2022 Speakers

Alphabetized by last name.

Assistant Professor of Journalism, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“Stepping into the Frame: Communicating experiences with Virtual Reality”

Virtual reality (VR) is opening new avenues for us to communicate experiences. This talk will explore how VR is changing how we experience stories, the social-psychological effects of VR, and why journalists have a stake in the future of this rapidly evolving technology. This presentation will also review how VR experiences can be produced relatively cheaply, quickly, and easily using omnidirectional (i.e., 360 °) cameras and a smartphone.

Dr. Christopher Ball is an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism. Before joining the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he was a research assistant and instructor while working on his PhD at Michigan State University. During this time, he worked extensively on various grant funded research projects and he taught a number of cutting-edge courses. In addition to his PhD, he also obtained graduate certifications in both Educational Technology as well as Serious Game Design and Research. Before beginning his doctoral studies, he was employed as a research associate at Clemson University where he designed and tested educational virtual world programs.

Knight Chair in Digital Media Strategy, Medill | Northwestern University



Jeremy Gilbert is the Knight Professor in Digital Media Strategy. Both his work and teaching focus on the content and revenue strategies of existing and emerging media companies. He oversees the Knight Lab and explores the intersection of technology and media, examining how new tools and techniques will affect the creation, consumption and distribution of media. Prior to assuming the Knight Chair, Gilbert was The Washington Post’s Director of Strategic Initiatives and developing a digital strategy for National Geographic.

Professor of Professional Practice, University of Southern California Annenberg

“The Future of Journalism is Immersive”


Mixed Reality Journalism is here and it’s accessible to any newsroom – or sole journalist – through free (or nearly free) applications. Learn how USC’s JOVRNALISM has been producing award-winning immersive experiences for years and how you can begin producing your own.

Robert Hernandez, aka WebJournalist, has made a name for himself as a journalist of the Web, not just on the Web. His primary focus is exploring and developing the intersection of technology and journalism – to empower people, inform reporting and storytelling, engage community, improve distribution and, whenever possible, enhance revenue.

He is a Professor of Professional Practice at USC Annenberg, but he’s not an academic… he’s more of a “hackademic.” He and his students produce XR experiences under their brand: JOVRNALISM™. Their work has won awards from The Webby Awards, The Shorty Awards, the Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists, among others, and can be seen in Al Jazeera, The New York Times, NBC, NPR, ProPublica, USA Today and across other platforms.

Associate Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Journalism and Mass Communication

“The Loneliness Epidemic:

The Role of Intelligent Agents in Improving Aging Adults’ Quality of Life”


COVID-19 vividly demonstrated how devastating loneliness and social isolation can be. Can intelligent agents like Alexa help, particularly among aging adults?

Valerie K. Jones is curious about what’s next. That curiosity fueled a career at advertising agencies from Chicago to San Francisco, the creation of her own digital media consultancy, a move to academia, and a 2023 Fulbright Scholar Award. Dr. Jones is now a Fred A. & Gladys Seaton professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Her research bridges the professional and academic communities, exploring the intersection of digital media, innovation, and culture. She published some of the earliest work in her field about the influence of voice-powered artificial intelligence assistants, and her latest work explores how those assistants influence loneliness and social connectedness in aging adults.

Jones is the first professor from the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications to be named a Fulbright Scholar since 1999. A native Nebraskan, she will travel to Melbourne to study the use of emergent technology in facilitating social connectedness for aging adults in the United States and Australia.

Knight Chair in Digital Editing and Producing
University of Missouri


Damon Kiesow is a digital media pioneer who specializes in aligning community information needs and business strategy in support of sustainable local journalism

He is a co-founder of the international News Product Alliance and serves as an advisor to the non-profit and as a member of its GNI/Knight supported mentorship program for emerging product leaders. Since 2018, he has supported a diversity internship program in collaboration with the Institute for Nonprofit News, placing students in product and audience engagement roles in INN member newsrooms. He is currently authoring the first textbook for News Product Management, due to be published in the Summer of 2023.

