Senior Leadership

Josie Duffy Rice, President

Josie received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University and her JD from Harvard Law School. Josie was previously a staff writer at Daily Kos, where she focused on prosecutorial accountability and criminal justice. Josie’s writing on race, gender, culture, and politics has been featured in the New York Times, Slate, Gawker, Ebony, Daily Kos, Rewire, Interactive One, and Spook Mag, among others. She has also been featured in The Nation, New York Magazine, and Scalawag. She is a former staff attorney at the Center for Popular Democracy.

Matt Ferner, Editor-in-Chief

Matt previously worked as a reporter for HuffPost where for nearly a decade he wrote about politics, policing, the incarceration crisis, gun violence, and the climate crisis on the enterprise, politics and breaking news teams. His reporting has been cited in legal briefs and academic research, has influenced policy, exposed misconduct, and helped lead to investigations of government corruption. Previously at HuffPost, Matt was also the chief editor of the Denver bureau where he lead a team that covered local news, culture, and politics of the region and the broader Rocky Mountain West. Before that Matt was an editor, writer, and reporter for various local and national digital magazines and literary journals, covering news, politics, culture, and art. Matt obtained a BA in English from the University of Colorado Boulder and an MFA in Film/Screenwriting from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Rob Smith, Executive Director

Rob was previously an assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Law School. Rob’s scholarship has appeared in the New York University Law Review, Cornell Law Review, and Boston University Law Review, among other journals; in the online editions of the Yale Law Journal, Michigan Law Review, and Northwestern Law Review; and in media outlets like The Guardian, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Slate. His work has been cited by courts including the United States Supreme Court, as well as in the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, and The Atlantic.

Keisha Hudson, Managing Director

Keisha was most recently the deputy chief defender at the Montgomery County Public Defender Office in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the Montgomery County Defenders, Ms. Hudson spent 10 years as an attorney with the Federal Defender, Capital Habeas Unit (Eastern District of Pennsylvania) where she represented clients sentenced to death row in their state post conviction and federal habeas appeals. In her last year at the CHU, she served as the Director of Training. She began her public defense career at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Keisha received both her undergraduate and law degrees from Cornell University.

Jake Sussman, Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel

Jake graduated from New York University School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar. He then clerked for the Honorable Ellen B. Burns of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Jake previously practiced law in North Carolina, where he handled criminal and capital cases in state and federal courts. Jake also litigated scores of civil rights cases, including the successful challenge to North Carolina’s ban against marriage equality. Jake has been an invited speaker on topics including the death penalty, working with experts, litigating civil rights actions, and First Amendment issues.

Senior Editors

Braden Goyette, Managing Editor

Braden previously edited daily news and narrative enterprise stories on the national digital desk at CNN, and on the foreign and national desk at the Los Angeles Times. She has also worked at HuffPost and the New York Daily News.

Ethan Brown, Enterprise Editor

Ethan previously worked as a contributing editor at New York Magazine. He is the author of four investigative reporting-driven books about crime and criminal justice policy: “Murder in the Bayou” (Scribner/Simon and Schuster 2016), “Queens Reigns Supreme” (Random House 2005), “Snitch” (Public Affairs 2007), and “Shake the Devil Off” (Henry Holt). “Murder in the Bayou” is a New York Times best-seller; a five-part documentary series based on “Murder in the Bayou” premiered on Showtime in September 2019. Ethan also worked for nearly a decade as a mitigation specialist for attorneys representing indigent defendants facing the death penalty in the Deep South and elsewhere.

Rachel Brody, Senior Editor

Rachel is a Brooklyn-based editor with news experience across verticals—in politics, criminal justice, culture and more—editing news and commentary for major outlets including Newsweek (where she served as deputy opinion editor) and U.S. News & World Report.

Craig Hunter, Senior Editor

Craig spent the majority of his career at the New York Times as a media, science and technology editor. Prior to joining the Appeal, Craig also served in senior editing roles at Daily Kos and Climate Central. A longtime student of emerging media trends, Craig is the co-founder of HeadStepper Media, an award-winning podcast production company.

Malecia Walker, Senior Copy Editor

Malecia spent nearly 20 years working at newspapers around the country, including the Kansas City Star and the Dallas Morning News, with a pitstop as an editor and writer at Black Enterprise magazine. Most recently, she was a staff editor at the New York Times.

Matthew McKnight, Senior Editor

Matthew is a graduate of Morehouse College and Georgetown University. He has worked as the assistant literary editor at The Nation. His own writing—about art, literature, and contemporary American life—has appeared in The PointThe NationThe New Yorker, and The Baffler. Prior to joining The Appeal, Matthew was a fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY, where he began working on a biography of the writer Albert Murray.

Tara Francis Chan, Senior Editor

Tara previously worked as a senior editor at Newsweek, where she led coverage of politics and social issues. Prior to that, she was the launch editor of Business Insider’s Asia desk and was the editor of a leading Australian print magazine. Her work has been cited in congressional hearings and rebuffed by Chinese state media. Tara studied science communication and has worked on projects in London, Moscow, Sydney, Edinburgh, and Abu Dhabi. She graduated from the University of New South Wales where she was a William McIlrath Rural Scholar.


