out of money. I know what it’s like to bring on a first client and to lose that client. That is what I think is kind of different – I started investing very grassroots, and I don’t consider myself an investor so much as an entrepreneur.

I do everything with my wife, Kass, who I met while attending a wedding soon after my time at Northwestern. We’ve also always been fascinated with “new” and innovation and what’s around the corner. Most of our time is spent with companies that are trying to take very large industries (invest where the money is) and leading some sort of transformation. I’m interested in everything that requires a beginners mind.

Thompson: How have your journalism degrees impacted your investment decisions? Have you used any of the skills you learned at Medill in your current career?

Lazerow: What Medill taught me more than anything is don’t bury the lede, say what you mean and mean what you say, and less is more. I grew up in Medill writing for the newspaper format where I only had a certain number of words – this scarcity of space. Clear writing is an extension of clear thinking. Whether it’s through emails, or blogs, or posts that I’ve written since leaving Medill, I continue to write almost every day.

Thompson: There are many ways to give back. When you decided to give back to Medill, what inspired you to choose to fund a Medill scholarship?  I hear your wife Kass was instrumental in this decision, too.

Lazerow: When my wife Kass and I decided we wanted to do something to pay it forward, we put our investor hats on and wanted to know how we could make the most impact. We got to understand why the need for graduate scholarships specifically was so important. In order to attract a diverse student body, and people from all different walks of life, there has to be financial assistance. Graduate school is expensive and there are limited options for financial aid and grants. Giving to Medill in this way really fit within really all of the giving that we’ve done to date (like Cycle for Survival) – it has significant impact and all of the money given actually goes to fulfill the promise of why it was donated.

Thompson: I want to take a minute to revisit your time attending Northwestern as a student.  What memories stand out most?

Lazerow: One of the thing I loved most about Medill was that I was at Northwestern. I was attending a Big 10 school with arts, sports, Greek life – access to an entire world from this one global university. 75 percent of my classes were outside of Medill, which meant I was forced to go out and take courses in disciplines like economics, philosophy and literature.

At the same time, I happened to be in this world-class journalism program. I wrote for The Daily Northwestern and, while I wrote a bunch of stories, I really dove into my first company, University Wire, which was a news service for college papers, one of the first information services using the internet exclusively with no print version.

Additionally, what I got out of Medill was not just a journalism degree, but long-standing relationships. To this day, I continue to be very close with NU and Medill people. The most important driver of my ability to start that first business while at Northwestern was my adviser, Mary Dedinsky. She was phenomenal and incredibly supportive. She also gave me one of my first Medill F’s that I still have a copy of today.

Thompson: Lastly, what advice do you have for people graduating with a journalism degree today?

 Lazerow: If you’re considering going into journalism, know that prestige and masthead no longer matter. Find where you can do the best work, no matter where it is. I’ve seen a lot of people make mistakes in this industry by focusing on, “I’m a writer for this, I’m a writer for that” instead of breaking out and just doing the most interesting work possible. Think omni-channel from the beginning – you’re a content creator, not just a print journalist or a TV journalist.

And even if you’re a journalist, think like a marketer. The journalists who are thriving are ones that know their reader / viewer / consumer and understand how to reach them and what channels they’re on. The days of writing and creating videos and not understanding your consumer is over.

Michael Lazerow is a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded four successful internet-based media companies. He is best-known as the founder, CEO and chairman of Buddy Media, Inc., a New York City-based company that develops and markets applications on the leading social media networks. It was purchased by for $800 million in 2012. Currently, Michael is an investor for Lazerow Ventures, a fund for his personal tech investments. These have included Buzzfeed, Domo, Namely, Scopely and about 50 others.

Before Buddy Media, Michael founded GolfServ, the parent company of, which was purchased by Time Warner’s Time Inc. division in January 2006 for $24 million. He led GolfServ from a start-up to a multi-million-dollar profitable golf media company. The company delivers golf content and ecommerce services to millions of golfers through its flagship site.

His byline has appeared in more than a dozen newspapers, including Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill; the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel; the Miami Herald; the Delaware State-News; The Capital Times in Madison, Wis.; and the Montgomery Journal.

