Announcing our 2023 Journalism Funders Gathering Speakers!
Yvette Alberdingk Thijm
Yvette Alberdingk Thijm (“YAT”) is a human rights and social change leader, a movement collaborator and strategist in the use of video, visual storytelling and participatory technologies for human rights and social change.
As the former Executive Director of WITNESS.org, a global leader in the use of video and technology for human rights, YAT promoted approaches that center the agency, voices and narratives of those most at risk; and developed impactful and innovative strategies to strengthen ecosystems of collaboration between media, technology and human rights. Prior to WITNESS, YAT led content strategies for start-up JOOST, a disruptive visual media experiment by the founders of Skype, based on peer to peer technology; and she worked globally in for profit media companies. She is a member of the Boards of AccessNow.org and Doc Society.org, and a contributor to The Symposium on Strength and Solidarity for Human Rights and The Wellbeing Project.
YAT is currently finalizing her sabbatical before she digs into her next phase, exploring topics close to her experience and passions, incl. recent trends in human rights, storytelling & new technologies (#generative AI); organizational design & remote global teams in the digital age; and sustainable practices, narratives & collective care for communities of practice.
Raney Aronson-Rath is the editor-in-chief and executive producer of FRONTLINE, PBS’ flagship investigative journalism series, and a leading voice on the future of journalism. Aronson-Rath oversees FRONTLINE’s acclaimed reporting on air and online and directs the series’ editorial vision, executive producing over 20 documentaries each year on critical issues facing the country and world. Under her leadership, FRONTLINE has earned two Oscar nominations, and has won every major award in broadcast journalism, including Peabody Awards, Emmy Awards, an Institutional Peabody Award, and the first Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Gold Baton awarded in a decade.
Kayce Ataiyero is the Chief External Affairs Officer at the Joyce Foundation, where she oversees the Foundation’s strategic communications, the Journalism Program and the Lend A Hand community grants fund. She is also a member of the Foundation’s leadership team.
Ataiyero has extensive experience in communications, journalism and politics. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2018, she served as director of external affairs for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, where she led communications and community engagement. She has also led communications for U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly, the Illinois Governor’s Office and the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office.
As a journalist, Ataiyero previously worked as a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, The (Raleigh-Durham) News and Observer, Philadelphia Inquirer and Washington Post.
She’s a native of Washington, D.C. and has a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. She is a member of the board of Media Impact Funders and Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. She also at one time was general manager of the Chicago Steam, a minor-league basketball team.
Jennifer is vice president of Public Affairs & Media Research at NORC at the University of Chicago and deputy director of The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. She currently serves as the project director for AP VoteCast and as principal investigator of the Media Insight Project, AP-NORC’s research collaboration with the American Press Institute.
Jennifer has managed and conducted survey research on a variety of topics including the public’s priorities and attitudes toward government, trust in news and attitudes toward journalism, and race and ethnicity. With training and experience in political science, social psychology, and public health, Jennifer’s research uses an interdisciplinary approach in both theory and method, and much of her research complements survey research with qualitative and experimental methods. She has a successful track record of distilling and packaging complex research for different audiences including journalists, policy makers, and the mass public.
Her research has been published by Georgetown University Press, Public Opinion Quarterly, Health Affairs, Digital Journalism, and State Politics and Policy, among others. She has been featured in the New York Times, Associated Press, NPR (national and affiliates), CBS and local radio outlets, Newsweek, USA Today, the LA Times, and for specialty media projects such as the Code Switch project at NPR.
Jennifer is active with the American Association for Public Opinion Research and serves as the co-chair of the AAPOR Transparency Initiative, among other committees. She is active in her community on the Big Island in Hawaii including serving on the community advisory board for Hawaii Public Radio.
Sarabeth Berman serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the American Journalism Project (AJP), the first venture philanthropy dedicated to local news. AJP makes grants to nonprofit local news organizations across the country, supporting the successful launch of new enterprises and partnering with existing news organizations to grow and sustain their businesses. Since launching in 2019, AJP has committed more than $44 million in investments in its growing portfolio of 37 nonprofit local news organizations. Fast Company recognized AJP as one of the most innovative companies of 2023 for its work building a future for local news.
Berman joined the AJP team in 2020, serving as the organization’s first CEO. Previously, she was Global Head of Public Affairs at Teach For All, a network of social enterprises in more than 50 countries, where she led communications and marketing, public-sector partnerships, and research and evaluation. Before joining Teach For All, she spent seven years in China, where she helped build Teach For China and managed a Chinese contemporary dance company. She was a 2006 Henry Luce Scholar based in Hong Kong.
A graduate of Barnard College, she and her husband, journalist Evan Osnos, live in Washington, DC, and have two children. Berman serves on the boards of Capital B and the Mark Morris Dance Group.
Drew Berry is a 3x Emmy Award-winning Executive Director of The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). Mr. Berry’s many years of management experience in the television news industry spans mostly top-five markets of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Dallas. In addition to being News Director in Philadelphia and Baltimore, Berry also rose to the heights of General Manager for the ABC- affiliate television station in Baltimore.
In addition to Mr. Berry’s Emmys, he is a recipient of dozens of awards and honors throughout his career including the 2022 induction to NABJ’s Hall of Fame for his lifelong work in the industry. He is also featured in the prestigious HistoryMakers Collection dedicated to preserving archival collections of African American video oral histories.
Mr. Berry serves as a mentor to journalists across the country. He helps spearhead essential training, advocacy and fundraising efforts for an organization of 4000 plus members. He directs an organization that produces year-round training including almost 200 sessions and events at the annual NABJ conference.
He has been guest faculty and visiting professional at Hampton University, Morgan State University, Ohio University and with the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank. He has judged the regional Emmy Awards and served as a screening judge for the most coveted award in television journalism, the duPont Award.
Mr. Berry has held positions on several boards including, Scripps Howard Foundation, Medstar Health, Inc., the Greater Baltimore Committee, Associated Black Charities and the Maryland Humanities Council.
He is married with three children and resides in metro-Atlanta.
Lolly Bowean is a writer, an award-winning journalist and community storyteller.
She currently manages the Journalism portfolio with the Creativity and Free Expression team at the Ford Foundation. Before joining Ford, she curated the Media & Storytelling portfolio at the Field Foundation.
Lolly worked as a general assignment reporter at the Chicago Tribune for more than 15 years and had a particular focus on urban affairs, youth culture, housing, minority communities and government relations. She wrote primarily about Chicago’s unique African-American community and the development of the Obama Presidential Center.
