INN at Home Speaker Bios

Ashley Alvarado
Director, Community Engagement, Southern California Public Radio (KPCC-LAist)
Ashley Alvarado is the director of community engagement at Southern California PublicRadio (KPCC + LAist). She works to develop strategies and opportunities to engage new and existing audiences across platforms. Ashley is focused on engagement and source development as a means to diversify the sourcing in news coverage and on shows, help enrich programming, and grow audience. Among her efforts is the engagement-driven, community-centered live storytelling series Unheard LA, leading human-centered design projects, and Feeding the Conversation, an ongoing series of engagement-sourcing gatherings that bring together members of the community with KPCC journalists around specific themes or coverage areas. She also serves as board president of Journalism That Matters, on the steering committee of Gather, as a senior fellow with the Center for Health Journalism, and as a curator for American Press Institute’s In 2019, SCPR won the inaugural Gather Award for engaged journalism portfolio at the Online Journalism Awards.

Ben Rudolph
Managing Director, Microsoft News Lab
A 20-year technology industry veteran, Ben Rudolph is the Managing Director of Microsoft News Labs, Microsoft’s global effort to advance the art, science, and business of journalism.


Elliott Robinson
News Editor, Charlottesville Tomorrow
Elliott Robinson joined Charlottesville Tomorrow as its news editor in August 2018. The Hampton native is a graduate of Christopher Newport University, where he received a bachelor’s in English with a concentration in journalism. Elliott began his journalism career in 2006 at The Progress-Index in Petersburg, where he was a staff writer and columnist covering various issues at Virginia State University, Richard Bland College of William & Mary and in Dinwiddie and Prince George counties. He then was the editor of The Hopewell News, where he also served as the primary Hopewell reporter, photographer, website and social media coordinator and page designer. He also was a copy editor at The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., before arriving in Charlottesville in 2012.From 2012 to 2018, Elliott worked for BH Media as the associate city editor of The Daily Progress and had a brief stint as a traffic columnist, reporter for Henrico County and copy editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Emiliano Villa
YR Media Journalism AP, YR Media
Emiliano Villa is an award-winning multimedia journalist born and raised in Oakland, CA. His writing often focuses on the intersection of class and race with a focus on queer arts and culture. His work has been featured in NPR, SF Chronicle, and NY Times. When he's not reporting, he performs in drag as Poison Oakland.

Farai Chideya
Program Officer, Creativity and Free Expression, Ford Foundation
Farai Chideya is an author, researcher, and the journalism program officer at the Ford Foundation. She is the author of six books, the most recent of which is 2016's The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption. During the 2016 election, she was a Senior Writer covering voter demographics at ESPN's FiveThirtyEight, and a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.  With deep knowledge in a variety of disciplines, including the future of work, politics, culture, race, and technology, Chideya frequently appeared on public radio and cable television, and has worked for CNN, ABC and NPR, and appeared on numerous other networks. Chideya is also the former longtime host of National Public Radio's News & Notes. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Chideya graduated from Harvard University in 1990. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Giles Morris
Executive Director, Charlottesville Tomorrow
Giles Morris is the Executive Director of Charlottesville Tomorrow, a hyperlocal journalism nonprofit with a mission to expand civic engagement and foster a vibrant, inclusive, and interdependent community. A native of Washington D.C., Giles spent his early career as a school teacher in Pine Ridge, SD, a community organizer in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, and a nonprofit program manager in Dorchester, MA, which showed him how local news coverage impacts the lives of communities outside of mainstream media audiences. The child of journalists, he joined the family trade in 2007 as the general assignment reporter for the Rhinelander Daily News in Wisconsin. He served as Editor-in-Chief of C-VILLE Weekly and as Vice President for Marketing & Communications at James Madison’s Montpelier, where he was instrumental in the rollout of the award-winning, descendant-driven slavery exhibition, “The Mere Distinction of Colour.” His journalism and digital media projects have been recognized by LION, AAN, ASALH, Virginia Press Association, North Carolina Press Association, and others. He holds an M. Div. from Harvard Divinity School and a B.A. in English from Princeton University.

Glenn H. Burkins
Founder and Publisher, Qcitymetro
Glenn Burkins is the founder and publisher of Qcitymetro. Previously, Glenn was business editor and later deputy managing editor for news at The Charlotte Observer. He’s been a reporter at newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times and Los Angeles Times. At the Journal, he covered the Labor Department, the Clinton White House and the NATO mission in Kosovo (1999), where he was embedded with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. As Africa bureau chief for the Inquirer, he covered the historic election of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and one of the early outbreaks of Ebola in the former Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. He holds a journalism degree from the University of South Carolina.

