Knight Media Forum 2024
Pérez Wadsworth & Palfrey Announce Tripling of Press Forward Local Chapters
At #KMF24, @macfound’s @jpalfrey says local news isn’t the only
answer to democracy’s challenges, but “it is one very tangible, one very practical intervention that we
can fund”. pic.twitter.com/41sxydmUkL— Knight Foundation
Alicia Bell (they/she) is a strategist, community organizer, parent, caretaker and weaver currently serving as the Director of the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund at Borealis Philanthropy. They manifest ubuntu as a nationally recognized expert in community engagement, media reparations, and BIPOC journalism. Professionally, Bell began her journalism work in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, and even as her work grows to a national and global scale, remaining connected and rooted locally remains imperative. Personally, Bell’s work in journalism is an effort to alchemize the media harm that laid the foundation for the material harm their friends and family have experienced regarding incarceration, poverty, HIV, colonization and more.
With over a decade of experience in philanthropy, Courtney Bengtson excels in funder, community and media relations, grantmaking and market research. As chief strategy officer at Wichita Foundation since October 2021, she guides the organization’s vision, manages a more than $1 million grant portfolio and oversees a $5 million impact investment fund. In her prior role as director of strategic initiatives, Bengtson integrated strategy, funding and initiatives, managing Wichita Foundation’s largest grant to date.
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 $55 million in investments in its growing portfolio of 44 nonprofit local news organizations (40 established organizations and four startups currently being incubated).
Jim Brady has been vice president of Journalism at Knight Foundation since 2021 and oversees Knight’s journalism portfolio of more than $200 million. During his tenure, he was instrumental in developing the strategic framework behind Press Forward, a $500 million effort to revitalize local news in the United States. A longtime digital media innovator and executive, Brady has guided Knight’s investments in sustainable and scalable local news business models that allow for revenue diversification, market expansion, strategic partnerships, and innovative product development. His previous experience ranges from leading major brands such as washingtonpost.com and Digital First Media to starting a company that built local news sites in three cities. He served as CEO of Spirited Media, which developed the local news sites Billy Penn in Philadelphia, the Incline in Pittsburgh and Denverite in Denver. Brady differentiated the organizations with a mobile-first approach and a business focus on events and membership — rather than advertising — as core revenue lines. Previously, as editor-in-chief of Digital First Media, Brady was responsible for the strategy and management of the 75 daily newspapers, 292 non-daily publications and 341 online sites owned by Journal Register Company and MediaNews Group.
Danielle K. Brown, Ph.D. is the 1855 Community and Urban Journalism Professor at Michigan State University and director of the LIFT Project. Her interdisciplinary scholarship centers on the production, patterns and effects of media and misinformation about Black communities. In pursuit of developing reparative models of narrative change, Brown’s work uses mixed-methods approaches and prioritizes engaged efforts that provide meaningful connections between her research and the communities at the center of her research. Her research is published in an interdisciplinary selection of top academic journals including Nature, Journal of Communication, Social Media + Society, and Political Communication. She serves as an associate editor for the International Journal of Press/Politics.
Heather Chaplin is the founding director of Journalism + Design at the New School, where she is an associate professor of journalism. She writes and speaks regularly on building resilient news systems for the future, work that has been supported by Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Democracy Fund, among others. Before joining tThe New School, Chaplin covered digital culture for All Things Considered, as well as publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, GQ and the Cut. She is the author of two books.
Cézanne Charles is a creative practitioner and researcher. Her work focuses on the intersection of art, design, technology, economy, social justice, and public policy. Together with John Marshall, she formed rootoftwo in 1998. Their projects explore the consequences of under-imagined futures and facilitate people to envision and shape collective actions for more just transformations. Rooted in physical making and computing practices, they create artifacts, spaces, publications, experiences, events and works for the public realm. They are 2023 Creative Capital Awardees for their forthcoming project ‘Anyspace? Whatever.’ Charles serves on the boards of Allied Media Projects, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and Design Core Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design initiative.
Amy Chester is the managing director for Rebuild by Design, which has catalyzed over $8 billion in investments into climate infrastructure by creating collaborative approaches to design and build systems and policies that help the most vulnerable communities adapt to climate change. Chester brings 25 years of experience in municipal policy, community engagement, real estate development and communications to advocate for the urban environment. Previously, Chester worked for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as chief of staff to the deputy mayor for legislative affairs and as a senior policy advisor, where she was responsible for the public engagement strategy of PlaNYC, the mayor’s sustainability agenda, which included initiatives such as the Million Trees Campaign, congestion pricing, and the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. Chester has worked with the New York City Council and more than a dozen electoral and issue-based campaigns, and has worked to build affordable housing and provide benefits to freelance workers.
