Our Staff

Walter V. Robinson, Director

Walter V. Robinson is Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Northeastern University, where students in his popular seminar have produced 26 page one investigative stories for The Boston Globe since 2007. In the 33 years before that, his byline appeared on the Globe’s front page more than 1,000 times, atop local, national and foreign stories that often uncovered news that had been hidden from public view.

Robby reported for the Globe from 48 states and more than 30 foreign countries. He was a lead reporter for four presidential elections. He covered the White House during two presidencies. He was the Globe’s Middle East bureau chief during the first Persian Gulf war. And he was the Globe’s assistant managing editor for local news – metro editor – during the 1990s.

From 2000 through 2006, Robby was assistant managing editor for investigations, and the editor and lead reporter for the paper’s investigative unit, the Spotlight Team. In 2002, Robby and his team uncovered the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The team’s work helped spawn similar investigative efforts across the United States and around the world. For their work, the team won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003, as well as numerous other investigative reporting awards. In 2007, the team was chosen as a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of abusive debt collection practices.

Since he joined Northeastern’s faculty, Robby has also started, and oversees, the New England First Amendment Center.

Robby is a 1974 graduate of Northeastern. He has been a journalism fellow at Stanford University. In 2002, Emerson College in Boston awarded him an honorary degree. In 2005, Northeastern University awarded him an honorary Doctorate in Journalism. He is the co-author of the 2002 book, “Betrayal: Crisis in the Catholic Church.”


Stephen Kurkjian, Senior Investigative Fellow, 2010-2012

Stephen Kurkjian, who led the Initiative’s reporting efforts, spent 38 years as a reporter and editor at The Boston Globe. He is one of the most acclaimed journalists in the newspaper’s history.

A founding member of the Globe’s investigative Spotlight Team, Steve shared in the three Pulitzer Prizes the team was awarded in 1972, 1980 and 2003. He is also the recipient of more than 25 other regional and national reporting awards, including the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from the New England Society of Professional Journalists.

From 1986 to 1992, Steve was chief of the Globe’s Washington Bureau, where he directed the work of the Globe’s 10 reporters in Washington. While at the bureau he covered the Supreme Court, the Justice Department and the White House during the first war in Iraq.

After returning to Boston, Steve produced or partnered in numerous investigative projects, including the clergy abuse scandal inside the Boston Archdiocese; the Rhode Island nightclub fire that took the lives of 100 people; and the recovery of a Cezanne still life stolen from a Berkshires home in 1978 and later auctioned for $29 million. His 2005 article about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist is regarded as the most complete account of the still-unsolved 1990 crime. Steve is now working on a book about the theft.

Born and raised in Boston, he graduated from Boston Latin School, Boston University and Suffolk University Law School. He is a member of the Massachusetts Bar.

Jesse Nankin,  Editor, 2010-2012

Jesse Nankin was the Initiative’s principal editor. She was Watchdog New England’s database specialist, website coordinator and conference organizer. And she provided critical reporting help for our partner news organizations.

Along with her work for Watchdog New England, Jesse freelanced for the Boston Globe and as a communications and marketing consultant for Polaris Health Directions, Inc. She is also editor for YPNation, an organization dedicated to empowering young professionals.

As a Northeastern graduate student, Jesse did principal reporting on a series of Globe reports on disability pension abuses in the Boston Fire Department. Those articles prompted an ongoing federal investigation that has already led to the indictments of three members of the department. She has also worked as an intern at ProPublica, a non-profit investigative reporting center based in New York.

Before turning to journalism, Jesse worked as a paralegal in the Health Care Fraud Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. She was also an associate editor at Houghton Mifflin Co. and then joined the staff at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she wrote and edited for the Harvard Public Health Review.

Jesse is also an experienced Tall Ship sailor, and covers maritime-related topics as a freelancer. Along with the Boston Globe, her writing has appeared in Cruising World, as well as other trade publications.