Irene Romulo
Co-Founder, Cicero Independiente
Irene Romulo is the co-founder of Cicero Independiente, a bilingual, local news outlet for people living in Cicero, Illinois. Romulo’s work is focused on creating a hyperlocal space for civic engagement rooted in accessible news production by and for people of color, non-English speakers and those who are excluded from traditional media models.

Jiquanda Johnson
Founder and Publisher, Flint Beat
Jiquanda Johnson is founder of Brown Impact Media Group, an independent publishing company focused on developing media products in underserved and marginalized communities. The company kicked off their efforts with a news website focused solely on Flint, Mich., where Jiquanda grew up. In 2017, she launched the hyperlocal news website focused on covering local government, solutions journalism and public health. Her efforts in Flint, also include launching News Movement, a youth journalism program. News Movement teaches Flint-area youth various newsroom skills, including writing, graphic design, photography, and videography. Johnson has nearly 20 years of experience in journalism including working for MLive Media Group, Fox 46 in North Carolina, NBC25's affiliate station in the Flint area, The Detroit News, Pull Magazine, and Tween Girl Style Magazine. In addition, her work has appeared in Belt Magazine, National Geographic, and Spotlight on Poverty. She has also served on panels focused on local journalism in underserved and marginalized communities and discussions related to media startups for many events and organizations including LION Publishers, Solutions Journalism Network, the National Association of Black Journalists, Institute For Nonprofit News, Online News Association, ONA Local, the John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford's journalism series, the Chautauqua Institute, The Aspen Institute and the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Joaquin Alvarado
Executive Director, Project Accelerate, and Founder, StudioToBe
Joaquin Alvarado is the cofounder of StudioToBe, a home for independent storytelling, content development and production. StudioToBe opened its first collaborative workspace in Oakland, CA in 2018. Previously he was the Chief Executive Officer for the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). Joaquin served as senior vice president for digital innovation at American Public Media and founding senior vice president for diversity and innovation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He is the founder of CoCo Studios, which promotes media collaboration and game development for fiber and mobile networks. He serves on the Board of Directors for TechSoup Global and Consumer Reports. Joaquin was the founding director of the Institute for Next Generation Internet, which launched in 2005 from San Francisco State University. In 2004, Joaquin began the National Public Lightpath, advocating high-speed, fiber-optic network as the next generation of the Internet. Alvarado holds a bachelor’s degree in Chicano Studies from UC Berkeley and an MFA from the UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television.

Karen Rundlet
Director/Journalism, Knight Foundation
Karen Rundlet joined Knight Foundation in November 2015. As a director in the Journalism Program, her focus is on investing in new methods and models to advance excellence in journalism and civic media as a way to support informed, local communities. Before entering the field of philanthropy, Rundlet worked as a journalist at the Miami Herald, where she developed the newsroom’s first-ever video studio and led initiatives to make video integral to the audience experience. She also contributed business reports to various public radio newsrooms, including WLRN/Miami Herald News and American Public Media’s “Marketplace.” Rundlet spent the first part of her career working as a television news producer in Miami (WPLG-TV), Atlanta (WAGA-TV) and New York (WNBC-TV). She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Georgetown University and was a Maynard Institute fellow. Most recently, she served on the board of the Lyric Theater in Overtown.

 Katherine Rowlands
Executive Director, Bay City News Foundation
Katherine Ann Rowlands has worked as a journalist for 30 years, covering news in the Bay Area, Central California and overseas. As a 2017 JSK Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, she focused her research on how to overcome gender disparities in newsrooms, especially in leadership positions, and how to bolster local news coverage in the Bay Area. In 2018, she bought Bay City News, a regional wire service covering the 9-county San Francisco Bay Area (where she worked as a college intern three decades ago), and founded the nonprofit Bay City News Foundation to support public service journalism. The work is published at Follow @baynewsmatters and @News_Kat.

Laura Frank
Executive Director, COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative
Laura Frank was the founder of I-News, the nonprofit investigative news organization that merged with Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting in 2013. RMPBS News continues to deliver multimedia investigative reports to news outlets across the Rocky Mountain region. Frank, a Denver native, has more than two decades of experience at daily newspapers and in radio and public television. She was an investigative reporter at the Rocky Mountain News until it closed in 2009. Her stories have won top awards in both print and broadcast, helped release innocent people from prison, protect abused children and win aid for sick nuclear-weapons workers.