Paul Cheung is a mission-driven executive driving transformative change in journalism. As the CEO of the Center for Public Integrity, he leads the charge in integrating investigative journalism, community- centered practices and data to hold the powerful to account. His previous role at the Knight Foundation focused on scaling AI, fostering business sustainability in media, and combating misinformation. With a career spanning over two decades, Cheung has consistently operated at the forefront of digital transformation in media, having initiated AI, VR/AR, and digital training programs. He has held leadership positions at outlets such as NBC News Digital, the Associated Press, the Miami Herald and the Wall Street Journal.
Following in the footsteps of his mother, Maiola T. Coleman, and grandmother, Tommie W. Thomas, Marcus Tillman Coleman Jr. serves at the intersection of building public-private partnerships with faith-based and nonprofit organizations. Coleman currently serves as the director for the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, one of several centers of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Marcus has supported a number of disaster activations, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Ida, Ian and Nicole; the Jackson Water Crisis; 2015 influx of unaccompanied children; Operation Allies Welcome; and post-incident national outreach after several active shooter and mass casualty incidents.
Matthew Copeland has served as WyoFile’s chief executive editor since 2017. In those years, WyoFile has more than octupled its audience, nearly quadrupled the ranks of its member contributors and tripled its staff. He is an award-winning writer and editor who began his relationship with WyoFile as a freelance reporter. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia, Copeland studied as a Howard Hughes Scholar of the Life Sciences and competed as a student athlete at Penn State, then served a six-year corporate sentence in the internet technology industry. Upon escape, he found his way to Lander, Wyoming, where he met his wife, started a family and was thoroughly ruined for a life lived anywhere else. Copeland is an avid hunter, angler and wild-country junkie who believes that facts matter, integrity is non-negotiable and few things are as powerful as a good story well told.
Beth Daley is the executive editor and general manager of the Conversation U.S. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for climate reporting at the Boston Globe, she also worked at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting as a reporter and director of partnerships. As director of strategic development at InsideClimate, she worked to diversify the Pulitzer Prize–winning news outlet’s revenue stream.
Sara Fischer is a senior media reporter for Axios and a founding staff member at Axios. She is also a media analyst at CNN. Fischer authors a weekly newsletter on media trends that reaches over 100,000 professionals across the media, tech and entertainment industries. Beyond her weekly column, Fischer oversees Axios’ media coverage for the newsroom and steers the company’s products and events around that topic. Her coverage spans corporate media, advertising and marketing, technology, social media, deals, entertainment, media regulation, policy and consumer habits.
Stefanie Friedhoff is co-founder of the Information Futures Lab, Professor of the Practice, and Senior Director of Strategy and Innovation at the Brown University School of Public Health. She is a leading journalism, communications and global health strategist with 30 years of experience in international media, academia and government. At Brown, she researches rapidly changing information ecosystems and the relationship between information inequities and health outcomes, and partners with creators of trusted information on new models for meeting the information needs of diverse communities.
Jesus Garcia-Gonzalez is a Senior Program Officer at the San Antonio Area Foundation overseeing the Livable and Resilient Communities Impact Area, where he manages a portfolio of organizations working at the intersection of food security, affordable housing, tree equity, healthcare access, immigrant and refugee rights, houseless LGBTQ, journalism and workforce development. Aside from leading the Press Forward South-Central Texas Chapter, he is currently leading the Latine Giving Trends study, which is the first study that will assess local Latine Giving and seeks to redefine what Latine Philanthropy is and how to better measure its impact.
Hollie Russon Gilman is a political reform program senior fellow at New America and an affiliate fellow at Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. She is currently serving as a senior advisor to the Trust for Civic Infrastructure. Her work focuses on topics at the intersection of civic engagement, digital technology and governance. Her research looks at building a more equitable, inclusive and genuine multiracial, multiethnic democracy. This includes exploring participatory innovation, civic infrastructure, cities and the opportunities and challenges of digital technologies to enhance governance and generate more equitable public policy. She led the working group to build a Trust for Civic Infrastructure from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences’ Our Common Purpose report.
