Our mission and our staff

The mission of The Tyler Loop is to help Tylerites develop shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our diverse and growing city.

Our values

  • We believe nonpartisan, fact-based reporting about Tyler’s past and present is essential for making informed decisions about its future
  • We strive to reflect Tyler’s rich diversity in all its forms, including demographics, politics, and faith
  • We aim to highlight what’s working in Tyler, and also to document challenges facing our city’s health and growth
  • We believe democracy works best when citizens engage in well-informed, civil conversations about the local impacts of national policies
  • We believe that independent, community-supported journalism is essential to the future of Tyler and cities like it across the nation

Our activities

  • We publish deeply reported, meticulously researched journalism on carefully selected issues facing Tyler and East Texas
  • We reflect Tyler’s diversity in all aspects of our work
  • We train paid interns and fellows, drawn from local schools
  • We collaborate with journalists across the state and country
  • We create opportunities for residents to engage in civil, fact-based conversations on city, state, and national policies and trends
  • We will become a leader in a national network of local nonprofit newsrooms experimenting with community-driven sustainability models

Staff and Board

Jane Neal, Executive Director

Jane Neal is the executive director of The Tyler Loop, a nonprofit journalism startup that explores policy, history and demographics in Tyler, Texas. Jane also serves as storytelling director of Out of the Loop.

In addition to the Loop, she works at the Literacy Council of Tyler and Tyler Public Library. Jane is a certified interfaith spiritual guide. She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and a former teacher of French at Robert E. Lee High School, where she ran a storytelling program called Senior Stories. Jane and her husband Don have four children.

Neal Katz, Board president

Neal Katz serves as rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Tyler, TX. In 2003, he was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Prior to that, he attended George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia where he received his undergraduate degree in Political Science, and spent two years of graduate school studying writing and counseling.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Rabbi Katz has also lived in Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Israel. In addition to his pulpit life, Rabbi Katz is also a singer/songwriter and music producer. Rabbi Katz has taught courses in Introduction to Judaism and Jewish Philosophy at TJC and UT Tyler. He serves on numerous local non-profit Boards and has won the T.B. Butler Award and The W.C. Windsor Awards from the Tyler Chamber of Conference for outstanding community service. He is married to Jennifer Katz and together they have three children.

Tasneem Raja, Co-founder and board member

Tasneem Raja is a co-founder of The Tyler Loop and a member of its board of directors. She is an award-winning journalist who has reported for NPR, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and other national outlets.

A former senior editor at NPR, she launched a popular podcast exploring issues of identity and race with NPR’s Code Switch team. At Mother Jones, she specialized in data visualization and led a team that built the first-ever database of mass shootings in America. She earned her master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she created an independent thesis in digital and multimedia journalism.

Tasneem is a pioneer in the field of data-driven digital storytelling, a frequent speaker on issues of digital journalism, and a die-hard fan of alt weeklies, where she got her start as a local reporter. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband, her stepson, and two imperious terriers.

You can read and hear more of Tasneem’s work here.

Chris Groskopf, Co-founder and board member

Chris Groskopf is co-founder of The Tyler Loop and a member of its board of directors. He is a pioneer in the field of data-driven storytelling, having worked as a reporter and graphics and interactive journalism specialist at The Chicago Tribune, NPR, and Quartz. 

In addition to his work as a journalist, Chris runs a software engineering team for Enigma, a New York City-based data technology startup.

Chris is an expert in project management and organizational leadership, and he is excited to contribute his multifaceted skills to his adopted hometown of Tyler, Texas.

Follow Chris on Twitter.

Jamie Maldonado, Contributing photographer

An East Texas native, Jamie Maldonado has worked as a visual journalist and copy editor for the Longview News-Journal, The Denver Post, and other publications.

He serves as the campus photographer and graphic designer at Kilgore College, and moonlights as a fine art photographer (complete with a master’s degree).

Taking to heart Dorothea Lange’s quote, “a camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera,” Jamie has turned his lens on his hometown and its people to see it all anew.

See more of Jamie’s work at his website. 

Yaziri Orrostieta, Board member

Yaziri Orrostieta is CEO of WorkHub in Tyler. Prior to her current position, she served as the Marketing Director at Heritage Land Bank.

Throughout her career, Yaziri has successfully led initiatives in various marketing channels such as direct mail, event marketing, web development, social media, and public relations.

She is also a real estate entrepreneur and has over 10 years’ experience in retail banking and lending.

In her personal time, Yaziri enjoys mentoring future and existing business owners through several nonprofits in her community. Yaziri earned her M.B.A. from the University of North Texas and her B.B.A. in Marketing from the University of Texas at Tyler.

In 2018, Yaziri was the recipient of the W.C. Windsor award, honoring Tyler’s most outstanding citizen under the age of 40.

Leah Wansley, Board member

Leah Wansley is Chief Brand Pilot for FIRST iZ, the Audio Director of Out of the Loop and serves on The Tyler Loop’s board of directors. She previously served as Marketing Strategist for Tyler Junior College.

She is a former board president of both Leadership Tyler and Discovery Science Place, and is currently a member of the  Leadership Tyler Catalyst 100 executive committee and the Dayspring Live Broadcast team.

Leah earned her B.F.A. in Communication Design from the University of North Texas. She currently lives in Whitehouse with her husband, James, and their two daughters, Megan and Paige.

Rebecca Smith, Newsletter Editor

Rebecca Smith is the editor for The Loop’s weekly email newsletter. She is currently the coalition coordinator for The Piney Woods Substance Abuse Coalition, a program of local nonprofit, Next Step Community Solutions.

Before getting involved in substance abuse prevention, Rebecca covered religion and nonprofits for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. She was recognized by the Texas Associated Press for her religion column, and earned her master’s in journalism from UNT and her bachelor’s in communications from Tarleton State University.

Rebecca lives in Tyler with her husband, Stewart, her son, Dean, and their neurotic Bichon, Remy.

Yasmeen Khalifa, Reporting Fellow

Yasmeen Khalifa, a Loop intern, is a Mass Communication and English student at the University of Texas at Tyler. She is the managing and lifestyle editor of The Patriot, a student-run newspaper investigating issues on- and off-campus, exploring the changing East Texas culture, and giving students a voice.

Khalifa recently co-founded a new music series in The Patriot titled “Music
in the Pines: Exploring Eclectic East Texas.” The series highlights local musicians, venues, concerts and other events as the music scene in East Texas evolves and thrives. Yasmeen also works as a lab technician in the Mass Communication department.

Khalifa is the founding president of the Keep Tyler Beautiful Youth Advisory Committee, a group of students working together to encourage beautification, litter reduction and recycling in Tyler.

Zoe McGhee, Reporting Fellow

Zoe McGhee is a freshman attending UT Tyler as a Mass Communication student. She is the Copy Editor for the Patriot Talon, the independent student-run newspaper striving to inform, entertain and educate students and staff of UT Tyler.

McGhee also serves as the secretary for the UT Tyler Design Club, an innovative new organization dedicated to spreading creativity across campus and providing a creative outlet for students.

She interned at her past high school’s communication department, acting as editor-in-chief of the district magazine and working closely with local businesses and administration. She also worked part time at her local newspaper over the summer as a reporting fellow.

McGhee hopes to expand her skills as a journalist by working with the Tyler Loop.

Our policies

Other publications you might be interested in

Please drop a line at hello@thetylerloop.com, and don’t hesitate to just say hi. We look forward to visiting with you.