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WLRN News completes leadership transition with internal promotions and new staff hires

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Chorus Media Group LLC / Chorus Photography
Jessica Bakeman and Caitie Muñoz at the Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala in New York City on Oct. 10, 2022. They accepted a national Murrow recognizing excellence in digital for the WLRN-led project "Class of COVID-19."

Over the past six months, WLRN News has reorganized, retooled and reimagined our future. We asked ourselves, and we asked you: How can we better serve our community in South Florida?

Here are just some of the answers we came up with: A new investigations team focusing on local government accountability. An improved Sundial, featuring relaxed conversations with some of South Florida’s most interesting people. A strategic effort to enhance how we deliver news on digital platforms. An embrace of partnerships with other news organizations to deepen the impact of our collective work.

Three highly regarded longtime newsroom leaders left WLRN last summer for new professional challenges in other parts of the country. And while the timing of their departures posed a challenge, it also presented an important opportunity.

During this leadership transition, each WLRN News staff member has stepped up, and many took on additional responsibilities to ensure the quality of our journalism remained as high as ever.

Our staff members also spoke up, sharing their ideas for how we could improve, and their voices helped shape the path forward. We welcomed new voices, too.

Caitie Muñoz has served as interim managing editor for the last six months. Starting Feb. 1, she will be director of daily news and original live programming.

Now, as the transition comes to a close, we are thrilled to introduce you to the next generation of newsroom leadership at WLRN News.

Caitie Switalski Muñoz, who has served as interim managing editor since July, today begins her new role as director of daily news and original live programming.

She will guide the production of WLRN News’ morning and afternoon newscasts, as well as acting in an executive producer role for our public affairs programs: Sundial, the South Florida Roundup and the Florida Roundup, which is co-produced by WJCT in Jacksonville. Think of her role as WLRN’s daily editor, making sure we cover breaking news.

Jessica Bakeman has served as senior editor for news since 2021 and took on an expanded management role last year during the transition. Also starting today, she will become director of enterprise journalism.

courtesy of Sergio Bustos
Sergio Bustos
Sergio Bustos joined WLRN News as VP of News on Jan. 9.

In this position, Bakeman will be in charge of WLRN News’ longform audio journalism, including features, documentaries, podcasts and other special projects. Bakeman will work closely with VP of News Sergio Bustos to oversee and edit our first investigations team. Think of her role as steering our enterprise work and deeper dives into the news.

WLRN News is also welcoming our first breaking news editor. Michael Majchrowicz begins in that role on Feb. 6. He will work to make our daily radio broadcasts and digital posts timely, accurate and compelling.

Further, starting Feb. 10, WLRN investigative reporter Danny Rivero will join WJCT’s Melissa Ross as co-host of the statewide Florida Roundup.

Palm Beach County reporter Wilkine Brutus will continue to host the South Florida Roundup, alternating weekly with new co-host, Americas Editor Tim Padgett.

From reporters to editors to directors: WLRN News promotes homegrown talent 

It all started with a hug.

The day after the devastating massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, two WLRN reporters comforted each other as they briefly crossed paths while changing shifts.

Then-Broward County reporter Caitie Switalski was leaving Pine Trails Park in Parkland on Feb. 15, 2018, after a difficult morning of reporting. The names of the victims had just been released.

Then-education reporter Jessica Bakeman was headed to the park to relieve her. Thousands of people would gather late that night for an emotional vigil honoring the 17 people whose lives were lost.

The two colleagues found each other for a quick conversation that turned into a long hug as they considered the difficult road ahead, both for the community and for community journalists.

Caitie Muñoz and Jessica Bakeman, far left, attend a student media awards ceremony at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami on April 18, 2018.

The trust they forged in the years that followed, together covering the aftermath of the shooting — the community’s journey toward healing, the families’ quest for answers and justice, the students’ cries for reform — laid the foundation for a professional partnership that would prove vital for the future.

Their journeys at WLRN News mirrored each other. Switalski, now Muñoz, started as the Broward reporter in the fall of 2017, just a few weeks after Bakeman had taken over the education beat. Then, in the fall of 2021, both were promoted: Muñoz stepped into the role of Sundial lead producer, and Bakeman took on the newly created position of senior editor for news.