Liza Gross is senior advisor at Solutions Journalism Network, an independent nonprofit organization working to legitimize and spread the practice of Solutions Journalism––rigorous, critical reporting on responses to social challenges. She specializes in building news collaboratives to strengthen local media ecosystems by transforming information flows to make them more participatory and inclusive. Gross has worked for over three decades as a journalist and media executive of news organizations and nonprofits. She is an expert specializing in the transition of traditional media outlets to a multimedia model and in the development and execution of innovative communications strategies for nonprofit organizations
Alvaro Gurdián is the Vice President of La Noticia, the leading Spanish-Language media company in North Carolina where he has worked for over 20 years. Along with his job at La Noticia, Alvaro volunteer’s his time to build an ecosystem that empowers small publishers, and specially publishers of color, though his work as a board member of LION and the National Association of Hispanic Publications(NAHP), where he is the President. Alvaro is also Vice-President of La Noticia Foundation a 501(c)3 organization which is the charitable arm of La Noticia, Inc. La Noticia Foundation was created in 2003 to help outstanding Latino students obtain a college education. Its mission is to help Latino students with the grades and the desire to go to college but without the financial means to do. In the last 15 years, La Noticia has given scholarships for more than $200,000. Besides his busy business schedule, Alvaro finds time to volunteer in the Charlotte community by serving on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, a group of people working to build economic mobility and access to opportunity to the most needed members of our community. He taught computer classes at The Latin American Coalition, served on the Board of Directors of McColl Center for Visual Arts and he is a former member of the Board of Directors of Loaves & Fishes.
Jarrad Henderson is a respected industry leader who seeks to democratize journalism by empowering diverse voices to share their stories. A 4-time Emmy Award-winning visual journalist, multimedia alchemist and inspirational educator, Henderson has produced impactful content in large newsrooms for over a decade — specializing in access to visual storytelling education, documentary filmmaking, photojournalism, video editing, media entrepreneurship, media literacy, mentorship and professional development.
Tatiana Hernandez is CEO of the Community Foundation of Boulder County. During her tenure, the foundation has led numerous disaster-related philanthropic efforts, including responses to COVID-19, a mass shooting and multiple fires. The foundation is currently responsible for the largest philanthropic response to a natural disaster in Colorado history. Prior to joining the foundation, Hernandez served as president of the Emily Griffith Foundation and was a senior program officer at the Kresge Foundation. In Boulder, Hernandez served as arts director for the Hemera Foundation where––in partnership with the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and Colorado Creative Industries––she developed Arts in Society, Colorado’s largest private-public funding program for the arts. Hernandez began her philanthropic career at the Knight Foundation, where she led the Knight Arts Challenge, supporting artists and arts organizations in eight cities. She oversaw a portfolio of more than $100 million in investments and distributed $10 million annually.
Sudhamshu is a Ph.D. student at Rutgers University working with Professor Kiran Garimella. He brings a multifaceted background to his research, with prior experiences as an engineer, computational social scientist, entrepreneur, and campaign strategist. Sudhamshu’s research focuses on studying and mitigating the effects of misinformation within diaspora communities through private messaging platforms like WhatsApp. His research focuses on building bespoke interventions and deepening engagement with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including community organizers and the individuals most directly affected. His commitment to translating research into actionable solutions is also reflected in his previous work, where he led data-driven advocacy campaigns to devise traffic decongestion strategies in India.
Mukhtar M. Ibrahim is the founder and CEO of Sahan Journal, a nonprofit news organization that covers Minnesota’s immigrants and communities of color. He is passionate about using journalism to empower communities and build a more equitable, informed, and engaged society. Mukhtar is known for his leadership in promoting sustainable business models for journalism and his standing as a thought leader in journalism. His leadership has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York’’s Great Immigrant Award, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal “40 Under 40”, and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’’s First Decade Award.
Sonny Messiah-Jiles is the CEO and publisher of the Defender Network, Houston’s leading Black information source. The network includes the Defender newspaper, the website www.defendernetwork.com and social media platforms. She has been at the company’s helm since 1981, when, at age 27, she purchased the newspaper. Messiah-Jiles is a founding member of Word-in-Black, a consortium of ten African American media companies. She is currently a board member of the Local Media Association. She has been chairperson of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (The Black Press of America), a federation of African American newspapers nationwide, and vice chair of the NNPA Fund.