During her tenure at the Chicago Tribune, she covered the death of Nelson Mandela; how violence was lived and experienced in troubled neighborhoods; and the 2008 election and inauguration of President Barack Obama. Most recently, she wrote about the election of Chicago’s first African-American woman Mayor, Lori Lightfoot. In addition, she covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the last gathering of the original Tuskegee Airmen.
Before joining the Chicago Tribune, Bowean covered suburban crime, government and environmental issues for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.
She has been published in Chicago Magazine, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, Lenny Letter and Longreads. She has served as a contributing instructor for the Poynter Institute and lectured at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and is the former program officer for the Chicago Headline Club. She was a 2017 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and is a Studs Terkel Award winner. In 2019, she became the first African-American awarded the Gene Burd Urban Journalism Award. In 2020, she was awarded the Anne Keegan Award for excellence in writing about the common man.
David Bornstein is the CEO and co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which is working to establish solutions journalism as an integral part of mainstream news. He has been a journalist, focusing primarily on social innovation, for 30 years. From 2010-21, he co-authored the “Fixes” column in The New York Times, which focused on social innovation. He is the author of: How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, which has been published in 25 languages, The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank, and Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know.
Yvette Cabrera is a senior reporter at the investigative news nonprofit, the Center for Public Integrity, where she covers inequality in economic and social well-being with a focus on environmental justice issues. She has reported extensively on the pervasiveness of toxic lead contamination, and her most recent series, Ghosts of Polluters Past, was honored with a 2023 international Sigma Award for Data Journalism. Her story on the devastating effects of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation also won a 2023 Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award from Columbia University and a 2023 national Edward R. Murrow Award. She serves as president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and is a founding member of The Uproot Project, a network for environmental journalists of color.
Elisabet Cantenys is the Executive Director of the ACOS Alliance, a unique coalition of more than 150 news organizations, press freedom NGOs and journalist associations working together to champion safe and responsible journalistic practices. Elisabet has led the Alliance since 2016, managing the organization’s growth and strategy, overseeing its global partnerships and leading a rich programme of activities. Elisabet has nearly 20 years experience working on journalists safety issues. Prior to joining the ACOS Alliance she was Head of Programmes at the Rory Peck Trust, in London, where she oversaw its assistance and safety training programmes, co-founded the Journalists in Distress network (JiD) and led more than a dozen journalist safety projects worldwide. Elisabet has also worked as a freelance documentary producer, radio journalist and writer. She speaks regularly on press freedom and journalism safety issues and serves on the advisory committee of the Ukrainian 2402 Fund. She has a Master’s degree in Global Politics from the University of London and is a guest lecturer at the Blanquerna School of Communication and International Relations, in Barcelona.
Miguel Castro is deputy director Program Communications and leads the Global Media Partnerships portfolio at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At the foundation since 2012, Miguel helps define and manage the foundation’s media and communications global grant-making portfolio. This includes projects with media organizations, international broadcasters, and digital/social media. Prior to this, Miguel was special projects manager at the Media Program of the Open Society Foundations where he joined in 2004. As part of his responsibilities, he helped manage a diverse portfolio of media grants globally and he launched mediapolicy.org in 2011. A journalist by training and education, Miguel has worked as a radio, print, and ENG reporter, and was press secretary to a senior public official. He has also worked as a professional photographer in the United States.
Gina Chua is Executive Editor at Semafor, a new global news startup, as well as a board member of the Trans Journalists Association, an organization formed to support trans and gender-expansive journalists in their careers and to promote more accurate, nuanced coverage of trans issues and communities in the media. Prior to joining Semafor, she was Executive Editor at Reuters, where she oversaw newsroom operations, logistics, budgets, safety and security, worked on newsroom technology, and built data journalism and graphics teams, among other duties. Gina was also the Editor-in-Chief of the South China Morning Post and The Asian Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong; a Deputy Managing Editor at The Wall Street Journal in New York; a reporter in Singapore, Manila and Hanoi; and a television and radio journalist in Singapore. She is a co-founder of the Sigma Data Journalism Awards and was the inaugural recipient of the Online News Association’s Impact Award for dedication to innovation. She sits on the boards of the International Fund for Public Interest Media and the Tiny News Collective, and was previously the chair of the advisory board of Open Society Foundation’s Program on Independent Journalism and on the board of the Institute for Nonprofit News. A native of Singapore, she graduated with a bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Chicago and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University. She transitioned in late 2020.
Arianna Ciccone is co-founder and director of the International Journalism Festival and co-founder and editor of the crowdfunded Italian-language news and opinion website Valigia Blu. She graduated in Philosophy from the University of Naples.
Sandra (Sandy) Clark
Sandra M. Clark is a leading voice in journalism and beyond, challenging norms and practices that create barriers to building trust and meaningful, sustainable connections with communities. As CEO of StoryCorps, Sandra helps to advance the award-winning organization’s mission toward a more just and compassionate world, helping people believe in each other by illuminating the humanity and possibility in all of us, one story at a time. Prior to joining StoryCorps in early 2022, Sandra was Vice President for News and Civic Dialogue at WHYY in Philadelphia. There, she led the station’s news operation across all platforms and was at the forefront of expanding and diversifying its audiences and outreach to communities. Her innovative approaches to collaborating with grassroots information providers garnered national recognition. In addition, Sandra worked with teams to grow revenue and build membership while amplifying the station’s branding and positioning. As Managing Editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer prior to joining WHYY, Sandra was a member of both the executive and newsroom leadership team and led the paper to a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. She is dedicated to growing future generations of leaders of color and is a contributing trainer and mentor for the Maynard Institute.
Sue Cross is executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a network of more than 425 independent, nonprofit news organizations, noted for quality news coverage provided as a public service, a commitment to transparency designed to build public trust, and community engagement with an equity focus. Cross joined INN in 2015 to build this emerging media network and advance social enterprise models for investigative and public service journalism. She is a former senior vice president for the Associated Press global news agency and has been a reporter, editor and digital business development executive. Cross serves on the board of visitors for Stanford University’s John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, the National Advisory Council for the Emma Bowen Foundation and the advisory board for the State Court Report of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. She lives in Los Angeles.
