From top left to bottom right: Michelle Faust Raghavan, Wesley Lowery, Eugene Sonn, Elite Truong, Dillon Bernard, and Kristyn Wellesley. (Photos via LinkedIn.)

U.S. Democracy Day welcomes new advisory board for 2023 collaboration

Joe Amditis
Center for Cooperative Media
5 min readMar 16, 2023

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We are excited to announce the new advisory board members for the Democracy Day 2023 collaborative journalism project. Each of these members brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, and we can’t wait to incorporate their advice and wisdom into Democracy Day to make it even more impactful and relevant than last year’s efforts.

Pro-democracy journalism collaborations like Democracy Day are critical because they play a crucial role in keeping the public informed and engaged in democratic processes. At a time when the very foundations of democracy are being threatened, it’s more important than ever to have a robust and independent press that can shine a light on the issues that matter most.

By bringing together news organizations from across the country to report more and better information about the crisis facing democracy, Democracy Day hopes to play a vital role in helping to ensure that the public has the information they need to understand and address this crisis. And with a recent $125,000 grant from Democracy Fund, we will continue to build on our work in 2023 and beyond.

The diverse and knowledgeable perspectives of our new advisory board members are critical to that success, and it’s essential to have a team behind the project that represents a wide range of experiences and expertise.

Meet our new advisory board members

First up is Kristyn Wellesley, an award-winning journalist specializing in content strategy and data analysis. As Senior Editor for Audience and Engagement at Media News Group, she focuses on increasing audience engagement and digital subscriptions. Kristyn is committed to bringing diversity and anti-racism initiatives to newsrooms and holds a Master’s degree in International Journalism and a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace certification. Her perspective will be a crucial addition to the team.

Elite Truong, the Vice President of Product Strategy at American Press Institute, is also onboard. At API, Elite manages data products that help local newsrooms make strategic decisions, and she has an impressive track record of creating projects driven by emerging technologies. With her experience in community-centered product development, designing distribution strategies that connect local newsrooms to their audiences and strategic business development experience, Elite will bring valuable insights to Democracy Day.

Next up is Eugene Sonn, Resolve’s director of collaborations. Eugene has been getting newsrooms to work together since 1998, and he brings a wealth of experience to the table. At Resolve, Eugene helps lead more than 20 newsrooms in their Broke in Philly reporting project, and his expertise in collaboration will be invaluable to Democracy Day.

Michelle Faust Raghavan, a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford, is also joining us. Michelle is examining best practices to create a culture of belonging in the news industry for BIPOC journalists, and they are passionate about mentorship. With Michelle’s experience leading the Equity Initiative at the Solutions Journalism Network, they will be an asset to the Democracy Day team.

Dillon Bernard, who spearheaded social media strategy and content curation for historic civic engagement-focused efforts such as the Sept. 20 U.S. Climate Strikes and March On for Voting Rights, is also joining the advisory board. With Dillon’s expertise in digital organizing and engaging communities, he will bring important experience and perspective to the collaboration.

Finally, we welcome Wesley Lowery to the advisory board. Wesley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, reporter, editor, and best-selling author, known for his work covering issues of law enforcement, race, and justice. As a journalist-in-residence at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at City University of New York, Wesley will bring a much-needed critical approach to the project.

Why we’re glad to have them onboard

By bringing together voices from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, the Democracy Day team can ensure that the project reflects a diversity of perspectives and reaches a wide audience. With advisory board members like Kristyn Wellesley, who has focused on bringing anti-racism initiatives to newsrooms, and Michelle Faust Raghavan, who is examining best practices to create a culture of belonging for BIPOC journalists, the team can ensure that our reporting partners are producing journalism that is inclusive and accessible to all.

The new advisory board members also bring a wealth of experience in areas such as product development, collaboration, and digital organizing, which will be essential to the success of Democracy Day as it grows and evolves in the coming years.

Overall, the diverse and knowledgeable perspectives of the new advisory board members will be crucial in helping the Democracy Day team achieve its mission of uniting communities and upholding democracy.

Collaborations like Democracy Day provide a unique opportunity for news organizations to share resources and expertise, creating a more informed and engaged citizenry. By working together, news organizations can leverage their collective power to highlight issues that might otherwise go unnoticed and to promote a more informed and engaged public discourse. This kind of collaboration is especially important at a time when news organizations are facing increasing pressure from powerful interests and declining trust from the public.

We are thrilled to have such an exceptional group of advisors on board for Democracy Day 2023 and we can’t wait to work with them to make this year’s project even more impactful and relevant than the last.

Joe Amditis is associate director of products and events at the Center for Cooperative Media. Contact him at amditisj@montclair.edu or on Twitter at @jsamditis.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit centerforcooperativemedia.org.

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Joe Amditis
Center for Cooperative Media

Associate director of products + events, Center for Cooperative Media; host + producer, WTF Just Happened Today podcast.