S. Mitra Kalita is an award-winning veteran journalist, media executive, prolific commentator and author. At the height of the pandemic, Kalita founded two media companies to ensure communities of color are served, supported and centered. The first, Epicenter-NYC, which started as a newsletter to help New Yorkers get through COVID-19, is now a community journalism multiplatform company, and URL Media, a growing network of Black- and brown-owned media organizations that share content, distribution, and revenues to increase their long-term viability. She’s on the board of the Philadelphia Inquirer and writes a weekly column for TIME Magazine and Charter. Before launching her companies, Mitra served as senior vice president at CNN Digital, overseeing the national news, breaking news, programming, opinion, and features teams. Her media background also spans the Los Angeles Times, where she was managing editor, Wall Street Journal, Quartz and the Washington Post.
Kathy Kiely is the Lee Hills Chair for Free Press Studies at the Missouri School of Journalism. Before joining the Mizzou faculty, she was a reporter and editor for more than four decades, based in Washington, D.C. She worked for a number of regional and national news outlets, including USA TODAY, Bloomberg, the New York Daily News and the Houston Post, and helped cover ten presidential campaigns along with the occasional hurricane and international crisis. At Mizzou, Kiely teaches multimedia reporting and storytelling techniques to young journalists, provides support to professional journalists in distress and works to advance news literacy in her state and region.
Amy L. Kovac-Ashley is the executive director of the Tiny News Collective (TNC), whose mission is to support the voices historically excluded from media and media ownership. TNC provides the tools, resources and learning community to help news founders build sustainable news organizations that reflect and serve their communities. Kovac-Ashley has spent a dozen years coaching news organizations, executives and journalists. Her work at the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the American Press Institute focused on supporting local news sustainability and improving organizational culture. She was also a journalism educator and administrator at West Virginia University and Georgetown University. Previously, she was a reporter and editor in traditional and digital newsrooms across the East Coast and has a deep background in audience and community engagement.
Chris Krewson is the executive director of LION Publishers, a national nonprofit serving local journalism entrepreneurs, which counts more than 500 publishers as members across the United States and Canada. He’s a former vice president of strategy for Spirited Media, former founding editor at Philadelphia’s Billy Penn and the former top digital editor for Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is based in Havertown, just outside Philadelphia.
Marc Lavallee joined Knight Foundation in May 2022. He is the director of technology product and strategy for the Journalism program. Lavallee brings more than two decades of experience as a technologist and executive in the journalism industry to this role. Prior to joining Knight, Lavallee worked at the New York Times for over a decade, where he led cross-functional teams of developers, designers and product strategists in the newsroom and on the business side. In 2016, Lavallee launched a new research and development unit focused on applying emerging technologies like AI and 5G in the service of journalism. Previously, he was a software developer and technology architect at various news organizations, including NPR, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and National Journal.
Yuhong Liu is associate professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Santa Clara University (SCU). Her research interests include trustworthy computing and cyber security of emerging applications, such as online social media, Internet of Things and Blockchain. With her research expertise on online social network security and trustworthy computing, she served as the PI for the Alleviating Misinformation for Chinese Americans (AMICA) project, funded by Knight Foundation. In the AMICA project, the SCU team developed automated crawling/retrieval tools to create an ongoing repository of actors, posts, categories, entity-diversity and user engagement patterns for candidate misinformation operations targeting Chinese Americans. In addition, she serves as the TPC chair for the 2024 IEEE Digital Platforms and Societal Harms conference and is involved in the IEEE Standards P7011, Standard for the Process of Identifying and Rating the Trustworthiness of News Sources.
Rob Lloyd is deputy city manager for the City of San José, California, overseeing the Transportation, Aviation, and Technology service areas, as well as the Planning and Permitting Focus Area for the nation’s 12th-largest municipality—a $1.5 billion portfolio with over 1,000 employees. San José’s 7,000 employees and $5.5 billion budget serve one million residents and 60,000 businesses in the heart of Silicon Valley. Previously, Lloyd served as the city’s chief information officer, directing the municipality’s diverse civic technology portfolio. Over two decades, Lloyd has held C-level roles in the technology, government, and utilities sectors in California, Arizona, Oregon, and Colorado. His teams have earned over 35 national honors for customer engagement, for attaining operational excellence, and for innovative programs.