Angelica Das is associate director on the Public Square Team at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working toward an open and just democracy. Democracy Fund makes grants in pursuit of a vibrant and diverse public square, free and fair elections, effective and accountable government, and a just and inclusive society. Angelica leads the Journalism and Power Building initiative, which aims to support new models of journalism that help to dismantle systems of oppression and authoritarianism, and create conditions for thriving, active civic engagement. Angelica joined Democracy Fund in 2019 after working as a consultant and Senior Associate with Dot Connector Studio, a production company that collaborates with funders, journalists, and experts to research and develop social impact media. She was previously associate director at the Center for Media & Social Impact Media at American University. She directed the Center’s annual Media That Matters industry conference, and helped filmmakers learn from and exercise journalistic practice to mitigate safety, security, and litigation risks in investigative storytelling. She has worked extensively with independent filmmakers on impact strategies and held prior positions in communications, operations, and grant management at nonprofits including Wild Earth Allies, Machik, and National Geographic. Angelica holds an M.A. in International Media from American University and a B.A. in Political Science and History from the University of Rochester.
Rachel de Leon
Rachel de Leon is a reporter and producer for TV and documentaries for Reveal. She reported and produced “Victim/Suspect”, a Netflix original feature documentary which was released in the spring of 2023, and premiered at Sundance in its U.S. Documentary Competition. In 2016, she won two Emmys for her work on the web series “The Dead Unknown” and the PBS NewsHour segment “Deadly Oil Fields.” In 2014, she completed her first short documentary, “Cab City,” for her master’s thesis in the documentary program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
Sky Dylan-Robbins is an award-winning documentary producer and the Founder and Executive Director of the Video Consortium, a global nonprofit media organization that connects and supports today’s nonfiction filmmakers and visual journalists to tell bold stories that change the world. Previously, Sky was a visual journalist at NBC News, where she produced documentaries across digital, broadcast, and streaming. Before that, she was the Senior Producer, Video at The New Yorker, where she created and commissioned the magazine’s first short films, series, and video supplements for print features. Forbes Magazine named Sky a “30 under 30” media entrepreneur and DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, selected her as an industry “New Leader.” Sky graduated cum laude from Northwestern University.
In a career spanning journalism, philanthropy, and academia, Jon Funabiki has concentrated
on ways to wield the power of media to promote community building, equity, and social justice
in the United States and beyond. He has now retired from “jobs” to turn to passion projects,
including serving as producer of a documentary film, “Beyond Yellowface,” and designing an art
exhibit, “The Lost Pottery of a Nisei Soldier.”
Funabiki is an Emeritus Professor of Journalism at San Francisco State University, where he
concentrated on community and ethnic news media and social justice journalism. In addition to
teaching, he launched the Lab for Media & Community and the Dilena Takeyama Center for the
Study of Japan & Japanese Culture.
He is the founder and former director of Renaissance Journalism, a nonprofit that works
with journalists throughout the U.S. on equity issues, including housing insecurity; Covid-19; the
2020 U.S. Census; the financial crisis in Detroit; educational equity in public schools; and the
legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam. In collaboration with Images & Voices of Hope, he helped
develop restorative narrative approaches and applied them to projects in Japan and Bhutan.
Previously, he served as Deputy Director of Media, Arts & Culture at the Ford Foundation,
one of the world’s leading philanthropies. He developed the foundation’s multimillion-dollar
grant strategies on the news media, with concentrations on social justice, diversity, ethics,
ethnic and community media, and freedom of expression.
Prior to joining Ford, Funabiki was the founding director of San Francisco State University’s
Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, the nation’s first university-based center
on diversity and the media.
Funabiki is a former reporter and editor with The San Diego Union, where he specialized in
East and Southeast Asia. His writings also have appeared in The New York Times, San Francisco
Chronicle, National Civic League Journal, and other publications.
A graduate of San Francisco State University, Funabiki was awarded the John S. Knight
Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, where he studied East Asian politics
and economics; the Jefferson Fellowship at the East-West Center of Honolulu, where he studied
East and Southeast Asian economics; and a National Endowment for the Humanities
Professional Summer Fellowship at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he studied
the cultural dimensions of U.S. history.
He has been honored with the Distinguished Service to Journalism Award from the Society
of Professional Journalists, Northern California; the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the San
Francisco State University Journalism Department; the Gerbode Foundation Fellowship; the
Lifetime Achievement Award from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism
Workshop on Journalism, Race and Ethnicity; the Ethnic Media Champion Award from New
America Media; and a Special Recognition Award from the Asian American Journalists
Alan Gershenfeld is Co-Founder/President of E-Line Media, a developer of commercial social impact video games. E-Line titles include the BAFTA and Peabody award winning Never Alone developed inclusively with a pioneering Alaska Native Tribal organization, Jackson-Wild winning Beyond Blue developed in partnership with BBC Blue Planet 2 and OceanX, Gamestar Mechanic and MinecraftEdu. Alan has worked on impact game projects with the Gates Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, NSF, BBC, USAID, DARPA, White House OSTP, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Google and many others.
Prior to E-Line, Alan was Chairman of the nonprofit Games for Change and SVP Activision Studios where he oversaw titles such as Civilization: Call to Power, Muppet Treasure Island, Spycraft, Pitfall, Zork and Tony Hawk Skateboarding. Alan has published articles and books on technology, media and social impact in Scientific American, Education Week, Huffington Post, Slate, Politico, Marketwatch and Knowledge Quest. He is co-author of Designing Reality: How to Survive and Thrive in the 3rd Digital Revolution.
Alan has served on the Board of FilmAid International and Impact Guild, Advisory Boards for iCivics, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, PBS New Media and Materiom . He is a Founding Industry Fellow at the ASU Center for Games and Impact and Co-Founder of Experimental Design, a leading world building design agency as well as Endless Studios, a globally distributed youth-led game development studio.
Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 1,400 public television and radio stations worldwide.
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard honored Goodman with the 2014 I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also the first journalist to receive the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ for “developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media.” She is the first co-recipient of the Park Center for Independent Media’s Izzy Award, named for the great muckraking journalist I.F. Stone, and was later selected for induction into the Park Center’s I.F. Stone Hall of Fame. The Independent of London called Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! “an inspiration.”
Goodman has co-authored six New York Times bestsellers. Her latest, Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America, looks back over the past two decades of Democracy Now! and the powerful movements and charismatic leaders who are re-shaping our world. Before than, The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope, and Breaking the Sound Barrier, both written with Denis Moynihan, give voice to the many ordinary people standing up to corporate and government power. She co-authored her first three bestsellers with her brother, journalist David Goodman: Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times (2008), Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back (2006) and The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them (2004). She co-writes a weekly column with Denis Moynihan (also produced as an audio podcast) syndicated by King Features, for which she was recognized in 2007 with the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Reporting.