Jesse has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University, and a bachelor’s in science degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University.

investigative Reporting Co-ops & Graduate Assistants 

Callum Borchers, Investigative fellow 2011-2012

Callum Borchers is the former editor of Citizen’s News in Naugatuck, Conn. In two years at the newspaper, he was recognized by the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists with 15 Excellence in Journalism awards, including first place in 2009 for investigative reporting at a non-daily paper.

In addition to his internship at Watchdog New England, Callum freelanced for Boston.comNetNewsCheck.comPatch.com, and GateHouse Newspapers. As an undergraduate, he interned at the North American Sports Network in London, WENY-TV in Elmira, N.Y. and SportsRadio 850 WEEI in Boston.

Callum completed his master’s degree coursework at Northeastern University. He is a 2008 graduate of Ithaca College, where he was a Park Scholar.

Melissa TabeekFall 2011 Graduate Assistant

Melissa Tabeek served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan from August 2008 to November 2010 where she worked with Kazakhstanians in education and civil society.  She also wrote for the Kazakhstan Peace Corps Volunteer newspaper, The Vesti.

As a graduate assistant with Watchdog New England, Melissa contributes as a researcher and reporter for investigative projects.

Melissa has a bachelor’s in science degree in Childhood Education from the State University of New York at Cortland and is currently a graduate student in the journalism program at Northeastern University.

In her free time, Melissa enjoys live music and exploring other cultures.

Co-op Alumni

Gal Tziperman LotanSpring 2011

Through internships and co-op assignments, Gal Tziperman Lotan has covered business trends for The Boston Globe, local news for The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., and environment, news and education for The Jerusalem Post in Israel. As a co-op for Watchdog New England, Gal assists the team in reporting stories for the Initiative’s partners, Cambridge Day and the Dorchester Reporter.

For three semesters, Gal served as managing editor of The Huntington News, Northeastern’s independent student newspaper. She also spent six months at Boston.com, creating Web-only content for the business, technology and personal finance sections.

After graduating from Newton North High School, in Massachusetts, in 2006, Gal did 10 months of national service in Boston Public Schools through City Year, an Americorps program for young adults. She worked in two Roxbury schools, assisting in an eighth-grade civics classroom and an after-school program for pre-K through fifth-grade students.

Gal is a junior at Northeastern, majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish and philosophy. She was born and raised in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew.

Rachel ZarrellSpring 2011

Rachel Zarrell is a fourth year journalism major and a communications minor at Northeastern University. As a co-op for Watchdog New England, Rachel assists the team in reporting stories for the Initiative’s partners, Cambridge Day and the Dorchester Reporter.

Rachel’s prior experience includes a full-time internship for the Boston Globe’s Living/Arts section. During her time there, she had two stories featured on the front of the “G” section. She also wrote for the Names and Faces page, for which she interviewed celebrities around Boston.

In the fall of 2010, Rachel was the Managing Editor for The Huntington News, the student newspaper for Northeastern University and an intern for the style section at Boston Magazine.

Originally from New York, Rachel first became interested in journalism in high school, where she was an editor at the school’s paper, The Survey. She also wrote for The Dispatch, a local newspaper.

Rachel has since relocated to northern California. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, skiing, theater and baking.

Pat TarantinoFall 2010

As Watchdog New England’s first co-op, Pat Tarantino helped Stephen Kurkjian cover the impacts of gang violence and gun trafficking in Boston, audit city investments at the Strand Theater and review safety standards in privately run drug rehabilitation programs for the Dorchester Reporter.

Prior to joining Watchdog New England, Pat worked as a reporter and photographer for the Allston-Brighton TAB and Huntington News, covering citywide events and spot news. He has also reported on regional business trends in the newspaper industry for the New England Press Association Bulletin.

Pat, who was born and raised in New York City, is a senior at Northeastern University, majoring in journalism. In his free time, he studies Mandarin Chinese, hikes and is an active cyclist.

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