Edison Lopez was born in Margate, Florida, to Puerto Rican parents. He began creating content on TikTok at the age of 17 as an outlet for his passion for video creation. His content features a variety of comedic skits, including highlighting Latino double entendres and imitating diverse Latino accents. Lopez found his niche with his first viral video, “The Puerto Rican Kid at School, which he created in response to the lack of Puerto Rican representation on TikTok. Its popularity led him to not only focus on Puerto Rican subject matter, but also on Latino subject matter as a whole, recognizing the need for culturally relevant content and messaging. His videos grew to include history lessons on Latino music pioneers and trailblazers, factual history of Latin America, and more, often serving as the first introduction to historical and Latino targeted facts to his mostly Gen Z audience. Recognized for his storytelling and editing style, Lopez has collaborated with various brands, including Verizon, Adidas, Amazon and McDonalds and has been featured in media outlets such as ABC News Live, Vice, New York Times, Telemundo, and NPR.
Rafael Lorente became dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism on July 1, 2023. Previously, he was the associate dean for academic affairs, director of the master’s program, a senior lecturer, and director of the Capital News Service Washington, D.C., and Annapolis bureaus. Before joining academia, Lorente, a 1998 Merrill master’s alum, was a journalist at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald, particularly focused on legislative and political matters and higher education. As a reporter in Washington for the Sun Sentinel, he covered the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, the attacks of September 11, and U.S.-Cuba relations.
Mira Lowe is dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University. During her 30-plus year career in media, she has led and managed at award-winning newspapers in New York, iconic magazines in Chicago, a global digital and broadcast outlet based in Atlanta and a public media news center in Gainesville, Florida. As dean, Lowe serves as the chief academic and administrative officer of FAMU’s journalism and mass communications program. Prior to FAMU, Lowe was assistant dean for student experiences and director of the Innovation News Center at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications; senior editor at CNN Digital, where she managed the planning, execution and programming of features content on multiple verticals and special projects across a global portfolio; editor-in-chief of JET magazine, becoming the first woman to helm the venerable African -American newsweekly; and assistant managing editor for its sister publication, Ebony magazine, at Johnson Publishing Company.
Duc Luu joined Knight Foundation in January 2022. He is the director of sustainability initiatives of the Journalism program. Luu is a business development and operational leader with more than a decade of experience across media and research organizations. Prior to joining Knight, he was publisher and chief revenue officer for Washington City Paper, a local news leader for the Washington, DC, area. He has also served in business development and new product innovation roles at the Economist and Foreign Policy magazine.
Mark MacGann has thirty years’ experience at the nexus of business and government, having served in global senior executive and management roles for some of the world’s most successful corporations (Uber, NYSE, Veon, Nokia). Until recently, he served as a Commissioner of the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development. In early 2022, he embarked on a life-changing journey with some of the world’s most experienced investigative journalists, and since then he has been known as the whistle-blower behind the Uber Files. He is currently working on a number of writing and academic projects, and continues to advocate for greater transparency in lobbying, and stronger social protection for millions of so-called platform, or gig workers.
Elodie Mailliet Storm is a recognized creative and business leader in the visual storytelling space. She was named one of the top 100 people in Photography by American Photo. In 2016, Mailliet Storm was also named a JSK fellow in media innovation at Stanford University, where she researched the monetization of photography in the age of social and search. During her 11 years at Getty Images, she oversaw and helped build Getty Images’ content offering and helped lead its strategic development. Most recently, she was Getty Images’ senior director of strategic development based in the Bay Area, focusing on Getty Images’ relationships with platforms such as Google, Instagram and Pinterest. Previously, she managed content partnerships with over 300 large media companies globally such as Vice, Condé Nast, National Geographic and others. Mailliet Storm co-founded Getty Images’ high-end portraiture and fashion division, Contour, which she led until 2014, representing the work of over 100 high-end portrait and fashion photographers. She also co-founded the Getty Images Instagram grant.
Erin Millar is a co-founder and the CEO of Indiegraf, a platform that makes it easy to start, grow and manage a local news organization. Millar also leads the $3.5 million News Startup Fund, which has seeded over 20 community news startups. Before creating Indiegraf, Millar founded the Discourse, where she led an award-winning journalism team and developed a successful business model for in-depth local news.