Goodman has received the Society for Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence; American Women in Radio and Television Gracie Award; the Paley Center for Media’s She’s Made It Award; and the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Her reporting on East Timor and Nigeria has won numerous awards, including the George Polk Award, Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award. Time Magazine named Democracy Now! its “Pick of the Podcasts,” along with NBC’s Meet the Press. PULSE named Goodman one of the 20 Top Global Media Figures of 2009.
She has also received awards from the Associated Press, United Press International, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Project Censored. Goodman received the first ever Communication for Peace Award from the World Association for Christian Communication. She was also honored by the National Council of Teachers of English with the George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language.
Sam Gregory is an award-winning technologist, media-maker, and advocate, and the Executive Director of WITNESS (witness.org), a global network which helps people use video and technology to defend human rights. He is an expert on smartphone witnessing, deepfakes and generative AI as well as innovations in preserving trust, authenticity and evidence in an era of increasing audiovisual communication and mis/disinformation. As the Executive Director of WITNESS, Sam leads the organization’s five-year strategic plan to “Fortify the Truth” and champions WITNESS’ global team of activists and partners who support millions of people using video and technology globally to defend and protect human rights.
In 2018, Sam initiated the first globally focused effort to “Prepare, Don’t Panic” (gen-ai.witness.org) around deepfakes, synthetic media and advances in generative AI, and to ensure policies, technologies, and infrastructure reflect critical global demands and are grounded in the needs and realities of frontline journalists, human rights defenders and civil society.
Sam specializes in foresight and strategic innovation with a track record in anticipating and proactively responding to pivotal shifts in use of cellphones and social media, citizen journalism, live-streaming, and AI. As an organizational leader he has overall responsibility for a team of 50 and over $6million budget. He has played a critical role in leading WITNESS through a series of strategic programmatic shifts reflecting changes in the technology, media and human rights landscape, as well as major growth in staff and budget.
Sam has served on the Technology Advisory Board of the International Criminal Court, co-chaired the Partnership on AI’s Expert Group on AI and the Media, and lead the Threats and Harms Taskforce within the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA). He has written for WIRED and The Hill and in a range of academic journals, and been interviewed by NPR, BBC, Al-Jazeera, The New York Times, Washington Post, MIT Tech Review, and The Economist, among other media. From 2010-18 he taught the first Harvard course on participatory media and human rights.
Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro
Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro is the CEO and co-founder of the National Trust for Local News, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving, transforming, and sustaining community news organizations. We build stronger communities by keeping local news in local hands. As the only organization dedicated to strengthening existing sources of local news, we pair national expertise with local knowledge and commitment to ensure long-term, sustainable local news.
From 2020 – 2022, Dr. Hansen Shapiro was a Senior Research Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School. At the Tow Center, Dr. Hansen Shapiro’s work focused on the future of journalism in public media and public policies to support local news. She has published research on the impact of local media collaboratives; combining audience revenue and engagement strategies; the relationship between news publishers, social scientists, and social platforms; and the opportunities and challenges of funding local and single-subject news. From 2017 – 2020, Dr. Hansen Shapiro led the news sustainability research at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She also served as the Research Director for the Membership Puzzle Project’s Guide to Membership in News. From 2016 – 2017 she was a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She received her PhD in Organizational Behavior and Sociology from Harvard Business School.
Thomas Allen Harris
Thomas Allen Harris is an award-winning artist whose work across film, photography, and performance illuminates the human condition and the search for identity, family, and spirituality. In 2021, Harris co-founded Family Pictures Institute for Inclusive Storytelling (FPIIS) which grew out of his socially engaged transmedia project Digital Diaspora Family Reunion and the PBS series Family Pictures USA which garnered an audience of more than 5.3 million. FPIIS connects people across difference using the family photo album. His current project is documentary film and community outreach initiative My Mom, The Scientist, which explores African American participation in STEM.
Crystal Hayling (she/her), Executive Director of the Libra Foundation, has brought a fresh vision of philanthropy that rejects business as usual and is responsive to the needs of frontline communities. Since 2017, Crystal has worked with the Libra board to advance these goals, including doubling Libra’s grantmaking in 2020 in light of the global pandemic and uprisings, and launching the Democracy Frontlines Fund, a new aligned giving strategy that raised $36 million in unrestricted, multi-year support for a slate of Black-led organizations.
Crystal is a graduate of Yale University and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Prior to Libra, Crystal served as CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation, where she spearheaded work to achieve universal health coverage. She was also part of the founding team at The California Wellness Foundation, where she led a groundbreaking initiative to shift youth violence prevention from a criminal justice issue to a public health effort. Crystal currently serves on the boards of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Essie Justice Group, Community Change, and most recently joined the board of the Democracy Fund and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. She frequently writes and publishes on leading edge topics in philanthropy, and Inside Philanthropy named Crystal “2021 Foundation Leader of the Year.”
Lizzy Hazeltine is the director of North Carolina Local News Lab Fund, a pooled fund that has invested more than $4 million in expanding the reach, utility, equity, and sustainability of the state’s news and information ecosystem. She leads the fund’s overall strategy and portfolio, supports funders to maximize their impact, weaves connections among organizations in the news and information ecosystem and tracks and amplifies lessons learned. She also coaches teams in various national news transformation programs and supports industry-wide learning around revenue and racial, class equity. Lizzy trained as a journalist at UNC Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar.
Maria Hinojosa is the Pulitzer Prize-winning founder of Futuro Media based in New York City. She has written four books, won multiple awards, and these days her focus is deep accountability investigative journalism.
Valerie June Hockett
Valerie June Hockett is a Grammy-nominated artist from Tennessee. She’s been hailed by the New York Times as one of America’s “most intriguing, fully formed new talents.” A musician, poet, certified yoga and mindfulness meditation instructor, and author, she honorably served as a Turnaround artist working with students for the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities and continues serving through The Kennedy Center. She has recorded three critically acclaimed, best-selling solo albums and has also written songs for legendary artists such as Mavis Staples and The Blind Boys of Alabama. Her albums have been praised by numerous publications such as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, NPR Music, Mojo, Uncut and many others. She’s been featured on The Tonight Show, CBS, PBS, Austin City Limits, BBC, and many more. When she’s not touring, she splits her time between Tennessee and New York.