Prior to joining the Missouri School of Journalism, he was director of Product for McClatchy in Raleigh, North Carolina where he reorganized the Product group to better align business goals with reader needs and created the company’s first Product Design and User Experience Research teams. Before that, Kiesow was a senior product manager at The Boston Globe, a Digital Media Fellow at the Poynter Institute, the managing editor/online at The Telegraph in Nashua, New Hampshire, and the Principal Photo Editor with AOL News in Dulles, Virginia.

“The Next Gen Newsroom”


An overview of how advances in mobile technology is being
leveraged in news gathering by the New York Times and how these tools could become more accessible to smaller newsrooms in the coming years.

Niko Koppel is a visual journalist and multimedia artist. His background of covering breaking news and long-form stories has led him to work as a staff member for leading media outlets in a variety of roles including, reporting, photographing, photo editing, and producing immersive experiences. Currently, he is working at the New York Times R&D team, exploring emerging technology and its impact on the future of interactive storytelling.

Director of Journalism
Knight Foundation


Marc Lavallee is a Director of Journalism at Knight Foundation, overseeing technology products and strategy. Marc brings more than two decades of experience as a software developer and technology executive in the journalism industry to this role.

Prior to joining Knight, Marc 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, Marc launched a new research and development unit focused on applying emerging technologies like machine learning 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.

Senior Platform Editor
Wall Street Journal

“Digital Content Curation: Reaching Audiences Across Platforms”


How do you choose and prepare content for various platforms? What audiences do we reach? This talk will focus on content curation for news across platforms as the digital landscape continues to evolve.

Julia Munslow is a senior platform editor on the visual storytelling team at the Wall Street Journal, which creates and produces news experiences across vertical, visual-first channels like Instagram, Google, Snapchat and more.

She previously worked as a special projects editor at Yahoo News, where she focused on Gen Z content strategy and audience development. Prior to that, Julia completed a Fulbright grant in Malaysia, where she taught English. She grew up in Rhode Island and is an Emory University graduate.

Director of Audio Journalism, Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism

“How On-Demand Listening is Changing News Radio”


The option of on-demand listening has changed how news consumers experience news radio. For example, listening to the same story in a podcast such as NPR’s Consider This is different compared to during a news magazine program like All Things Considered. But also, this variance in mediums has opened up opportunities to expand traditional radio stories to newer, younger, and more diverse listeners.

Arionne Nettles is a lecturer and director of audio journalism programming at Northwestern University’s Medill School. She is a culture reporter who has contributed to outlets such as the New York Times Opinion, Chicago PBS station WTTW and NPR affiliate WBEZ. She is also host of Is That True? A Kids Podcast About Facts.

Nettles was recently deputy editor at nonprofit civic media organization City Bureau and has also worked as a digital producer at WBEZ, multiplatform editor at The Associated Press, and digital managing editor of the Chicago Defender. Her book, We are the Culture: Black Chicago’s Influence on Everything, will be published with Chicago Review Press in 2023.

Horvitz Chair in Journalism Innovation
Syracuse University

“Storytelling in the Metaverse”

How do stories change when experienced with others in shared virtual spaces?”



This talk is a look at our metaverse past and future, and some of the tools that make it possible.

Dan Pacheco holds the Peter A. Horvitz Chair of Journalism Innovation at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, and is a pioneer in the use of virtual reality for journalism. In 2014 he started and co-produced The Des Moines Register’s Harvest of Change VR project for the Oculus Rift, the world’s first large-scale use of virtual reality by a commercial news organization. Harvest of Change earned an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2015 for its innovative use of 360-degree video for virtual reality. His most recent project is Visualizing 81, a Journalism 360 funded project that uses 360, photogrammetry and 3D architectural renderings to tell the story of an aging interstate overpass that may be replaced with a community grid designed to heal racial and economic divisions in Syracuse.

Previously, Pacheco spent 20 years in the trenches of digital publishing everywhere from Fortune 500 companies to startups. He started his career as an online producer for Washingtonpost.com, where he produced Interact, one of the first online news communities. Subsequently, as a principal product manager at America Online, he oversaw some of the internet’s first truly global community products. In 2005, after pioneering the first implementation of a social networking platform at a U.S. newspaper, he received an NAA “20 Under 40” award. And in 2007, he received a Knight News Challenge grant to build a democratized publishing service that evolved into an eBook platform.

