Yale Journalism Initiative Sees Director Reshuffle

Mark Oppenheimer ’96 leaves Yale’s journalism program after 16 years at its helm. His successor, an alumnus of the program, is a longtime freelance writer who worked as a correspondent for The Economist in Argentina.

Staff reporter

Yale Daily News and courtesy of Haley Cohen Gilliland

Starting next month, a new director will lead the Yale Journalism Initiative for the first time since the program’s inception.

Haley Cohen Gilliland ’11, a freelance writer who has reported for The Economist in Argentina, London and California, will become Yale’s de facto journalism mentor next month. She replaces Mark Oppenheimer ’96, who will step down after 16 years to focus on an upcoming book and other projects.

At Yale, Cohen Gilliland wrote and edited for The New Journal. She points to Oppenheimer and other English teachers, including Fred Strebeigh ’74 and Anne Fadiman, as “voices in her head” that drive her career.

Her new role, she said, is an opportunity to give back.

“Yale was definitely the reason I chose the career path I went on,” Cohen Gilliland told The News. “I felt so supported in my career choices every step of the way…to have that level of support is really, really rare.”

The new principal hopes to foster stronger bonds between students and other alumni. It also seeks to make the program offer more accessible to a wide range of students.

Cohen Gilliland isn’t the only familiar face to return to the journalism scene; Another Yale graduate, Susan Dominus ’92 LAW ’99, arrived last spring to teach the signature “Journalism” seminar, replacing Bob Woodward ’65. Joanne Lipman ’83, former editor of USA TODAY, piloted a media seminar last fall.

YJI, which was established in 2006, aims to support undergraduate students considering a career in journalism. Fellows of the program must complete ENGL 467, the Basic Journalism Seminar, engage in student publishing, and complete a summer internship in reporting.

Oppenheimer, who is best known outside Yale for a column on religion in The New York Times and a book on the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, said Cohen Gilliland was “an excellent recruit” for the department. .

“[Cohen Gilliland] is an extremely talented journalist, with significant experience working overseas, reporting in multiple languages ​​and writing for a range of publications,” Oppenheimer wrote to the News. “She is currently working on a book that promises to be exceptionally good.”

Oppenheimer will now focus on her sixth book, a biography of columnist Ann Landers, as well as the new “Gatecrashers” podcast, which covers the history of Jews and anti-Semitism in the Ivy League and debuts on September 13.

He said while YJI has remained largely the same since arriving on campus, student journalism has evolved with the rise of the internet and smartphones. The student body has also become more liberal, he said, a trend reflected in published work.

In addition to YJI, Oppenheimer has taught a range of classic creative writing curriculum offerings, most recently the popular Daily Themes spring course. This class will now be taught by Andrew Ehrgood ’85 GRD ’93.

Cohen Gilliland, meanwhile, is working on her own book about Argentine women searching for grandchildren who disappeared under the country’s former military rule. His previous work spans a range of genres and publications; the most compelling topics to talk about, Cohen Gilliland said, involve people who push their limits, from amateur climbers to celebrity horse cloners.

“The program’s mission remains the same as it was 16 years ago — to help Yale students break into journalism,” Gilliland said. “The more we can encourage a diversity of voices in journalism, the richer journalism becomes.”

Gilliland also mentioned fact-checking, pitching and journalistic ethics as potential workshop topics.

YJI was created thanks to a donation made by Steven Brill ’72 LAW ’75 and Cynthia Margolin Brill ’72.


Isaac Yu writes about Yale faculty and scholars. He designs the front page of the print edition, edits News’ Instagram, and has previously covered transportation and city planning in New Haven. A native of Garland, Texas, he is a sophomore at Berkeley College majoring in American Studies.