Graciela Mochkofsky is the dean at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she was previously the executive director of its Center for Community Media and founding director of its Bilingual Journalism Program. She is a contributing writer for the New Yorker and the author of seven books of nonfiction, including The Prophet of the Andes: An Unlikely Journey to the Promised Land (Knopf, 2022). She is a recipient of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for outstanding reporting across the Americas.
Tim Murphy has served as a program officer at McKnight with both the Program Alignment team and the Vibrant & Equitable Communities team since 2021. In this hybrid role, he extends the capacity of McKnight’s program teams, enhancing strategic alignment and organizational effectiveness toward advancing programmatic goals and the foundation’s mission. Through this he leads two cross-cutting grant portfolios––one around media and journalism and the other around democracy in Minnesota. Murphy is an avid news consumer and believer in the power of local to create a sense of connection and belonging.
Alejandro de Onís leads Knight’s communications. As part of the executive team, he is responsible for defining communications goals and amplifying the foundation’s impact. De Onís spearheaded the development and implementation of a new visual brand and reimagined digital efforts to engage diverse and local audiences. He was promoted from director of digital strategy in 2022. A seasoned creative strategist, de Onís oversees design and video production that covers a range of topics around the arts, community engagement and democracy. He collaborates with leading academics, artists and executives from peer foundations.
John Palfrey is the president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Palfrey is a well-respected educator, author, legal scholar and innovator with expertise in how new media is changing learning and education. Prior to joining the foundation, he served as head of school at Phillips Academy, Andover. Palfrey is the board chair of the United States Impact Investing Alliance and serves on the board of the Fidelity Non-Profit Management Foundation. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and serves on the governance council. He is the former board chair of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Palfrey holds a JD from Harvard Law School, an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and an AB from Harvard College. Palfrey is an accomplished author; his most recent book is Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education. A revised and expanded version of his book Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age, which he co-authored with Urs Gasser, was issued in 2016.
Maribel Pérez Wadsworth is the president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. She is the first woman and the seventh president to lead the foundation. Drawing on her experience as the former president of Gannett Media and publisher of USA Today, Wadsworth brings a well-honed commitment to Knight’s mission of informing and engaging communities. Starting as an editorial assistant with the Associated Press in 1994, Wadsworth’s career evolved from reporter and editor roles to a key position in Gannett’s corporate team, where she led the company’s digital transformation.
Carla Thompson Payton is vice president for program strategy for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. In this role, she supports the foundation’s efforts to promote thriving children, working families and equitable communities. Thompson Payton provides leadership and management for the creative and strategic direction of programming from design through implementation, evaluation and dissemination. As a member of the executive team, she is also responsible for the overall direction and leadership of the foundation. Prior to joining the foundation in 2012, Thompson Payton was deputy director of the Office of Child Care at the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC. There, she was responsible for developing national early childhood education policy, managing the $5 billion annual budget of the Child Care Development Fund and providing oversight to ten regional offices serving states, tribes and territories.
Hannah Poferl is assistant managing editor, chief data officer and head of audience at the New York Times. Since she began leading the audience team in 2019, she has grown both its staffing and its expertise, driving industry-leading performance on social media, search and editorial analytics. Since becoming the company’s first chief data officer in 2021, she has occupied a unique senior leadership role that spans both news and business, with executive oversight of audience and data strategies, the cross-company data and insights team, and international growth efforts.
Renowned health care system thought leader and advocate for health care reform, Wendell Potter provides fresh, high-caliber insight that shapes conversations and U.S. policy. His influential views are frequently cited in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and as a news commentator on CNN, NPR and MSNBC, among other media outlets. Potter’s level of understanding of American health insurance companies, one of the largest and most important industries in the world, is unique in its level of inside insight into how insurers play their game. Potter’s career trajectory from investigative reporting to the communications helm of a major health insurance corporation took a remarkable turn when he chose to blow the whistle on the industry’s business practices as a congressional expert witness. His courageous exposure of profit-driven decisions that often compromised patient well-being became a turning point, marking him as an individual committed to transparency, ethics, and a fundamental reevaluation of the health care landscape. In his substack newsletter HEALTH CARE uncovered, Potter examines and reports on breaking news within the U.S. health care system and insurance industry, and its impact on patient care.
