April 13: Local News
Amber Payne is Editor-In-Chief of The Emancipator, a new digital publication that will reimagine the first abolitionist newspapers in the US. The project launched as a collaboration between Boston Globe and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. The Emancipator will amplify critical voices, ideas, debates and evidence-based commentary to reframe the national conversation on racial justice.
Amber was a 2021 Nieman Foundation fellow at Harvard University where she examined the cultural scaffolding needed to empower marginalized communities to share their stories in a way that resonates across the borders of race, faith and culture.
Amber was previously managing editor of BET.com, overseeing the daily editorial output of the website and leading digital video strategy. Prior to that, Amber served as executive producer of Teen Vogue and Them., managing enterprise video strategy and production for both brands. In 2015 Amber founded NBCBLK, a section of NBCNews.com dedicated to elevating the conversation around black identity, social issues, and culture.
Before taking on this role, Amber was an award-winning producer at NBC Nightly News where she produced breaking news and feature stories. Amber has covered stories throughout the U.S. and the UK, Ecuador and parts of West Africa and South Africa. She was a field producer for Special Reports including the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and she covered the Joplin, Missouri tornado, The Royal Wedding, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and Hurricane Katrina recovery.
Dan Kennedy is a professor in the School of Journalism at Northeastern University and the author of three books about the future of local news. His latest, “What Works in Community News: Media Startups, News Deserts, and the Future of the Fourth Estate,” co-authored with retired Boston Globe editorial page editor Ellen Clegg, will be published by Beacon Press in early 2024. You can read their blog and listen to their podcast, “What Works,” at whatworks.news. A former media columnist for the late, lamented Boston Phoenix, Dan has written for The Guardian, CommonWealth Magazine, GBH News and other publications and was a panelist on GBH-TV’s “Beat the Press” from 1998 until 2021 He is also a 2019 winner of the Yankee Quill Award, which recognizes “a lifetime contribution toward excellence in journalism in New England.” Follow Dan’s work at dankennedy.net.
Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro is the CEO and co-founder of the National Trust for Local News, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping local news in local hands. The National Trust for Local News conserves, transforms, and sustains community news organizations. Our mission is to keep local news in local hands by providing scaled operating capacity paired with local governance. Our transformation strategies are designed to ensure established, trusted news organizations thrive and remain deeply grounded in their communities.
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.
Julie McCay Turner and two colleagues founded The Bedford Citizen—an online hyperlocal news source—in 2012 and served as its managing editor until October 2022. Over its 10-year history, The Bedford Citizen cast a wide net to become Bedford’s primary news source, reaching roughly half of Bedford’s households, publishing more than 13,000 articles, and generating 5.2l million unique page views. A weekday feed at 9 pm each evening, and weekly summary at 7:30 each Sunday morning are regularly read by 70% of TBC’s subscribers. The Citizen also maintains a robust following on social media— Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Lauren Feeney is a co-founder and interim Executive Director of The Lexington Observer. Her work, including print, video, and multimedia journalism, has been featured in The New York Times and broadcast on PBS, among many others. Most recently, she served as the Director of Video Production for the non-profit investigative news organization The Intercept. Her work has been recognized with an Emmy nomination, multiple Edward Murrow Awards, and the Newhouse Mirror Award, among other honors. Lauren is a graduate of Columbia’s journalism school, where she has also taught multimedia journalism.
Nicco Mele is a recognized expert at the intersection of news, technology, and politics. From 2016 to 2019, Nicco was the Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School where he led research on sustainable business models for local journalism and misinformation on social networks. He previously served as the Senior Vice President and Deputy Publisher of the Los Angeles Times where he was responsible for digital revenue for all of the California News Group’s brands. Nicco also founded The Lexington Observer, a local news digital weekly in his hometown. He is currently a Venture Partner at Draper Richards Kaplan where he serves on the board of the News Revenue Hub, City Bureau, Define American, and Recidiviz.
As webmaster for Governor Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, Nicco and the campaign team popularized the use of technology and social media that revolutionized political fundraising and reshaped American politics. Subsequently, he co-founded Echo & Co, a digital consultancy he sold in 2014. He has published widely, including the international bestseller “The End of Big: How The Digital Revolution Makes David The New Goliath” published in 2013 by St. Martin’s Press. He also wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled “Dogs I Have Loved” available on Amazon.
Nicco co-founded the Massachusetts Poetry Festival (where he still serves as board chair) and in 2014 he co-produced a documentary about the poet W.S. Merwin, “Even Though The Whole World Is Burning”. Nicco highly recommends his wife’s podcast The Anxious Achiever and her books: The Anxious Achiever and Hiding in the Bathroom.
March 7: Civic Engagement
Dr. Ofrit Liviatan is a lecturer on law and politics at Harvard’s Department of Government, the author of the political novel Anything But Steady, and the Director of Harvard College’s Freshman Seminar Program. She holds a PhD and MA (with distinction) from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, as well as an Israeli law degree where she was admitted to the bar and practiced constitutional, criminal and commercial law. Dr. Liviatan’s research interests and award-winning teachings focus on divided societies and the role of legal and political mechanisms in the accommodation of diversity.
Anil Ahuja has been a Lexington resident since 2006. He has been a Lexington Town Meeting Member since 2016 and a Member of the Lexington Appropriation Committee since 2021. He is the current President of Indian-Americans Getting Involved Group (iGIG). He is on the Organizing Committee of Festival of Colors and on the Community Outreach Committee for the Indian-Americans of Lexington (IAL).
Jerren Chang is the co-founder & CEO of GenUnity – a Boston-based nonprofit that brings diverse residents – from ‘proximate experts’ experiencing an issue (e.g., Housing Insecurity) to ‘siloed experts’ working in relevant institutions (e.g., Boston Housing Authority) – together to drive change. Prior to launching GenUnity, Jerren served in the Chicago Mayor’s Office focusing on economic development policy and worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company advising public and social sector leaders. He holds an MPP and MBA from Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School and is a graduate of Duke University where he majored in Economics and Mathematics.
Mike Barrett is State Senator for nine Massachusetts communities — Bedford, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Lincoln, Waltham, Weston, and large parts of Lexington and Sudbury. For 17 years before his 2012 election, Mike made his living in health care and information technology, first as CEO and General Counsel of the Visiting Nurse Associations of New England, a health care system composed of 70 home health nursing agencies, and then as a health care IT analyst for Forrester Research and Critical Mass Consulting. Prior to working in the private sector, Mike served in both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate, where he was a leader on issues ranging from gay rights to human services.
February 9: Race, Schools, and Social Justice
Robert Bellinger, PhD, is a public historian with a background in Black Studies and almost half a century of experience as an educator. He has served as a consultant and historian for documentary films, most notably the well-received documentary Birth of a Movement (2017). Dr. Bellinger has been engaged in public history projects at historic sites, monuments, and installations. Recently Dr. Bellinger completed a research project with the Lexington Historical Society on the history of Black people in Lexington 1690-1800, to expand the understanding and interpretation of the history of this Massachusetts community. He serves on a number of boards, including for the Robbins House in Concord and the Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury. Most recently, he was elected to the board for Middleton Place in Charleston, South Carolina.
Kerry Dunne, EdD, is in her second year as the history and social studies department head at Lexington High School, where she is currently teaching 10th grade modern world history. Prior to coming to Lexington she was a social studies dept head in Weston, K-12 social studies director in Boston and Arlington, and a history teacher at Framingham High School
Maggie Herzig is a Founding Associate of Essential Partners. She has facilitated dialogues on topics including abortion, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, forest management, scripture and sexual orientation, and population and reproductive health.
Jane Hundley, LPS Social Studies Department Head, 6-8, works with the social studies teachers at Clarke and Diamond to build and teach a comprehensive skills and content based curriculum.
Mona Roy has been active on various state and local initiatives surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and mental health for decades. At the local level, she serves on Lexington’s Human Rights Committee and the Town’s Lex250 Commission, co-chairs IAL’s Education Subcommittee, has served Lexington for decades as part of SEPAC (Special Education Parents Advisory Council), as well as numerous task forces including the town wide Mental Health task force and the Dyslexia Task Force.
Beyond Lexington, she is part of the organizing team of CARE (the Coalition for Anti-Racism, Equity & Justice in Education) and part of the drafting team of newly pending legislation An Act To Promote Racially Inclusive Curriculum in Schools (HD3360). She also serves a member of the TEAMS Patient Experience Board to improve the healthcare experience for neurodiverse patients.
By profession, she is an intellectual property attorney and a partner at the law firm of Handal & Morofsky and serves on the advisory boards of multiple non-profit organizations. She performs the music of Tagore and also teaches Bengali music at the local Bengali school. As a first generation Indian American and mother of two neurodiverse AAPI sons, including one with severe autism and a rare medical condition, she embraces the intrinsic value of all human life and the need for universal love, dignity, understanding and acceptance.
Natasha Warikoo, PhD, is a professor of sociology at Tufts University. She is the author of, most recently, Race at the Top, an illuminating, in-depth look at competition in suburban high schools with growing numbers of Asian Americans, where white parents are determined to ensure that their children remain at the head of the class, as well as The Diversity Bargain about affirmative action in higher education.