Tim Isgitt is a nonprofit leader who has worked throughout his career to strengthen and advance public interest media. He is the CEO of Public Media Company, a nonprofit strategic consulting firm that works with public and independent media organizations to drive growth, facilitate partnerships, and provide a variety of other services.
Tim previously served as Managing Director at Humanity United, a human rights-focused philanthropic organization. Under his leadership, Tim helped the organization focus and redevelop its mission, values, and strategic direction. He also built a public engagement portfolio aimed at cultivating greater levels of understanding, accountability, and action from key stakeholders, including lawmakers, corporations, investors, and civil society organizations. The portfolio includes an Independent Journalism and Media program that supports a variety of journalists and newsrooms in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
Tim also served as Senior Vice President of Communications and Government Affairs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and in leadership and service roles at the U.S. State Department, and at the public affairs firms Burson-Marsteller and Meyers & Associates. He began his career as a legislative assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives. He received his BA in political science from Texas A&M University, and his MA in government from The Johns Hopkins University.
He serves on the boards of Media Impact Funders, a membership organization that advances the work of a broad range of funders committed to effective use and support of media in the public interest, and The Fuller Project, a global newsroom dedicated to groundbreaking reporting on women. Tim lives in northern California with his husband, son, and two dogs.
Imara Jones, whose work has won Emmy and Peabody Awards, is the creator of TransLash Media, a cross-platform, non-profit journalism and narrative organization, which produces content to shift the current culture of hostility towards transgender people in the US. She was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People on the planet in 2023. As part of her work at TransLash, Imara hosts the TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones, which received the 2023 Outstanding Podcast Award from GLAAD ; as well as the investigative, limited series, The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality which received the Excellence in Podcasting Award from the National LGBTQ+ Journalists Association. Imara is also the first trans person to ever receive an award from the National Black Journalists Association, having garnered the Journalist of Distinction Award in 2022. Also in 2022, Politico named her as one of the 40 power players at the intersection of race, politics, and policy in the United States. In 2020 Imara was featured on the cover of Time Magazine as part of its New American Revolution special edition. In 2019 she chaired the first-ever UN High Level Meeting on Gender Diversity with over 600 participants. Imara has been featured regularly in The Guardian, The Nation, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, Fast Company and GQ. Imara is a 2021 Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow and a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow. She serves on the New York City Commission on Gender Equity. She also serves as Chair of the Board for the Transgender Law Center, the nation’s largest transgender non-profit organization, and as Co-Chair of the New Pride Agenda. Imara is als on the boards of the GLSEN, and the LGBTQ+ Museum. Imara is also part of the Move to End Violence.
Amy L. Kovac-Ashley
Amy L. Kovac-Ashley is the Lenfest Institute’s Head of National Programs. A key part of her portfolio is overseeing and nurturing the Institute’s communities of practice, which include the News Philanthropy Network, the Audience Development community, the Statewide News Collective and the Engaged Cities community. Amy is the author of the News Executive Leadership Transition Guide, the product of her fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute. She currently serves on the board of directors of the nonprofit news organization Open Campus Media. Amy is an adviser and coach to news leaders on organizational and cultural change, succession planning and DEIB initiatives. She has been an executive in the journalism support space and has led nationwide news transformation programs aimed at increasing the sustainability of local news and centering community listening and engagement in the work of news organizations. In the early part of her career, she worked for a dozen years as a reporter and editor for a number of local, national and international news organizations.
Rebecca Landsberry-Baker is a Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program grantee, Ford Foundation JustFilms grantee, and a 2022 NBC Original Voices Fellow. She is a 2022 Gotham Documentary Feature Lab Fellow and was selected to the Harvard Shorenstein News Leaders Fall 2022 cohort. She is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the executive director of the Native American Journalists Association. Landsberry-Baker made her directorial debut with the documentary feature, BAD PRESS, at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival where it won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Freedom of Expression. The film was also recognized with the One in a Million Award from the 2023 Sun Valley Film Festival and Best Documentary Feature from RiverRun International Film Festival, Dallas International Film Festival, Berkshire International Film Festival, and deadCenter Film Festival. She and co-director Joe Peeler were awarded Best Director at the 2023 Nevada City Film Festival.
Kathryn O’Neal-Dunham is the CEO of Philanthropy New York, a trusted community of nearly 300 philanthropic organizations. PNY develops forward-thinking guidance, programming, and advocacy to address the unique challenges of philanthropy and convenes funders to strengthen ties across the sector. Kathryn previously served as the organization’s COO, shepherding PNY’s strategic planning and annual learning and evaluation processes, and developing the organization’s racial equity practices.
She has a track record of building and nurturing talented teams and thinking strategically to ensure financial stability and organizational growth. She provided leadership in Philanthropy New York’s successful Fund for 2025 campaign and more recently championed the organization’s process to reimagine its values. In 2020, O’Neal-Dunham was responsible for strengthening key partnerships across the City and State’s nonprofit associations while navigating the maze of advocacy needs during the COVID crisis.
Before joining Philanthropy New York, she held leadership roles at United Way of New York City and the Macquarie Group Foundation. At UWNYC, she led a Task Force of academics, practitioners, and community leaders to design the organization’s community investment strategy around income stability. She built Macquarie’s philanthropic strategy and partnerships in the Americas and crafted the process to revise the Foundation’s strategic goals and objectives.
Early in her career, Kathryn worked in community-based organizations, managing the fundraising and external affairs of Inwood House and the recruitment functions of a New York City-based mentoring program.
Kathryn has a B.A. in Clinical Psychology from Tufts University and received her Master’s degree in Public Administration and Health Policy from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Affairs at NYU. She is a Trustee and member of the Executive Committee of the Children’s Village and was previously a Warden of the Church of the Epiphany in New York City.
Rashad Mahmood works to support local journalism in New Mexico as the Executive Director of the New Mexico Local News Fund. His focus is on local news equity, ensuring that people and communities all over the state have access to the news and information they need. Before coming to New Mexico a decade ago, he worked in international development in Washington DC, Egypt and Iraq. He has worked in print, online and radio journalism. In New Mexico he worked for the youth media organization Generation Justice and KUNM 89.9 FM Radio.”
Lauren Pabst is a Senior Program Officer in the Journalism and Media program at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, where she works on the Foundation’s funding of nonprofit newsrooms and nonfiction multimedia storytelling. Recently she has worked on the initial stages of the Foundation’s new collaborative Big Bet in local news, Press Forward. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2012, she worked in documentary film production and research.
