James Brown


Before coming to WXXI News, James spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for Rochester City Newspaper. While at City, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.

James cut his teeth in journalism as an associate producer and weekend assignment editor at WHEC-TV.

A Rochester native and an East High School graduate, James earned a Bachelor of Communications degree from Niagara University where he won awards for his poetry and resurrected the school’s radio station.

A decades-long struggle for an independent police accountability board took center stage in Rochester last year.

Emily Hunt for WXXI News

Looking ahead to the new year, City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot said he plans to continue his focus on economic development in the city, and attracting and developing local talent is one of his goals.

Lightfoot sits on the board of the Rochester Economic Development Corp, the city’s nonprofit development agency. Established in 1983, it's dedicated to stimulating business investment in the city of Rochester. Lightfoot said he’s pushing for growing minority-owned businesses -- in particular, developers -- to be a priority for the city and that organization.

Max Schulte / WXXI News file photo

More than 150 Rochester public school teachers will be assigned new roles in the new year as a result of the mass staff layoffs approved earlier this month to close a budget gap.

In a statement released on New Year's Eve, the Rochester City School District announced that 154 teachers will be "displaced," meaning they will either be relocated to a new school to fill vacancies or remain in their schools in a new capacity, when schools reopen Jan. 6.

Odds are good that greater Rochester will have one less State Supreme Court judge next year because it’s unclear how Judge Matthew Rosenbaum will be replaced.

The New York State Office of Court Administration said in a release that Rosenbaum is under a state investigation for undisclosed misconduct allegations, and he's been relieved of his duties. Other judges will pick up the slack.

Jacob Walsh / CITY Newspaper

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP & WXXI News)  New York's governor has vetoed a bill to allow electric scooters and bikes statewide, his office said Thursday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's veto message said the bill overwhelmingly passed by lawmakers this year didn't include enough safety measures, such as a helmet requirement.

"Failure to include these basic measures renders this legislation fatally flawed," he said.

Lawmakers may try to pass a bill with more safety measures next year. Cuomo said electric bikes and scooters must be regulated to protect public safety and said he looks forward to working with lawmakers on the issue in 2020.

James Brown / WXXI

Evangela Stanley is nursing an injured knee Thursday as she brings in supplies and a shelf she got for Christmas into the People’s Choice Kitchen. Her restaurant is on the busy corner of Thurston Road and Brooks Avenue in the 19th Ward.

Stanley made headlines this month by telling customers to pay what they can for their meal.

“$3, $4, $5, whatever they could afford, I'll make sure they could eat,” said Stanley. 

The Rochester City School District had a turbulent 2019.

Early in the year, it attempted to respond to a state-mandated report that deemed it in dire need of improvement. It was also at the center of a debate regarding a possible state takeover, and a controversy surrounding teacher layoffs to cover the district’s nearly $65 million budget gap.

James Brown covered these stories throughout the year. He and Connections producer Megan Mack discuss those developments, and what we could see in 2020.

James Brown / WXXI

Teachers across Rochester’s schools wore black on Friday to acknowledge the mid-year layoffs of 109 educators, which the school board approved Thursday in a 5-2 vote. The layoffs are part of a larger plan to bridge a nearly $65 million budget shortfall. 

Max Schulte / WXXI News


In a split vote, the Rochester City School District Board of Education approved a plan late Thursday night to lay off 155 district employees.

Under the latest plan from Superintendent Terry Dade, teachers will account for 109 of those layoffs, down from a previous proposal to lay off 152 teachers.

Teachers like LeAnna Dupree and Jamie Lillis were among the hundreds of teachers, staff, and community members who protested outside. They were also among 94 people who expressed their displeasure with the cuts during a nearly three-hour public comment period.

“This is an opportunity for redemption," said Dupree. "Mistakes have been made, of course they have, but join us now be a part of our district. Either take responsibility for your roles in the crisis, or take responsibility for saving the teachers and students.”

James Brown / WXXI

Roughly 13 of the more than 150 teachers who received layoff notices from the Rochester City School District earlier this month have been hired back. 

“Some teachers got layoff notices in the morning and then a recall notice in the afternoon,” said Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association union

He said this happened to fill positions where the district had shortages or requirements like English as a second language or special education.