Marisa Porto and Michelle LaRoche to join UNC Hussman faculty

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Marisa Porto and Michelle LaRoche will join the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media faculty in January 2023, bolstering the school’s expertise in sustainable local news and business journalism.

Porto — an entrepreneurial leader who has served in strategic roles with media, nonprofits, startups and higher education — expands the school’s commitment to local news as the John S. and James L. Knight Chair in Local News and Sustainability.

LaRoche — an educator with deep journalism experience at leading business and financial news outlets — builds the school’s strength in business journalism as its Hussman Professor of Business Journalism.

“Marisa Porto and Michelle LaRoche exemplify the power of blending distinguished professional careers with a commitment to educating and mentoring a diverse new generation of leaders in industry,” said Raul Reis, dean of UNC Hussman. “Their addition to our esteemed faculty marks a significant elevation in the school’s focus on the business of media and creates tremendous opportunities for students preparing for careers that inform citizens and strengthen democracy.”

Porto and LaRoche join Shelvia Dancy and Peter Sherman as part of an infusion of diverse faculty talent in spring 2023 that align with the school’s strategic priorities involving innovative storytelling, critical thinking, data literacy and industry acumen.

Marisa Porto

Porto, who specializes in transforming organizations for the digital world, joins UNC Hussman after serving two years as assistant dean of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University. She worked with Hampton University’s administration as an executive in residence in 2019 conducting organizational assessments and leading the strategic planning for the University’s online program.

At Hampton, she has taught classes in business and media entrepreneurship, media management, strategic communications and content editing — while also leading a career development program and helping start an investigative reporting program.

Porto helped to develop the curriculum for media leaders as an executive in residence for the Maynard 200 Fellowship, a core Maynard Institute for Journalism Education program that began in 2018 at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. She has continued to serve the organization, most recently as a faculty member for the fellowship program that provides advanced training and mentorship to mid-career journalists of color. She also serves on the organization's strategic planning committee.

Prior to joining academia, Porto’s extensive professional experience included positions as reporter, editor, vice president, executive editor and publisher with news organizations in Florida, Ohio, Delaware and Virginia. Her service to industry spans roles with local, national and international organizations dedicated to mentorship, diversity and sustainability in journalism. She has served as a consultant and adviser for news organizations in Ukraine and Georgia, recently returning from a visit to Ukraine to discuss local news sustainability.

"I am honored to be joining UNC Hussman and look forward to working with the stellar faculty on new approaches to preparing the next generation of journalists," said Porto. "A sustainable local ecosystem is critical to a functioning democracy, and I am grateful to the Knight Foundation for supporting this vital work."

Michelle LaRoche

LaRoche, currently the Baldwin Chair in Business and Financial Journalism at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, earned a master’s degree at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. She comes to UNC Hussman from South Carolina after also working alongside faculty for courses at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute & City University of London.

Her teaching focus is on covering business, finance and economics — and how an understanding of business can improve coverage of other topics like education, entertainment and sports.  

LaRoche’s professional career has included positions with Dow Jones Newswires, The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio after beginning her career as a copy editor with Foster’s Daily Democrat in New Hampshire.

With Dow Jones Newswires, she rose to managing editor of Real-Time News, supervising 75 editors responsible for publishing pieces that ranged from headlines to features on business, financial and economic news from reporters across the Americas. She worked to improve efficiency and developed her teams’ skills and careers through training and mentoring programs as she played a key role in strategic planning for combining newsrooms.

As development editor for The Wall Street Journal, LaRoche managed the recruitment, training, development and advancement of talent for the organization. In that role, she frequently visited universities and eventually led the development of an advanced business reporting syllabus with four colleagues who taught the class at UNC Hussman.

Most recently, LaRoche has served as a consultant for National Public Radio, recruiting candidates for regional newsroom leadership, multimedia and reporting positions with an emphasis on the values of diversity and inclusion.

"UNC Hussman has been a leader in journalism education, which I came to appreciate when I was recruiting students for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal," LaRoche said. "That success comes by prioritizing students and their development, which has been my focus since I left the newsroom for higher education. I'm looking forward to working with Hussman students and faculty to build on that success and inspire students to understand how business intersects with everything they will cover as journalists."

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