Christopher Potter is co-founder and director of the International Journalism Festival. He graduated in Economics from the University of Manchester.
Tracie Powell is a leader in philanthropic efforts to increase racial equity and diversity in news media. She is the founder of The Pivot Fund, which seeks to support independent BIPOC community news.
Powell was a Fall 2021 Shorenstein Center Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, where she researched mechanisms for funding and capacity building for media outlets run by and for BIPOCTM (Black, Indigenous, other people of color, and traditionally marginalized) communities. Powell is the immediate past board chair of LION Publishers, a professional journalism association for independent news publishers where she had served on the board since 2017.
Prior to her work with The Pivot Fund and Harvard, Powell was the founding fund manager of the Racial Equity in Journalism (REJ) Fund at Borealis Philanthropy. Powell is also the founder of AllDigitocracy.org, which focuses on the media and its impact on diverse communities. She was a senior fellow with the Democracy Fund, where she worked on the Public Square Initiative that seeks to support informed dialogue through nonprofit journalism investments. Powell was a 2016 JSK (Knight) Fellow at Stanford University and has written regularly for the Columbia Journalism Review and Poynter Online. Her work has been highlighted by countless journalism and academic institutions, including Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and The University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Jennifer Preston is an independent philanthropic advisor and founder of Accelerate Philanthropy for Journalism, a new project she designed while a 2022 fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center. The project produces research, donor education and coaching for funders. She launched the work this year as a consultant for Media Impact Funders on a major new survey of funders and the field with NORC at the University of Chicago and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Jennifer was previously the former Vice President for Journalism at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where she managed the nation’s largest portfolio of investments in U.S. journalism from 2014 until 2021. Before joining Knight, she spent almost two decades at The New York Times as a reporter, senior editor, newsroom executive and social media pioneer.
Tom Rosenstiel is one of the country’s most recognized thinkers on the future of news and the intersection of media and politics. He is the Eleanor Merrill Professor on the Future of News and a Professor of the Practice at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and the author of 11 books, including four novels. Before joining the University of Maryland this year, he was for nine years the Executive Director of the American Press Institute and previously founder and for 16 years director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, one of the five original projects of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. He was co-founder and vices chair of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. He a consultant and Senior Fellow to NORC at the University of Chicago, which does polling and social science research, including the polling and election night analysis for the Associated Press. He is also a former non-resident senior scholar at the Brookings Institution.
Among his seven books on journalism, politics and ethics is “The Elements of Journalism: What News People Should Know and the Public Should Expect,” co-authored with Bill Kovach, which has been translated into more than 25 languages and is used widely in journalism education worldwide. It has been called “a modern classic” (NYT) and one of the five best books ever written on journalism (WSJ).
Tom’s media criticism, his nonfiction books and his research work at API and at PEJ have generated more than 60,000 academic citations.
His first novel, “Shining City” (2017), about a supreme court nomination, was an NPR Book of the Year. His second, “The Good Lie” (2019), about a terrorist incident, was a Washington Post best seller. His third, “Oppo,” about a presidential campaign, was published in December 2019. The New York Times described his fourth, “The Days to Come,” published November 2021, “genuinely thought provoking and lives up to its ambition.”
During his journalism career he worked as media writer for the Los Angeles Times for a decade, chief congressional correspondent for Newsweek, press critic for MSNBC, business editor of the Peninsula Times Tribune, a reporter for Jack Anderson’s Washington Merry Go ‘Round column. He began his career at the Woodside Country Almanac in his native California.
Among his awards the Goldsmith book Award from Harvard, four medals for Journalism Research from the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Columbia Journalism School Distinguished Alumni Award.
John Rudolph is the Executive Producer and founder of Feet in 2 Worlds (Fi2W), a non-profit news outlet and journalism training program for immigrant voices. Feet in 2 Worlds’ mission is to address the historic underrepresentation of immigrants and people of color in the news media. Over a career spanning nearly 50 years, John has worked in public and commercial radio as a news director, program host, reporter, editor and producer of documentaries, podcasts and news reports.
John produced the award-winning documentary Feet in Two Worlds: Immigrants in a Global City, which was the debut for Feet in 2 Worlds. Starting in 1999 he worked with WNYC to chronicle the life of the city in programs such as Six Months: Rebuilding Our City, Rebuilding Ourselves, a documentary series that explored the impact of the 9/11 attacks, and New York in Black and White: The Sixties, Civil Rights and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis, named “Best news special/documentary, First Place” for 2000 by the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association. He produced and hosted Culture Lessons: Stories of Students at Manchester Central High School, winner of the 2007 RTNDA/Unity award. This documentary, produced for New Hampshire Public Radio, tells the story of a public high school with a large immigrant and refugee population. John has taught journalism at The New School, The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine and Boston University.
Founded in 2004, Fi2W offers paid fellowships and skill-building workshops to early and mid-career journalists interested in making stories for radio, podcasts, and online news. The Fi2W network includes hundreds of reporters, editors and producers at news outlets across the U.S. and overseas, whose careers have been directly and significantly impacted by the training, mentoring and support they receive from Feet in 2 Worlds. Current Fi2W projects include A Better Life?, an award-winning podcast series that explores how Covid has changed immigrants’ lives and challenged their ideas about the promise of America; Conecta Arizona, a news service for Spanish-speakers in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, that combats misinformation and helps builds a sustainable information ecosystem and community empowerment; and Immigrants in a Divided Country, a multimedia series that explores how immigrants are impacted by current U.S. politics.
Nina Sachdev brings more than 20 years of journalism, news editing and marketing experience to her role as a communications director for Media Impact Funders (MIF). Nina began her career in journalism at The Dallas Morning News, where—as an intern on the copy desk—she was tasked with editing the obituaries of famous people who hadn’t yet died. Since then, Nina has worked at The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, The Philadelphia Daily News and The Philadelphia Weekly in almost every editorial capacity imaginable. Nina is the creator and editor of the award-winning The Survivors Project: Telling the Truth About Life After Sexual Abuse, which exposes the reality of healing from the effects of sexual abuse. Nina holds an M.A. in journalism from Temple University.