Lee Hill
Executive Producer, The Takeaway, WNYC, New York Public Radio, Podcasts, Live Streaming Radio, News
Lee Hill is the Executive Producer for The Takeaway, where he oversees strategy, production, and planning of The Takeaway content across digital platforms. Before WNYC, he was a founding editor of Inside Energy, a Colorado-based journalism collaboration between NPR and PBS stations where he oversaw engagement. Prior to that, Lee worked at Colorado Public Radio in Denver as a Public Insight Network (PIN) analyst and reporter, where he reported on the experiences of everyday Coloradans on stories ranging from wildfires to gun policy, to marijuana legalization and racial inequities, and the 2012 presidential race. At CPR, he was also deputy digital editor and helped to oversee the re-design of Lee arrived in Denver from Washington D.C., where he worked at NPR as a multimedia journalist and founding producer of Tell Me More, NPR's first program to begin as a blog and evolve into a daily award-winning news and talk show. Prior to that, Lee supervised NPR's Audience Services group and refocused the network's daily online engagement with its audience. He has also worked as a correspondent for Teen Summit, airing on Black Entertainment Television, and as a junior editor at The Milwaukee Courier newspaper. While Lee was producing NPR's Tell Me More, the program won a national Edward R. Murrow Award and was recognized with a "Salute To Excellence Award" by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). Lee was a web producer and blogger until 2011 for, which received a 2009 Peabody Award for its content. His work has also been recognized with a National Headliner Award and an "Award of Excellence" by the Colorado Broadcasters
Association. In 2013, he was named Broadcast Journalist of the Year by the Colorado
Association of Black Journalists. And in 2016, he received the National Association of Black Journalists "Salute to Excellence Award" for Digital Innovation. Lee is a 2003 graduate of Howard University, where he studied journalism and economics.

Maeven McGovern
Arts Executive Producer/Youth Outcomes Director, YR Media
Maeven McGovern is the lead developer of the YR Media Arts Pathway, learning and media production. In 2010 she founded Remix Your Life, an artists collective of high school students that has grown into a centerpiece of YR’s music brand, now evolved into an independent record label complete with A&R teams and distribution.  The arts programming also includes live DJ and video mixing, an arts journalism track, a social media design team, and AllDayPlay.FM — an online radio station hosting professional DJ music shows and interviews with up and coming musicians.  Today, her integrated role ranges from lead arts editor and creative content strategist, to project manager, grant administrator, lead youth experience developer, and everything in between.

Makai Perkins
RYL Studios A&R Intern, YR Media
Makai Perkins has been working at YR Media for about 2 and a half years, starting out in graphic design and music curation. In his current role as an A&R intern, Makai is on the front lines of the new music movement, leveraging emerging platforms to create immersive artistic development experiences for up and coming producers.

Marcus Harrison Green
Publisher, South Seattle Emerald
Marcus Harrison Green is the publisher and co-founder of the South Seattle Emerald, a columnist with The Seattle Times, a former Reporting Fellow with YES! Magazine, a past board member of the Western Washington Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a recipient of Crosscut’s Courage Award for Culture. Growing up in South Seattle, he experienced first-hand the neglect of news coverage in the area by local media, which taught him the value of narratives. After an unfulfilling stint working in the investment world in his twenties, Marcus returned to his community determined to tell its true story, which led him to start the South Seattle Emerald. He was named one of Seattle's most influential people by Seattle Magazine in 2016.

Maxicelia and Troy Robinson
Owners and Producers, In My Humble Opinion
Troy (a.ka. Razor) and Max Robinson are the owners and producers of In My Humble Opinion, an independent Black media company based in Charlottesville that produces a local talk radio show. Live on the air Sundays at noon on 101.3JamzFM, In My Humble Opinion's hosts, which in addition to Razor and Max include Charles Lewis (Sir Charles), moderate a discussion of national and local issues affecting African American communities in Central Virginia with call-in and in-studio guests.

Mazin Sidahmed
Co-founding Editor, Documented
Mazin Sidahmed is a co-founding editor and senior reporter at Documented, a nonprofit news site that covers immigration in the New York area. Before founding Documented, he was a reporter at the Guardian US in New York on the national desk as well as with the award-winning Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab. He started his career covering the Syrian refugee crisis in Beirut, Lebanon for the local English language newspaper The Daily Star.

Michelle Kanaar
Art Director, Borderless Magazine
Michelle Kanaar is the Art Director of Borderless Magazine. She is a documentary
photojournalist who focuses on immigration, labor, and education. She is thoroughly committed to social justice issues and is the proud daughter of immigrants from Colombia and the Netherlands. She has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri. She is also a co-founder of the Prism Photo Workshop, whose mission it is to provide resources and support for young photographers of diverse backgrounds to tell the stories of underrepresented people and communities with dignity.

Nissa Rhee
Executive Director, Borderless Magazine
Nissa Rhee is the executive director of Borderless Magazine, an award-winning nonprofit news outlet that is reimagining immigration journalism for a more just and equitable future. She is a Peabody-nominated journalist who has covered global news at Chicago Public Radio, served as a foreign correspondent in South Korea and Vietnam, and reported on police abuse and gun violence in Chicago. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and a Master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Queensland.

Peter Klein
Founder, Global Reporting Centre
Peter W. Klein is the founder of the Global Reporting Centre, a non-profit focused on producing and innovating global journalism. He is former director of the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, where he continues to serve as a Professor, teaching investigative and global reporting. He was a longtime producer at CBS News 60 Minutes, and was a regular opinion contributor to The Globe & Mail. He is the recipient of numerous journalism awards, including several Emmy, Murrow and Sigma Delta Chi awards. He has an MS in Journalism from Columbia, and lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and four children.

S. Mitra Kalita
SVP of Programming, CNN Digital
S. Mitra Kalita is the senior vice president for news, opinion and programming for CNN Digital. Kalita leads the national news desk and efforts to creatively share CNN's journalism and storytelling across an ever-exploding array of platforms. Her portfolio also includes the Entertainment team, News, Alerting, and Mobile, Off-Platform. teams. She arrived at CNN in 2016. Kalita was previously managing editor for editorial strategy at the Los Angeles Times. During her time there, she helped traffic soar to nearly 60 million unique multiplatform visitors monthly, innovated new forms of storytelling and increased audience engagement, including hiring a correspondent to cover Black Twitter. She launched Education Matters, a vertical covering L.A. schools that connected the Times to new communities via events, new beats, translations and partnerships. She helped direct coverage of a mass shooting in San Bernardino (notably, a multimedia reconstruction of the police pursuit ending in the killers; deaths) that led the Times to win a Pulitzer Prize in breaking news. She also served as the executive editor at large for Quartz, Atlantic Media's global economy site, and was its founding ideas editor, reimagining opinion and commentary for the internet. She also oversaw the launches of Quartz India and Quartz Africa, working closely with sales, product and marketing teams along the way. Kalita worked previously at the Wall Street Journal, where she directed coverage of the Great Recession, launched a local news section for New York City and reported on the housing crisis as a senior writer for Page 1. She was a founding editor and columnist of Mint, a business paper in New Delhi, and has previously worked for the Washington Post, Newsday and the Associated Press. She has won many awards for her journalism and her series on the Indian economy is included in the "Best Business Writing." Kalita is the author of two books related to migration and globalization, including the highly acclaimed "Suburban Sahibs," about how immigrants transformed the American suburb, and"My Two Indias;" an economic memoir and study on globalization. She has studied seven languages (English, Assamese, Bengali, Hindi, Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese) and can converse in at least five of them. A former journalism professor at St. John's, UMass-Amherst, and Columbia University, she also previously served as president of the South Asian Journalists Association. She speaks frequently on diversity in media, digital innovation and managing change. She is a graduate of Rutgers College, where she majored in history and journalism, and received her master's degree from Columbia University's Journalism school. Kalita is married to an artist and is mother to two daughters.

Sabby Robinson
APM Reports Research and Production Fellow, American Public Media Group
Sabby Robinson is an Oakland native and journalist who graduated from the University of Southern California, where she was the Executive Producer for the student-run outlet Annenberg Radio News. She’s a storyteller with a passion for social justice and currently works as a fellow for APM Reports, the investigative documentary team of American Public Media based in Minnesota. Sabby largely reports on education news and supports other national investigative projects, and these days is working on podcasts that explore equity and the changing landscape of education during the pandemic.

Sara Shahriari
Director of Leadership and Talent Development, INN
Sara Shahriari helps nonprofit newsrooms develop effective and forward-thinking leaders who advance the industry in both journalism and financial sustainability. That means supporting emerging leaders through training that strengthens their organizations while also building pathways into the nonprofit news world for diverse groups of talented students and industry professionals in journalism, public administration and business. Sara’s professional background includes managing a statewide public radio network, hosting and producing an award-winning public affairs program, serving on the faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism and reporting extensively from Bolivia for outlets including the Guardian, Bloomberg News and The Christian Science Monitor. Sara earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. She wholeheartedly believes in INN’s work to support meaningful and sustainable independent journalism in an age of drastically shrinking local and investigative coverage, and she is committed to working with present and future leaders as they build inclusive, excellent and financially sustainable nonprofit news organizations.

