Bio

I am a journalist and organizer who works at the intersection of communities and communication. I’m the Associate Director of the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund where we invest in people and organizations that make democracy work better. I have spent more than a decade working to support more trustworthy, accountable and community driven journalism.

Previously I directed the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s journalism sustainability project, focused on developing new revenue models for local news rooted in community engagement and creative collaboration. This work was built on 7 years running national advocacy campaigns in support of freedom of expression and media diversity as Press Freedom Director at Free Press. Prior to that, I directed policy and communications for Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities committed to the civic purposes of higher education.

All of my work in journalism, communications, education and advocacy has focused on transforming institutions to be more responsive to and reflective of their community. Through large scale civic projects, coalition building and powerful storytelling I have helped newsrooms and nonprofits use cutting edge digital tools to engage deeply with the people they serve.

I speak frequently about journalism, civic engagement, ethics and collaborative problem solving at conferences like SXSW, the Online News Association, the Personal Democracy Forum as well as colleges and universities across the United States. My research and reporting have appeared online at the Guardian, Columbia Journalism Review, PBS MediaShift, Mother Jones, Orion Magazine and BoingBoing. In 2012 was awarded Storify of the Year and the Lew Hill Media Ally award for my innovative work in press freedom and digital storytelling.

In 2013 I founded VerificationJunkie.com, a growing directory of tools for social journalism and verification of eyewitness media. In 2015 I helped establish First Draft News, a global collaboration of newsrooms, tech platforms and educators dedicated to improving skills and standards in the reporting and sharing of information that emerges online. I was a founding board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and have held board positions with Student Conservation Association, the Valley Land Fund and Educators for Community Engagement. I am currently a board member at Amherst Media and Orion Magazine.

 

I’m a Visiting Scholar in the Journalism and Communication Departments at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a lecturer at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. In the past I taught at the Center for Public Policy and Administration and the English Department at UMass Amherst.

I bake bread, make yogurt, brew beer and take pictures.

You can find me around the web:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jcstearns
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jcstearns
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstearns
About: http://jcstearns.com

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