Mythili Sampathkumar is a freelance journalist based in NYC. She has been a reporter, editor, newsletter manager, and social media manager in addition to filling roles in news curation and serving as the current president of the South Asian Journalist Association. Her bylines can be found in The New York Times, LA Times, NBC News, Fortune, Forbes, The New Republic, Daily Beast, Teen Vogue, Vox, and The Independent where she was a staff reporter covering the US.
Mythili became a journalist because she sees it as a public service and has spent much of this second career traveling around the world and indulging an eclectic set of interests through being a general assignment reporter and editor. But, her main beats include climate change, politics, foreign policy, and stories about Asian American communities. She also runs a newsletter for NYU’s Public Interest Technology Alliance where she gets the opportunity to interview experts working at the intersection of tech, policy, and the politics that go along with that. At CUNY’s Center for Community Media, Mythili works on issues pertaining to independent, hyperlocal news publications and the role they serve in their communities.
She is also a collage artist with a few designed items being sold in stores like Target and makes pieces using only secondhand and upcycled materials and tools.
Nancy Schwartzman is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.
Nominated for the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival and the F:ACT Award at CPH: Dox, her newest film, Victim/Suspect follows Investigative journalist Rae de Leon as she travels nationwide to uncover and examine a shocking pattern: Young women tell the police they’ve been sexually assaulted, but instead of finding justice, they’re charged with the crime of making a false report, arrested, and even imprisoned by the system they believed would protect them. It is a Netflix Original documentary with the Center for Investigative Reporting and Motto Pictures. The film premiered on Netflix to 190 countries on May 23, 2023 and trended #6 in the United States, and in the top #10 globally in 28 countries.
She is the creator and director of a 6-part original series for Freeform/Disney with XTR Studios, currently in production.
Her debut feature documentary Roll Red Roll (PBS/BBC/Netflix) was nominated for a Peabody award, and exposed the notorious Steubenville, Ohio high school sexual assault case and uncovered the social-media fueled “boys will be boys” culture that let it happen. Roll Red Roll garnered 7 best documentary awards, premiered in 2018 at the Tribeca Film Festival and Hot Docs, and has screened at over 40 film festivals worldwide. The film opened theatrically with 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was a Critic’s Pick in The New York Times and reviewed in The New Yorker, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times amongst others.
She is the author of a recent non-fiction book Roll Red Roll: Rape, Power and Football in the American Heartland released in July 2022 with Hachette and received stellar reviews from the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus and Library Journal. This is a deep dive into the Steubenville, Ohio case and a follow-up from the award-winning film.
Her short films including One Shot One Kill, for Mother Jones (2020) and Anonymous Comes To Town (2019), co-produced with the Tribeca Film Institute and Gucci’s Chime for Change, have garnered over 5 million views.
For her human rights filmmaking and technology development to prevent sexual violence, she is the winner of awards from the Obama/Biden White House, the United Nations and the Avon Foundation. She is a tech founder and created the Circle of 6 safety app.
She is represented by UTA, a graduate of Columbia University and newly based in Los Angeles
Robin Sparkman is the President and co-CEO of ProPublica. The largest investigative newsroom in the country, and the recipient of six Pulitzer Prizes, ProPublica has local investigative teams in NY, the Midwest, South, Southwest and in Austin, Texas in a partnership with the Texas Tribune. Robin has responsibility for all of ProPublica’s non-journalism operations. Prior to ProPublica, she was the founding CEO of nonprofit media organization StoryCorps for 8 years. Previously, she spent more than two decades as a reporter and editor. She served as editor-in-chief of the American Lawyer from 2010-2014, and earlier as executive editor, as well as deputy editorial director of parent company American Lawyer Media. Previous work included stints at MSNBC.com and Newsweek. She is a graduate of Wellesley College, magna cum laude, and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. In her spare team she serves on the executive committee of the board of Union Settlement of East Harlem. She lives in NYC with her husband and daughters.
Alvin Starks (he/him) is a Division Director at the Open Society Foundations (OS-U.S.) and manages strategic investments to elevate visionary and influential pro-democracy narrative interventions that mobilizes communities, harnesses public policies and structural systems to inspire new ideas for long-term cultural and political shifts to build and sustain an inclusive multi-racial democracy. His work centralizes the importance of racial justice and gender equity within a rapidly changing democracy, and co-led a groundbreaking multi-year $200 million dollar investment from OSF to advance racial justice, equity and inclusion.
Alvin has received numerous awards and is a well-recognized leader in philanthropy and racial justice advocacy with over two decades experience on race, anti-discrimination and cultural advocacy. His work has focused within the United States and abroad (with a specific focus in Brazil, France and the Global South),engaging transformative social justice efforts through litigation, the arts, LGBTQI advocacy, promotion of civil and human rights, leadership building and cross movement-building. He is a graduate of the State University of New York and Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Science.
Before joining Media Impact Funders in 2011 as executive director, Vince was program director for Nonprofit Sector Support at the Surdna Foundation, a family foundation based in New York City. Prior to joining Surdna, Stehle worked for 10 years as a reporter for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, where he covered a broad range of issues about the nonprofit sector. Stehle has served as chairperson of Philanthropy New York and on the governing boards of VolunteerMatch and the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). Currently, he serves on the board of directors of the Center for Effective Philanthropy.
Nabiha Syed is the chief executive officer of The Markup, an award-winning media startup that challenges technology to serve the public good. The Markup’s award-winning approach combines engineering and investigative journalism, and was recognized as “Most Innovative” by FastCompany in 2022. Nabiha has been recognized by the NAACP as a digital civil rights icon in 2023.
Nabiha has tackled First Amendment issues at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; represented asylum-seekers in south Texas; counseled on whether to publish hacked material; and advised two presidents on free speech in the digital age. For her legal work, she was named a “40 Under 40 Rising Star” by the New York Law Journal, received an inaugural Reporter’s Committee for the Freedom of the Press award, and invited to deliver the Salant Lecture at Harvard. She holds a law degree from Yale Law School and from Balliol College, Oxford University, which she attended as a Marshall Scholar.
Prior to The Markup, as BuzzFeed’s first newsroom lawyer, she oversaw high-stakes litigation, including the “Steele Dossier” litigation, as well as select international, security, and cross-company strategic initiatives. Prior to that, she was a lawyer at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, a leading media law firm, and the First Amendment Fellow at The New York Times. Nabiha has been described as “one of the best emerging free speech lawyers” by Forbes magazine. She serves on the boards of the New York Civil Liberties Union, The New Press, and others.
Nabiha lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two young sons. She is a lifelong Girl Scout.