Michael was on staff at The Daily Northwestern during his freshman year. While at NU, he created University Wire (U-Wire), a network of college papers that was sold to CBS.

Michael is a member of the Medill Board of Advisers. He often makes time to meet and speak with Medill students in NYC, particularly those in the Media Innovation and Content Strategy specialization.

Bio: Kaitlyn Thompson is a marketing strategist, passionate storyteller, global citizen, green tea connoisseur and chili cook-off champion always asking “why.”

Books Uncategorized


Judy Holland (MSJ86)

HappiNest explores a variety of challenges that arise when the house is suddenly empty or emptying, and Judy Holland provides tips and tools for managing the emotions and realities of this new life stage. Whether you’re seeking a renaissance in your romantic relationship, guiding a boomerang child at home, or figuring out how to handle an empty nest divorce, this HappiNest book and podcast are for you.

From dealing with friends and career transitions, to reconnecting with genuine interests and passions, this road map will help guide you. There are hills, valleys, thickets, briar patches, and ditches ahead, as well as waterfalls that resolve into pristine ponds. With mindfulness, hard work, and knowledge of experiences, research, and wisdom from seasoned empty nesters, you can create the most fulfilling phase of your life—and make the world a better place.


10th-annual IMC TalentQ Expo connects students with industry professionals

Keynote speaker helps students understand the power of relationships in marketing

Connecting to industry professionals is one of the hallmarks of the Northwestern Medill integrated marketing communications (IMC) master’s program. That was the goal of the 10th-annual Medill IMC TalentQ Expo November 7 in Chicago. With sponsorship support from Leo Burnett and Weber Shandwick, the event drew a crowd of nearly 300 for an evening of networking, engagement and idea sharing about the event’s theme: Relationships in Motion.

Medill alumna Kary McIlwain (MSJ86), senior vice president, chief marketing and communications officer of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, was the keynote speaker. She is responsible for marketing and external communications for the hospital and its fundraising foundation.

McIlwain spoke about the importance of relationships in life, and in the world of marketing communications as it related to her career path. While there are many ways to connect with consumers, she explained, there are timeless insights that remain true.

“Regardless of how connections are made and how they change, there are things that remain constant,” she said. “Our job is to make these relationships as seamless, truthful and consistent as possible.” She shared an example campaign that Lurie Children’s Hospital created to convey the caring relationship between their doctors and patients, a key element of the hospital’s brand.

McIlwain said her relationship with Medill was instrumental in her career today. “I am so happy to give back to Medill because I had a great time in the program and it absolutely launched my career. And, I love the theme of this event, Relationships in Motion, because it truly is all about relationships,” she said.

Medill Dean Charles Whitaker praised the event for not only discussing relationships but giving students, alumni and industry professionals a chance to build them. “In my estimation, there is not a more significant IMC event than TalentQ due to the ingenuity of the talented group of students who organize and participate in this special night,” said Whitaker. “It is an opportunity to come together to showcase the amazing range of tools, techniques and principles that brand IMC as a dynamic place of thought leadership and innovation.”

The first part of the program was a presentation by a group of IMC full-time students who are in their last quarter of the program. The students were members of a team that earlier this year, won the Medill Brand Activation Challenge, which brought together four marketing companies with students to solve real-world challenges. The winning team created an IMC strategy for Bayer’s One A Day multivitamins. In their research, they uncovered an insight about the relationship between mothers and their children who are going off to college. They presented a creative plan to reach mothers and ultimately drive sales growth to a younger demographic of college students. The competition was judged by industry professionals and Medill faculty.

Sofia Kuta graduated with an undergraduate degree in communication studies from Northwestern in 2018. After graduating with an IMC master’s degree in September, she started that same month as a marketing coordinator at Grubhub. She came to the TalentQ Expo to support the students and make new connections.

“IMC really helped me be more confident and truly understand the importance of the intersection of data and creativity,” she said.

Medill professor Candy Lee attended the event and said, “This is a superb opportunity for students and faculty to learn from each other about future trends and skills that are changing the face of marketing communications.”