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ProPublica Announces Six Staff Promotions, Creates New Masthead Team

Charles Ornstein named managing editor/local; Ginger Thompson becomes chief of correspondents; Tracy Weber named deputy managing editor

ProPublica announced on Tuesday that six editors and reporters have been promoted, and a new editorial masthead has been formally created.

“As ProPublica continues to grow — more than doubling in size over the past four years — we are likewise expanding our senior management team,” ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg said. “These moves both strengthen and diversify our news leadership, including the creation of a new staff development role. We are thrilled to announce the promotion of these newsroom leaders, whose depth and breadth of knowledge, life experience, sound judgment and innovative thinking have been crucial to producing some of our best work.”

Charles Ornstein, deputy managing editor, has been promoted to managing editor for local. In this role, reporting to Engelberg, he will oversee ProPublica’s expanding portfolio of local journalism initiatives, including the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, a unit operated with The Texas Tribune, as well as ProPublica Illinois.

A staff member since ProPublica began publishing in 2008, Ornstein first came to the newsroom as one of the nation’s preeminent health care reporters, investigating everything from pharmaceutical industry payments to doctors to conflicts of interest at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He became an editor in late 2017 to manage the first group of ProPublica Local Reporting Network projects, growing the annual number of local investigations from seven to more than 20. Under his leadership, the Anchorage Daily News, a partner newsroom in the Local Reporting Network, was honored with the 2020 Pulitzer Gold Medal for public service, a prize Ornstein and his reporting partner Tracy Weber (see below) won while at the Los Angeles Times in 2005, and for which Ornstein and Weber were finalists at ProPublica in 2010. Ornstein also led efforts this year to hire the journalists who are now working for the ProPublica and Texas Tribune initiative.

Ginger Thompson, senior reporter, has been promoted to chief of correspondents, reporting to Managing Editor Robin Fields. In this role, which carries the rank of deputy managing editor, she will continue her reporting career while also working with editors and reporters across the newsroom to ensure the development and deployment of staff to maximum effect. She will also play a central role in recruiting and hiring.

Thompson came to ProPublica in 2014 after a remarkable career as a foreign correspondent, using her deep understanding of the U.S.-Mexico border and the communities on both sides to report a series of powerful stories, from exploring the Drug Enforcement Administration’s dubious contention that the drug trade was funding terrorism to an oral history of a massacre in a Mexican village triggered by a botched U.S. drug operation. In 2018, she changed the national conversation on the Trump administration’s so-called zero-tolerance policy by obtaining a recording of children weeping after being separated from their parents at a U.S. border facility, prompting the administration to stop the practice. This story led to a team-effort series on immigration that won a Polk Award and was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Gold Medal for public service. Also in 2019, Thompson was honored with the John Chancellor Award, awarded each year to a reporter of “courage and integrity” for their cumulative achievements. In 2000, Thompson was part of a New York Times reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize for the series “How Race Is Lived in America.”

Tracy Weber, senior editor, has been promoted to deputy managing editor, also reporting to Fields. In this role, she will work with senior editors to ensure the newsroom is choosing the right projects and executing them to their full potential, in addition to focusing on how staff is deployed and continuing to supervise a smaller team of reporters directly.

Weber was part of the original ProPublica staff in 2008 and paired with Ornstein to report the prizewinning work described above. She joined ProPublica’s editing ranks in 2014. Over the past five years, work edited by Weber has won virtually every significant honor in journalism. Among other standouts, this includes a series she co-edited on grave, systemic problems in the Navy that won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting; Thompson’s story on family separations, which won the Peabody Award’s first ever Catalyst Award; a series on the Border Patrol honored with an RFK Human Rights Journalism Award; a series on jailhouse informants that won a National Magazine Award; and a series on how the bankruptcy system punishes poor Black Americans that received an American Society of News Editors Award.

Diego Sorbara, standards editor, has been promoted to assistant managing editor. In his new role, he will manage freelance reporting expenditures and continue to play a central role in the newsroom’s efforts to streamline its increasingly complex production pipeline.

Since joining ProPublica in 2018, Sorbara has been the final set of eyes on stories. He has led decision-making on style and has brought consistency and sound judgment to ProPublica’s process for corrections, clarifications and updates. In addition to his original portfolio as standards editor, Sorbara also oversees the newsroom’s publication calendar, leading daily and weekly story meetings.

Alexandra Zayas, senior editor, has been promoted to assistant managing editor. In this role, she will serve as project manager for ProPublica’s most complex and important projects each year, making sure they are as powerful, integrated and fully realized as they can be. She will also continue to oversee a team of reporters.

Over the last several months, Zayas has helped lead ProPublica’s coronavirus coverage, focusing particularly on racial inequities in the pandemic’s toll, in addition to helping oversee the newsroom’s work on police accountability. Since joining ProPublica in 2017, she has supervised several projects that have showcased her skill in working with specialty teams and outside partners to produce stories that combine stunning text narratives with outstanding graphics, videos and long-form filmmaking. These projects have included a 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning feature series on MS-13 that she co-edited, an innovative visual work on how levees can increase flooding, a Polk Award-winning story on Black land loss in the South, and an investigation and documentary on sexual assault at an American charity for vulnerable girls in Liberia. In earlier work as a reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, Zayas won the Selden Ring Award and the Livingston Award for Young Journalists, and she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

Reporter Talia Buford is being promoted to serve as ProPublica’s first-ever talent development director, reporting to Ginger Thompson. In this role, she will leave the reporting ranks and work across the newsroom to oversee staff development initiatives and ProPublica’s recruitment efforts. She will also supervise ProPublica’s Emerging Reporters program, a fellowship for students of color working at college journalism outlets.

Since joining ProPublica in April 2017, Buford has produced stories on the rollback of environmental regulations under the Trump administration and served as a host of “Hot Mess,” the PBS Digital Studios YouTube series on climate change. In ProPublica’s COVID-19 coverage over the past several months, she co-authored pivotal stories on early data showing Black Americans were dying disproportionately of the virus and on the first 100 coronavirus deaths in Chicago.

With these appointments, ProPublica’s masthead team will consist of Engelberg, managing editors Fields and Ornstein, deputy managing editors Thompson, Weber, Scott Klein and Eric Umansky, and assistant managing editors Sorbara and Zayas.

ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. With a team of more than 100 dedicated journalists, ProPublica covers a range of topics, focusing on stories with the potential to spur real-world impact. Its reporting has contributed to the passage of new laws; reversals of harmful policies and practices; and accountability for leaders at local, state and national levels. Since it began publishing in 2008, ProPublica has received six Pulitzer Prizes, five Peabody Awards, three Emmy Awards and eight George Polk Awards, among other honors.

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