Naomi Tacuyan Underwood
Naomi Tacuyan Underwood is executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), a national membership nonprofit dedicated to increasing diversity in newsrooms, and ensuring that AAPIs and other communities of color are portrayed fairly and accurately in the media. AAJA’s leadership programs have increased opportunities for AAPI journalists at all levels; our Guide to Covering Asian America, MediaWatch work, and community trainings all serve to hold journalism to higher standards inclusive of our nation’s growing diversity.
Naomi has two decades of experience in nonprofit management, coalition and stakeholder engagement, legislative advocacy, and impact-oriented program development and management. Her career has been built on empowering communities and building capacity for successful and effective civic engagement partnerships and coalitions. Through this work of empowering AAPIs and capacity building and strategic positioning of AAPI organizations and their efforts, Naomi has helped increase the visibility and the civic potential of the AAPI community. Prior to AAJA, she served as Director of Programs at The Faith & Politics Institute, where she helped lead bipartisan civil rights and historical pilgrimages for Members of Congress.
Previously, she served as legislative staff for Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, where her portfolio included territorial issues, natural resources and the environment, and AAPI issues. Naomi’s prior experiences include political and constituency outreach at the Democratic National Committee, where she developed and implemented comprehensive national outreach and voter contact plans for national elections. She served as Deputy Director for APIAVote overseeing training, capacity building, outreach and voter contact, and media efforts for the 2008 presidential election. Naomi is a Filipina immigrant who grew up on the island territory of Guam. She received her Master of Public Policy from UCLA, and her undergraduate degree in Journalism and A/P/A Studies from NYU.
Wendi C. Thomas
Wendi C. Thomas is the founding editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, an award-winning nonprofit newsroom in Memphis focused on poverty, power and policy.
A 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, Thomas previously worked at The Commercial Appeal, The Charlotte Observer, The Tennessean and The Indianapolis Star.
As part of ProPublica’s 2019 Local Reporting Network, she investigated a nonprofit hospital’s aggressive debt collection practices, which led the hospital to erase nearly $12 million in hospital debt for more than 5,300 defendants.
The investigation earned her the 2020 Selden Ring Award, a first place tie in the Investigative Reporters & Editors 2019 award and a 2020 Gerald Loeb Award, among other honors.
In March 2021, Thomas was named to Memphis Business Journal’s 2021 Power 100 list, which recognizes the city’s most influential business leaders. In 2022, she received the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’ Local Champion Award.
Thomas is a 1993 graduate of Butler University and a proud product of Memphis City Schools.
Emily Tow joined The Tow Foundation’s Board of Directors in 1990, two years after its inception, and has served as the Foundation’s president since 1995. Under Emily’s leadership, what started simply as a way for her family to give back to the community has grown into a well-established organization of 12 full-time staff with over $20 million in annual giving. In her role as president, Emily upholds the Tow legacy by advancing the strategic direction of the Foundation and engaging the next generation of family members in the work. Emily’s
commitment to the Foundation’s areas of focus extends far beyond her role as president. She is a trustee of New York Public Radio and The Marshall Project and serves on the Advisory Committee of the American Theatre Wing. She was also appointed by New York’s governor to serve on the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group. Emily earned her B.A. in history from Barnard College and received an honorary Doctor of Criminal Justice degree from University of New Haven in 2017.
Susan Valentine is Director of the Media Division in Global Programs at the Open Society Foundations where she has worked for nearly eight years providing grants and other support to strengthen and protect independent media. Prior to joining OSF, Sue was the Africa Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the US-based non-profit. Previously she held senior positions in the mainstream media and civil society in South Africa during the transition to democracy and in the post-apartheid years. This included a period as executive producer of the daily current affairs shows on the SABC, the country’s national public radio, and the launch of a digital news agency, Health-e, during the height of South Africa’s HIV/AIDS pandemic. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2003.
Jose Antonio Vargas
Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and Tony-nominated theatrical producer. A leading voice for the human rights of immigrants, he founded the non-profit narrative change organization Define American, named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company.
His best-selling memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published by HarperCollins in 2018. His second book, White Is Not a Country, will be published by Knopf in 2024.
In 2019, he co-produced Heidi Schreck’s acclaimed Broadway play What the Constitution Means to Me, which was nominated for a Tony Award for “Best Play” and is streamable on Amazon Prime Video. His second Broadway production, a staging of David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s musical Here Lies Love, opened at the Broadway Theatre in July 2023.
Steven Waldman is the founder and president of Rebuild Local News. He is also the co-founder and former president of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in newsrooms across America, Before becoming an advocate for local journalism, Waldman was a journalist covering national politics for Newsweek, U.S. News and World Reports and Washington Monthly. Later, he wrote a report for the Federal Communications Commission, outlining the information needs of communities.
The JX Fund – European Fund for Journalism in Exile supports media and journalists who have fled war and crisis regions to quickly and flexibly continue their work in exile. Since its launch in April 2022 it has supported 55 media to get up and running in exile. More than 1,600 journalists could resume their work in exile. As a joint initiative by Reporters without Borders, Rudolf-Augstein-Foundation and Schoepflin-Foundation it is supported by a broad alliance of media, civil society organizations, and an extensive donor pool.
Before building up the JX Fund Penelope Winterhager was chief creative officer and publishing director of Tagesspiegel, the leading newspaper of Germanys capital Berlin. Prior to that she led the communication agencies Scholz & Friends as managing director and FCB as president Germany.
Shane D. Zimmerman
Shane D. Zimmerman is president of the James Hale Steinman family office, Chrisaway, LLC. His work for the Steinman family began in 2013 with responsibilities that include serving as president of The Steinman Foundation and Steinman Coal Corporation. He is president of Steinman Communications Inc., a diversified holding company with a family of operating entities that includes Susquehanna Printing of Lancaster, LLC, Lancaster Farming, Inc. and Steinman Real Estate, LLC. Prior to joining Steinman Communications, Mr. Zimmerman served as the banking director of the Central and Northeast Pennsylvania markets for PNC Wealth Management where he spent 17 of his 24 years in the wealth management and private banking industry. He currently serves on the board of directors of Lancaster Farmland Trust, Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, Security National Trust Company (SNTC), a nationally chartered trust company based in Wheeling, West Virginia and SNTC’s parent company, HB&W, Inc. He is a member of the investment committee of the Lancaster County Community Foundation. Mr. Zimmerman is a 1989 graduate of Elizabethtown College.