Stacy Reed is chief program officer for the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, where she drives strategy and operations of grantmaking and special initiatives. In this role, she has led a multi-sector venture to raise educational attainment across Sangamon County; helped secure funding and built programming to increase the local nursing workforce and embed behavioral health specialists in schools; and shaped local systems to address long-term solutions to homelessness. Prior to joining the foundation, she supervised client accounts at Public Communications Inc. and Jasculca/Terman & Associates in Chicago, where she built public awareness campaigns for nonprofit, education and health care institutions.
Karen Rundlet is CEO and executive director of the Institute for Nonprofit News. She and the INN team work to accelerate the growth of more than 425 public service news organizations that make up the INN Network. Rundlet previously served as senior director for the Knight Foundation’s Journalism program, where she managed a more than $30 million portfolio of grants supporting newsrooms and field-building organizations. Prior to that, Rundlet worked at the Miami Herald, with WLRN and at newsrooms in Atlanta and New York.
Liza M. Santana is an award-winning publicist, acclaimed speaker and media maven who has been in the industry for over two decades. She has provided public relations and marketing counsel to a number of corporations, non-profit organizations and internationally recognized events. Santana contributes to several publications focusing on food, spirits, travel and social events. Prior to opening her firm, she worked at the Miami Herald/ El Nuevo Herald, Spanish Broadcasting and the New Times.
Fran Scarlett is a business strategist, consultant and coach who is passionate about building sustainable entrepreneurial organizations. Scarlett has worked with companies of all sizes and has started and operated two publications targeted to women and other underrepresented audiences. She also has worked with entrepreneurial and established companies across multiple industries. Scarlett is a member of Blue Engine Collaborative, a consortium of consultants and advisors to media companies, startups, foundations, academia and others on revenue and audience growth, product development, consumer user experience and digital strategy. Prior to her current role, she served as chief knowledge officer at the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) a network of 400+ nonprofit, mostly digital newsrooms where she oversaw the network’s capacity-building programs in revenue generation, business strategy, leadership development and organizational equity.
Joshua Sirefman is the CEO of Michigan Central, a social enterprise committed to building solutions and skills at the intersection of mobility and society. In this role, Sirefman is developing an ambitious and multidisciplinary plan to tackle pressing mobility challenges with solutions that will unlock a more sustainable and human-centered future. Sirefman brings decades of experience in transformative city building to Michigan Central. Prior to joining the Michigan Central team, Sirefman co-founded and served as president of Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company focused on urban innovation. Prior to creating Sidewalk Labs, Sirefman founded and led a development services firm that oversaw complex, large-scale projects for corporate, nonprofits and government entities. Sirefman has also served as a key member of the economic development team of former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Rachel Silverstein, a lifelong clean water enthusiast, serves as equal parts investigator, scientist, educator and legal advocate, functioning as the public spokesperson for our watershed and protecting the right to clean water. Silverstein is executive director and waterkeeper at Miami Waterkeeper and she has served as a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow and professional staff for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard in Washington, DC. While earning her Ph.D. in marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science, Silverstein studied the effect of climate change on coral reefs. Her research, partially funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, used genetic methods to answer ecological questions. As waterkeeper, Silverstein has been awarded the Miami Herald’s Visionary Award, UM Abess Center’s Reitmeister Award and the Diatom Award for Environmental and Civic by the mayor of Miami Beach. She has been named in the top 20 environmentalists by the New Times.
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 New York, the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, South, Southwest and in Austin, Texas, in a partnership with the Texas Tribune. Sparkman oversees all of ProPublica’s non-journalism operations, and is currently leading the organization in the creation of its first strategic plan. Previously, she was the founding CEO of the nonprofit media organization StoryCorps for eight years. Sparkman spent more than two decades as a reporter and editor, serving as editor-in-chief of the American Lawyer, and as executive editor and deputy editorial director of American Lawyer Media.
Wendi C. Thomas is the founding editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, an award-winning nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy. Launched in 2017 with freelancers and $3,000, MLK50 has grown to a ten-person organization that has made a measurable, tangible impact in the lives of working-class Memphians.
Inga Kristina Trauthig is the head of research of the Propaganda Research Lab at the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. In her role, she conducts original research and helps lead the lab’s strategy and management. She speaks regularly to academic, media, and government audiences, and her writing has appeared in both popular and scholarly outlets, such as the Hill, Lawfare, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, and New Media & Society. Her work has been featured by outlets like Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, Houston Chronicle, Foreign Policy and the Washington Post. With support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Miami Foundation, Omidyar Network and Open Society Foundations, the Propaganda Research Lab has been researching how emergent technologies are used in global political communication, including its effects on democratic developments and implications for minority communities.