Sue Cross
Executive Director & CEO at INN
Sue Cross is executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a network of more than 250 independent, nonprofit news media organizations in North America. She joined INN in 2015 to build its emerging media network and advance social enterprise models for investigative and other public service journalism. She is a former senior vice president for the Associated Press global news agency, where she created digital news services, expanded Spanish language and Latin American operations, introduced video to more than a thousand online news sites and managed a national news cooperative. She previously served as a regional vice president, AP’s Los Angeles bureau chief and directed news coverage and media operations in Chicago, Phoenix and Dallas. She began her career as a reporter in Alaska and Ohio. Cross also has worked in nonprofit business development, network-building and social enterprise consulting. She serves on boards including Stanford University’s John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships and EdSource, a California education media and research nonprofit, and on the National Advisory Council for the Emma Bowen Foundation. She is a graduate of Ohio State University. Cross lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Susan Smith Richardson
Chief Executive Officer, Center for Public Integrity
Susan Smith Richardson is a longtime journalist, news editor and publisher. She has worked for major city newspapers including the Sacramento Bee, the Chicago Tribune and the Austin American Statesman, where she was a regular columnist in the 1990s. She was managing editor of the Texas Observer and later was editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, which investigates race, poverty and income inequality. Currently, she serves as CEO of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit nonpartisan investigative news organization. She has been a Nieman Fellow, a fellow at the University of Texas School of Law’s Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice and a research fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. She has written widely on the media, politics and questions of justice in both the newsroom and society. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Tristan Ahtone
Editor-In-Chief, Texas Observer
Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and serves as editor-in-chief at the Texas Observer. He has reported  for PBS NewsHour, National Native News, Wyoming Public Radio, NPR, Al Jazeera America, National Geographic and High Country News. Tristan’s stories have won multiple honors, including investigative awards from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Gannett Foundation. He additionally was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University in 2017. He is president of the Native American Journalists Association.

Vera Chan
Manager, Worldwide Journalist Relations, Microsoft News
Vera Chan has worked the prototypical features/A&E/culture newspaper and magazine beat and led global editorial projects and initiatives at the world's leading online destinations (Yahoo! and Microsoft). She works with journalists and newsrooms around the world on technology to help them scale.

Verah Okeyo
Project Lead, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Nation Media Group
Verah Okeyo is a global health reporter from East Africa’s Daily Nation newspaper, published by the media conglomerate Nation Media Group. She is also the editor for Diversity Inclusion and Belonging, for the same company. Verah holds a BA in Media Communication and Technology (Electronic option) with IT with a minor in Creative and Performing arts from Kenya’s Maseno University and an MSC in global media and communications from the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom.  Her research interests are foundation-funded journalism; media economics; media representations of health and sickness; broadcasting; digital media; future of news; international media; networked journalism; newspapers; start-ups; innovations in journalism Verah likes music, textiles, children and animals and spends her spare time reading about these subjects, sewing or playing in bands. She tweets as @VerahOkeyo.

Wendi Thomas
Editor and Publisher, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism
Wendi C. Thomas is the editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom in Memphis focused on poverty, power and public policy. She was a member of ProPublica’s 2019 and 2020 Local Reporting Network. Previously she was metro columnist and assistant managing editor at The (Memphis) Commercial
Appeal. She’s also worked for The Charlotte Observer, The (Nashville) Tennessean and The Indianapolis Star. Thomas was a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. She is the 2020 Selden Ring Award winner for investigative reporting and won first place in the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2019 awards for business reporting. Her “Profiting from the Poor” investigation tied for first place in the Investigative Reporters & Editors 2019 awards in the print/online
division 1. In 2019, Thomas received the National Association of Black Journalists’ Best Practices award. In 2018, she was named Journalist of the Year by Journalism and Women Symposium. She was inducted into the Scripps Hall of Fame for commentary in 2008. She’s a graduate of Butler University and a proud product of public schools.

Yvonne Leow
CEO, Bewilder
Yvonne is an independent consultant and founder of Bewilder ( Previously, she was the Senior Snapchat Editor at, John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University, and the Director of Video at Digital First Media. Yvonne has also consulted for organizations like The Membership Puzzle Project, Sequoia Capital, TechCrunch, and Nextdoor. She is always looking for a mountain to climb (literally) and a gnarly problem to solve.