And last summer, when former newsroom managers Tom Hudson, Alicia Zuckerman and Terence Shepherd left for big opportunities elsewhere, Muñoz and Bakeman were asked to lead the newsroom through the uncertainty.

Over the past six months, Muñoz and Bakeman worked closely with WLRN Public Media CEO John Labonia and COO Sheila Reinken to craft and execute a shared vision for the future.

Bustos began as VP of News on Jan. 9. Muñoz and Bakeman will work closely with him to lead and manage the newsroom.

WLRN’s next newsroom leaders

Muñoz has served as interim managing editor of WLRN News for the past six months, providing steadfast and compassionate leadership for newsroom staff. She guided our coverage of last year’s primary and midterm elections as well as hurricanes Ian and Nicole. She oversaw the Dec. 12 relaunch of Sundial, which had been on hiatus for several months while we searched for a new host and retooled the program.

As director of daily news and original live programming, Muñoz will provide quality control for the day-to-day news production, ensuring WLRN's newscasts are not just full — but full of the right mix of stories that accurately depict what's going on in our region. She will also help direct script writing and audio production for our live shows.

Muñoz’s first title at WLRN News was intern. She has also worked as a reporter and anchor for WFSU-FM in her hometown of Tallahassee and WUFT-FM in Gainesville. She earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Florida and is a proud Gator football fan.

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WLRN News staff members, including Caitie Muñoz and Jessica Bakeman, gather at a reception in Miami in July 2018 during an annual conference of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

During the transition, Bakeman continued to serve as a lead editor of WLRN News’ radio journalism, including responsible, ethical coverage of the Parkland shooter trial as well as investigative stories with clear impact. She also took over WLRN’s esteemed high school and college internship programs.

Bakeman helped launch our 2022 podcast Detention by Design and organized last month’s Detention by Design Live event, which was broadcast live on the radio and online in front of a studio audience at WLRN in downtown Miami.

In her new role as director of enterprise journalism, Bakeman will work collaboratively with Bustos to edit the work of WLRN News’ new investigations team. She will also work to secure grants and philanthropic support for longform audio journalism projects and plan events that invite the community into our reporting process.

Prior to becoming an editor, Bakeman served as WLRN’s education reporter for four years. Her award-winning 2019 documentary, “Chartered,” took an investigative deep dive into Florida’s first and only all-charter school district, in Jefferson County. In 2021, she edited and managed “Class of COVID-19,” a statewide public media project examining how the pandemic affected education for Florida’s most vulnerable students. The project was honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in digital.

Before joining WLRN, Bakeman covered education and state politics in Florida, New York and Mississippi for Politico, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and other outlets. She was a finalist for the national Livingston Award for her 2021 essay published in New York Magazine on the culture of sexual harassment in Albany, N.Y, under then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

WLRN News welcomes, celebrates new team members

As part of our reorganization effort, WLRN News added a new breaking news editor position, and we are thrilled to announce Michael Majchrowicz will serve in the role starting Feb. 6.

Michael Majchrowicz will soon join WLRN News as its first breaking news editor.

In recent years, Majchrowicz has worked as a freelance journalist, covering the 2021 Surfside condominium collapse and the aftermath of Hurricane Ian last year for the New York Times. He has also written for Politifact. Previously, he was a staff reporter for the Miami New Times.

He is the immediate past president of the South Florida chapter of NLGJA, a national association of LGBTQ journalists.

As breaking news editor, Majchrowicz will edit daily spot news for WLRN’s morning and afternoon newscasts as well as help plan and execute breaking news coverage for major events.

Former Miami Herald local government editor Marjie Lambert performed this vital work during much of last year’s leadership transition. Denise Royal, a freelance producer for CNN and former producer of the Florida Roundup, has also assisted in editing and production roles over the past several months.

Majchrowicz is the latest new hire at WLRN News. In recent months, we have also welcomed Bustos, as well as Sundial host Carlos Frías and producer Elisa Baena.

Further, we have two new reporters on our team: Gwen Filosa covers the Florida Keys. Joshua Ceballos is an investigative local government and accountability reporter.