Richard Watts is the founder of the Center for Community News at the University of Vermont (UVM) that documents and encourages university-led student reporting programs and the coordinator of UVM’s Community News Service––a state-wide, multi-outlet academic-news partnership with a mission to provide content to community news outlets and give students applied learning experiences. Watts has a master’s degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University and a Ph.D. related to media studies from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and has worked as a reporter, campaign manager, policy analyst, teacher, internship coordinator and researcher.
Michael Wear is founder, president and CEO of the Center for Christianity and Public Life, a nonpartisan, nonprofit institution based in the nation’s capital with the mission to contend for the credibility of Christian resources in public life, for the public good. He has served as a trusted resource and advisor for a range of civic leaders on matters of faith and public life for the last decade, including as a White House and presidential campaign staffer. Wear previously led Public Square Strategies, a consulting firm he founded that helps religious organizations, political organizations, businesses and others effectively navigate the rapidly changing American religious and political landscape.
Kylee Mitchell Wells is the executive director of Ballmer Group’s Southeast Michigan team, where she sets and leads strategy and investments to improve economic mobility for children and families in the region and the state. Mitchell Wells has an extensive background in nonprofit program management, government and corporate finance. Her previous roles include senior director, Michigan market at Enterprise Community Partners; associate director for the City of Detroit Office of Grants Management; and program officer on the Financial Stability Team of United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
Kenton T. Wilkinson is Regents Professor and Director of the Thomas Jay Harris Institute for Hispanic & International Communication in the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University. Wilkinson’s research interests include international communication, U.S. Hispanic/Latinx-oriented media and health communication. He is currently part of a research project funded by the Knight Foundation that is researching and addressing the circulation of disinformation about health issues among Hispanic/Latinx populations living on the South Plains of Texas.
Lauren M. Woods, a dedicated program manager at The Chicago Community Trust, plays a pivotal role within the Building Collective Power strategy. With a focus on strategic grantmaking, Woods oversees the media and storytelling program, managing a 2.5 million dollar grant portfolio dedicated to supporting local news initiatives in Chicago. She leads efforts to strengthen local journalism, media and civic storytelling, aiming to empower citizens to actively engage in shaping their democracy. Notably, Woods was instrumental in designing and serving on the implementation team for Press Forward Chicago, a pioneering grantmaking initiative supporting the city’s media landscape.
Jessica Yellin is the former chief White House correspondent for CNN and an Emmy, Peabody and Gracie Award–winning political correspondent for ABC, MSNBC and CNN. Yellin has interviewed presidents and traveled the nation and the globe covering elections, conflict and stories of human perseverance. She is now the founder of News Not Noise, the viral Webby Award–winning digital media brand. With a passion for informing and inspiring audiences, she started explaining the news on Instagram long before other credentialed journalists were doing so. She has built trust with a passionate and highly influential audience. Over 1 million subscribers and followers across Instagram and other digital media rely on Yellin and News Not Noise to understand what matters, which experts to trust, and how to manage their “information overload.”
Richard Young has worked on civic health in Kentucky for over a decade. He is the founder and executive director of CivicLex, a civic health and media organization in Lexington that spans local news, bridge building, civic education, public space and collaborative governance. He is also a founding Steering Committee member of the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange. Since 2014, Young’s work in Kentucky has been featured on NextCity, PBS NewsHour, Foreign Affairs, On Point, the Wall Street Journal, CityLab, PEW Charitable Trusts and more.
Ashley Zohn joined Knight Foundation in January 2019 and was named vice president, Learning and Impact, in March 2021. Zohn, who has more than a decade of experience advancing data-driven decision-making in the nonprofit, public and private sectors, oversees Knight’s research and assessment portfolios. Knight commissions field-leading research on topics that affect communities, journalism and the arts, as well as surveys of public attitudes about the media, the First Amendment, and technology. Its assessment program increases the impact of grantmaking by evaluating Knight’s investments and sharing insights widely. Prior to Knight, Zohn oversaw the Continuous Improvement Program at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In this capacity, she was responsible for reviewing the agency’s responses following federally declared disasters and building continuous improvement capacity at FEMA’s disaster operations.
Updated as of February 6, 2024 at 04:00 p.m. Please check back regularly for the latest updates.