Vertical Editors:

Political Report:

  • Daniel Nichanian, Founder and Editorial Director, Political Report
  • Anna Simonton, Senior Editor

The Lab:

  • Kyle Barry, Managing Editor, The Lab
  • Dawn Milam, Deputy Managing Editor, The Lab

Appeal Live:

  • Sara Yousuf, Managing Editor, Appeal Live

The Point:

  • Nikki Trautman Baszynski, Managing Editor, The Point

Additional Senior Leaders:

  • Alex Bassos, Chief Products Officer
  • Kate Chatfield, Director of Audience Engagement
  • Chris Geidner, Director of Editorial Strategy
  • Kolby Lee, Director of Communications
  • Lindsey McLendon, Director, Research Group
  • Jevhon Rivers, Director, Research Group

Our Donors:

The Appeal is a fiscally sponsored project of Tides, which means that The Appeal pays Tides a fee to provide back-office support, such as payroll, benefits, and human resources. The Appeal, through Tides, accepts both 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) donations. Tides plays no role in our programmatic or editorial process. Here are our donors:

$1,000,000 and over:

  • Open Philanthropy
  • Meadow Fund
  • Ballmer Group
  • Chan Zuckerberg

$500,000 and over:

  • Schusterman Foundation
  • Vanguard Charitable

$250,000 and over:

  • Vital Projects
  • Galaxy Gives
  • FWD.us

$100,000 and over:

  • Barton Family Fund
  • MacArthur Foundation
  • Mountain Philanthropy
  • Solidarity Giving

$50,000 and over:

  • Bank of America

$10,000 and over:

  • Robert and Maurine Rothschild Fund

How We Work:

Our Pitch Process

A foundational aspect of how we do our work at The Appeal is to tell stories and ideas through different lenses (e.g. reporting, commentary, a white paper, a produced video), which requires highly coordinated, rapid productivity across verticals. To create this disciplined alignment in a fast changing environment we rely on a centralized decision-making process. However, to ensure that we are getting the best ideas and angles, we are a high context and extremely high feedback organization. Below is our pitch form, which details what we look for in pitches, and our pitch process, which is the blueprint for how we operate on a day-to-day basis.
  1. Coverage Priorities. In consultation with the President, Editor-in-Chief, Managing Director, Director of Editorial Strategy, and vertical editors, the Executive Director sets coverage priorities each Thursday for the following week, or as appropriate. Some of these priorities will last for more than a month; others will last only a week. If an issue is a priority, it means that we want to publish as many good products on that topic as possible.
  2. Pitching. Anyone can pitch ideas for products or a set of products through the pitch form (note: you don’t need to be at The Appeal to pitch us stories via this form!). Pitches should either be within the coverage priorities or an important opportunity within our larger set of coverage values.
  3. Pitch Comments. After an initial review by the Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief, pitches under consideration will go into a document for anyone in the organization to see. Some truly time-sensitive pitches, or pitches involving sensitive exclusives, will be immediately approved so we can move quickly. All others–the vast majority–will be provided for everyone to review and provide comments. We’re always happy for missing angles or product ideas. This is also a time to raise counter-arguments about why we shouldn’t approve the pitch. Counter-arguments are incredibly helpful for thinking through and prioritizing the pitches, so raise them even if you love the pitch.
  4. Meetings. We’ll have a pitch meeting every Monday, a follow-up meeting on Tuesday, and a round-up meeting on Thursday. The pitch meeting will usually focus on discussing key pitches relating to the coverage priority areas. The follow-up meeting will focus on any outstanding pitches, and any organizational documents or processes that need to be reviewed or altered. The round-up meeting will focus on successes achieved and challenges faced by verticals and teams during the week.
  5. Approval & Assignment. Based on input and other information, the Executive Director will approve ideas and assign products and research with as much detail and clarity as possible from the outset. Any changes to assignments must be approved by the Executive Director, Managing Director, or Editor-in-Chief.
  6. Post-Assignment. The editor managing the vertical is responsible for the execution of the product. The Director of Editorial Strategy will work to ensure alignment across the verticals, as well as provide support for verticals and specific products. Both the Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief can veto any product or part of a product and have an opportunity to review or edit products. Neither need to approve products before they go out. In general, it’s better to do autopsy meetings to hone and improve than to slow down products before they are published.
  7. Transparency.  The Chief Products Officer will assure that the entirety of the pitch and assignment processes are running smoothly and that all teams understand and have complete transparency regarding the ideas and products they may touch.
  8. Outreach. The Communications team and the Audience Engagement team will work with the rest of the teams to help devise outreach plans for products across The Appeal. Their outreach also will generate new pitch ideas, which will be an essential part of the cyclical process we’re creating.

Our Theory of Change:

We tell stories repeatedly and through different lenses (white papers and reports, polling memos, reporting and commentary, streaming and produced video), repackage them, and put them in the hands of the people who are best positioned to use them to create change. This increases the salience and centrality of these issues for our core audience of public officials, journalists, advocates, and academics, which, in turn, shapes how those leaders make decisions.

How We Succeed:

Everything we do is driven by our theory of change, and we are obsessed with gauging whether and how much progress we are making. To gauge this progress, we focus on both production metrics and impact metrics. In an effort to promote transparency and hold ourselves accountable, we will post our 2021 objectives and key results by the end of January 2021. These are our key metrics:

Production Metrics.

Our production metrics are set at the overall organization level, by vertical, and by staff member.

Impact Metrics.

Our impact metrics are divided into three categories: Overall audience; core audience; and coverage bursts.
  • Overall audience: This measures the total number of views on our website and of our video products, and our social media following.
  • Core Audience: We track how often our work is cited in the media, meaningfully engaged with by key academics, advocates, electeds, and reporters, and referenced or incorporated into legislation and policy.
  • Coverage Bursts: We strive for coverage bursts, which reflect the traction of our storytelling on an issue told through multiple mediums such as reporting, commentary, analysis, polling, and live video segments.