Pacheco is currently working on a book titled “Experimenting With Emerging Media Platforms: Field Testing the Future” that will be published by Routledge in 2022-2023.

University of Illinois Chicago
“Google Tools for Your Newsroom and Classroom”

@journtoolbox on Twitter

Mike Reilley teaches data and digital journalism at UIC and is an SPJ trainer in the Google News Initiative training program. He also owns Penny Press Digital, LLC, a digital consulting company that works with news companies on digital development projects and training.

This workshop covers data scraping, visualization, search fundamentals and how to extract real-time and historical stock data from Google Finance. We’ll dig into search and Google Earth tools in this hands-on session taught by Mike Reilley of the Journalist’s Toolbox.


Co-founder/Studio Art Director
Loric Games

“The Gamification of Everything”

How games have influenced the next wave of interactive experiences



The games industry continues to inspire all forms of media as industries explore new ways to connect with audiences. Ray Soto will share insights into how he applied game design to journalism, leveraging advancements in mobile technologies, which has prepared him for a return to games as a company co-founder.

Ray Soto is an award-winning technologist and co-founder/Studio Art Director at Loric Games. Previously, he was the senior director of emerging technology at USA TODAY and associate art director at Mythic Entertainment.

With over 20 years of experience leading the development of interactive stories in journalism and video games, Ray’s work has been recognized with over 20 awards including the Pulitzer Prize for the multimedia report “The Wall.” His work in XR was recognized when Gannett was named one of Fast Company’s “World’s Most Innovative Companies” in VR/AR in 2019. Ray was also named one of The Drum’s Top 100 Marketers in the World for 2019.

Prior to Ray’s work at Gannett, he served as an Associate Art Director and Outsource Manager at Electronic Arts where he was responsible for leading a cross-disciplinary team of artists, designers, and animators.

Vice President of Product Development
American Press Institute


Elite (e-light) is the vice president of product strategy at American Press Institute, where she leads product and business development of programs that help modernize local newsrooms’ editorial and business strategies across the country. Previously, she was the director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post and product manager of partnerships and new platforms at Vox Media.

Santa Clara University

“Ethics Guardrails for Mobile Media As 5G Rolls Out: What are the questions?”


Subramaniam Vincent directs Journalism and Media Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. He is currently convener of the News Distribution Ethics Roundtable and also leads the Source Diversity Audit Technology project.

He has contributed to several consultations and papers on the challenges to democracy arising due to digital media. He writes and synthesizes research on the subject of advancing pro-democracy norms in the news media, and is the author of several book chapters and journal articles.

Vincent was a John S Knight Journalism fellow, Stanford University in 2015-2016. He co-founded and led two awarding-winning news magazines in Bangalore, India, and pioneered a hybrid citizen-professional reporting model. Vincent is originally a software engineer. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife and daughter.

Senior Producer
CNN Digital

“Programming at the Speed of Now”

News is a hyper-competitive space where a premium is put on speed now more than ever. Here’s how CNN Digital is so swift and smart.

Zach Wade is a Sr. Producer with CNN Digital’s Global Programming team. He is building a CNN UX that advances editorial’s content strategy. Zach contributes extensive knowledge of audience and user behavior to guide development of CNN Digital’s machine learning, personalization, video, and real-time storytelling capabilities.

Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Is there a next thing for drones?”

Drones went from zero to everywhere very quickly. But lately, it’s been quiet. But some rule changes might open some new doors soon.

Matt Waite is a professor of practice in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who teaches courses in data analysis and visualization. In 2011, he founded the Drone Journalism Lab, where he and his students have used drones to report news in six countries on three continents. He regularly speaks about the legal and ethical complexities of using drones at conferences around the world and is regularly consulted by media organizations about their potential.

From 2007-2011, he was a programmer/journalist for the St. Petersburg Times where he developed the Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact. Before that, he was an award-winning investigative reporter for the Times and co-author of Paving Paradise: Florida’s Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss.