INN Staff

Leadership Team

Sue Cross

Executive Director and CEO

Sue Cross is executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a network of more than 250 independent, nonprofit news media organizations in North America. She joined INN in 2015 to build its emerging media network and advance social enterprise models for investigative and other public service journalism. She is a former senior vice president for the Associated Press global news agency, where she created digital news services, expanded Spanish language and Latin American operations, introduced video to more than a thousand online news sites and managed a national news cooperative. She previously served as a regional vice president, AP’s Los Angeles bureau chief and directed news coverage and media operations in Chicago, Phoenix and Dallas. She began her career as a reporter in Alaska and Ohio. Cross also has worked in nonprofit business development, network-building and social enterprise consulting. She serves on boards including Stanford University’s John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships and EdSource, a California education media and research nonprofit, and on the National Advisory Council for the Emma Bowen Foundation. She is a graduate of Ohio State University. Cross lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Contact: sue@inn.org

Jonathan Kealing

Chief Network Officer

As INN’s chief network officer, Jonathan Kealing strengthens collaboration among INN’s network of nonprofit newsrooms and develops partnerships and services that help them meet their missions and increase the impact of their journalism.  Kealing leads the Amplify Project among Midwest newsrooms piloting news sharing and distribution models. He is especially interested in ways local and regional news organizations can work together and with national organizations to extend the impact of their journalism.

Before joining INN, Kealing was part of the executive leadership team at Public Radio International, serving as executive editor for PRI.org. Kealing led a team of 15 journalists covering global issues including immigration, gender equity and international security. He also made four trips to China to teach mid-career Chinese journalists about U.S. digital media trends.

Kealing previously worked for The World Company and its Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World. There he helped launch innovative community news sites focused on health and sustainability. He also led efforts to cross-train reporters and photographers for a digital-first, multiplatform environment.

Kealing has spoken at many national and regional journalism conferences, including the Online News Conference, and is a graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two kids and their dog.

Contact: jonathan@inn.org

Fran Scarlett

Chief Knowledge Officer

Fran Scarlett is INN’s chief knowledge officer and business coach. She specializes in helping organizations understand and leverage their value propositions to build business models that maximize their potential for revenue growth and long term sustainability.

Most recently Fran served as the regional director of the Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She was responsible for starting businesses, growing capital investment and creating jobs in Southeastern North Carolina. Prior to that, she ran her own management consulting firm, Scarlett Ink Media, providing strategic and tactical consulting to news media organizations with an emphasis on developing new revenue models; product development and cross-platform collaborations.

Before consulting, Scarlett spent ten years at The Plain Dealer in the advertising division.  In her role, she worked closely with the news division in content development to grow incremental revenue. During her tenure she created and served as the general manager of the custom publishing group with responsibility for editorial, sales and operations. Scarlett received her MBA from Harvard University and a B.S. in Mass Communications from Boston University.

Contact: fran@inn.org

Management & Staff

Sharene Azimi

Communications Director

Sharene Azimi is a specialist in strategy and communications for cause-oriented organizations. As Communications Director for INN, she works to increase awareness of the growing field of nonprofit news.

Prior to joining INN in 2020, Sharene spent a decade as founder and principal of Mission Communications, providing organizational strategy, branding, communications planning, and marketing services to non-profits, universities, and foundations. Mission’s clients included The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, Health Federation of Philadelphia, Fairmount Park Conservancy, Rutgers School of Social Work, and the Consensus Building Institute.

Sharene was previously a vice president at Fenton, the country’s leading public-interest communications agency, where her roster of clients included organizations working on women’s rights, global development, urban poverty, and religious tolerance. Sharene began her career in the environmental movement as a writer, editor and publications director.

Sharene has spoken on cause-oriented communications to audiences at the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Annenberg School for Communications, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Nonprofit New York, and Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia. She received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University and is highly proficient in Spanish. She lives with her family in Central New Jersey.

Contact: sharene@inn.org

Lawrence Horne

Development Director

Lawrence Horne is INN’s Development Director, working with senior leadership and the Board of Directors to expand major gifts and foundation support for INN and its members. He brings more than 30 years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit management to the position, including senior positions at the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), The Public Theater, the Trust for Public Land, AIDS Service Center NYC, and the Hedrick-Martin Institute.

In addition to his work with the National Coalition Against Censorship, Horne's media involvement has included programming consulting work for KCET, a Los Angeles PBS station, and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and producing documentary films.

Horne began his nonprofit and fundraising career as the founder and executive director of Outfest, the Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival, which he grew into a leading film festival during his 15-year tenure. Most recently, he was the senior capital campaign director at the Green-Wood Historic Fund, and prior to that position, he was the executive director of the American Friends of Blérancourt supporting the Franco-American Museum, Château de Blérancourt in Picardy, France.

His educational background is in French and cinema studies, having pursued graduate work at UCLA in French film history and the Sorbonne (Paris IV) in French literature, and teaching film history in the French Department at UCLA. Horne has translated articles and books on art, architecture, and film from French into English.

He is based in Brooklyn and can be reached at lawrence@inn.org.

Contact: lawrence@inn.org

Roz Hunter

Grants Officer

Roz Hunter is a development and communications strategist and grant writer specializing in nonprofit journalism. Most recently she served as Deputy Director of Type Media Center (formerly The Nation Institute) and has previously held positions at The Nation magazine and International House Philadelphia. Hunter received an undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A. in Women's History from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York City.

Courtney Hurtt

NewsMatch Program Manager

Courtney Hurtt is program manager for NewMatch, the largest grassroots funding campaign for nonprofit journalism.

Previously, she led collaborative initiatives to diversify audience and revenue for WDET, Detroit’s public radio station. As associate director of product strategy and operations, Courtney created “Framed by WDET,” an award-winning series of community exhibitions that have appeared in more than 25 locations. Prior to her time at WDET, she was marketing director at Detroit Bikes, a bicycle manufacturing startup in Detroit.

Courtney graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Cultures in Politics from Michigan State University and has an MBA in Information Systems Management from Wayne State University. In 2017, she was named a German Marshall Fellow and traveled across Europe to explore the role journalism plays in restoring democracy.

Courtney is based in Detroit, MI.

Contact: courtney@inn.org, @candorblue

Mara Jezior

Membership & Development Coordinator

Mara Jezior is INN’s membership and development coordinator. She is responsible for managing and helping to build INN’s growing member community.

Prior to joining INN in July 2017, Mara held marketing and development internships at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and MinnPost, two of INN’s earliest members. As the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s first public engagement and marketing intern, she tracked the reach and impact of individual stories, producing reports for funders and created the Center’s first stakeholders report. During her time at MinnPost, she honed her skills using databases and donor prospecting.

Mara graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015 with a B.A. in journalism and history, and served as managing editor of UW-Madison’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Cardinal. There, she wrote and received her first grant, which awarded the newspaper $5,000 to support the coverage of under-reported topics on campus during a time when ad revenue was dwindling and the newspaper was seeking new revenue streams. She lives in Minneapolis.

Contact: mara@inn.org, @marajezior


Thomas Khadoo

Marketing and Communications Assistant

Thomas Khadoo works as the Marketing and Communications Assistant for INN, after starting as an intern through the amazing support of the Emma Bowen Foundation. He is a senior at NYU Stern studying Finance and Entrepreneurship with a minor in Sociology. Born and raised in New York City, he is currently developing a senior thesis on The Underlying Social and Economic Implications of the Coronavirus in New York City.

Thomas has dedicated much of his undergraduate experience towards diversity and inclusion, serving on his school’s DEI Committee as an undergraduate liaison, paying special attention to increasing the diversity of prospective students. He is also a NYU Stern Ambassador and has worked to write the undergraduate email newsletter each week. His interests include running, reading, and engaging with social issues.

Contact: thomas@inn.org

Kay Lima

Director of Technology

Kay leads a team of news technologists at the Institute for Nonprofit News, a fast-growing network of nearly 200 public service news organizations. She identifies and builds innovative solutions for independent news publishers to better engage with the public, strengthen revenue sources, and build trust. The team she directs build products which help newsrooms with their digital presentations of news.

Kay brings her experience in digital marketing, project management, and creative strategy to INN. She leverages this experience to lead trainings and digital innovations for over 70 publisher sites and news organizations each year.

Contact: kay@inn.org, @kayleen_lima

Sharon McGowan

Amplify Collaborations Leader

Sharon McGowan is the Amplify Collaborations Leader at the Institute for Nonprofit News, working with members throughout the Midwest on collaborative resources and coverage of public affairs issues that span the region.  McGowan was the founding editor of Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, an award-winning nonprofit news organization that has covered low-income, minority communities in Milwaukee’s central city since 2011.

She started her career as a reporter and then managing editor at The Chicago Reporter, which covers race and poverty. McGowan was assistant news director/managing editor at WBBM-AM Radio and later became Assignment Manager at WBBM-TV, both in Chicago. She was an adjunct faculty member in journalism at Northwestern University for more than 20 years and was most recently on the journalism faculty at the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.

McGowan earned her bachelor’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis and her master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. McGowan and her husband, Jim, have two adult children and are based in the Chicago area.

Contact: sharon@inn.org


Chip Potts

Director, Finance & Operations

Nonprofit finance executive Chip Potts is director of finance and operations, supporting the growth of the INN membership network, overseeing INN's fiscal sponsorship program and expanding the portfolio of business services and benefits for INN members.

Potts previously was the associate director and CFO of the Santa Monica College Foundation. He has more than 30 years of accounting experience, starting with a Washington CPA firm that specialized in audit reporting for nonprofit organizations and government contracting. He ran his own accounting and tax practice for 12 years in Arlington, Virginia before moving to California and joining the college foundation nine years ago.

Potts brings INN and network members broad nonprofit experience in volunteer fundraising, board participation and civic leadership. In addition to his CFO position, Potts served as acting director of the college foundation for nearly two years and volunteered for organizations including The Design Industry Foundation for AIDS (DiFFA), Whitman Walker Clinic AIDS Walk, Food and Friends' annual gala "Chef's Best.” He was a 10-year member of the Board of Directors for Florence Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, an organization serving at-risk girls and teenage mothers.

Potts has a B.S.B.A in accounting from Wheeling Jesuit University and in 2012 received his Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Sector Management from the California State University Northridge (CSUN). He has completed CSUN course work for a Master's in Public Administration.

He is based at INN's Los Angeles office.

Contact: chip@inn.org

Cynthia Ruiz

Office Administrator and Executive Assistant
Cynthia serves as INN’s office administrator and executive assistant. With more than 15 years of nonprofit administration experience, Cynthia is equal parts admin and equal parts jack of all trades — depending on project and office priority. Before joining INN, Cynthia worked closely with keratoconus patients for the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute at the University of California Irvine.

Cynthia is actively pursuing a B.A. in Sociology and Masters in Social Work, with a concentration on strengthening, empowering and rebuilding under-resourced communities.

Contact: cynthia@inn.org

Sara Shahriari

Director of Leadership and Talent Development

Sara Shahriari helps nonprofit newsrooms develop effective and forward-thinking leaders who advance the industry in both journalism and financial sustainability. That means supporting emerging leaders through training that strengthens their organizations while also building pathways into the nonprofit news world for diverse groups of talented students and industry professionals in journalism, public administration and business.

Sara’s professional background includes managing a statewide public radio network, hosting and producing an award-winning public affairs program, serving on the faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism and reporting extensively from Bolivia for outlets including the Guardian, Bloomberg News and The Christian Science Monitor.

Sara earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. She wholeheartedly believes in INN’s work to support meaningful and sustainable independent journalism in an age of drastically shrinking local and investigative coverage, and she is committed to working with present and future leaders as they build inclusive, excellent and financially sustainable nonprofit news organizations.

Contact: sara.s@inn.org


Sarah Vassello

Engagement Specialist

Sarah Vassello is the Engagement Specialist for INN, focusing on magnifying and connecting the stories of those in nonprofit news. She's especially interested in helping newsrooms develop relationships with their audiences and connecting excellent stories to new audiences.

Before joining INN in February 2018 as part of INN's Amplify News Project, Sarah served as an interactive entertainment intern at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and as a market engagement intern with Gannett, where she collaborated with publications in more than 100 markets to provide technical, website and newsroom support. She also provided network-wide support on watchdog projects, like a database to track special interest group influence on national and statewide politics, and has experience analyzing engagement data using website metrics, social metrics and data visualization.

A 2017 UNC-Chapel Hill grad with a B.A. in multimedia journalism and political science, she also worked for The Daily Tar Heel, a top-ranked independent student-run newspaper, where she rose from staff writer to launching and directing the entertainment and culture vertical.

Contact: sarah@inn.org, @sarahvassello

Jeffrey Woolverton

Network Philanthropy Director

Jeffrey Woolverton will lead INN’s Major Gifts initiative to transform fundraising capacity and increase major gifts across the INN network of more than 250 nonprofit news organizations. He will create shared resources, built on industry best practices, for INN member newsrooms to increase their skills for major gift fundraising, including identifying and developing relationships with individual donors.

Woolverton brings nearly 20 years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit management to INN. With a degree in sociology, he worked as program director and was the first development director of Life House Inc. in Duluth, MN, a program for homeless youth. From there, he moved to senior roles at Boys & Girls Clubs of America, where he grew new revenue across a national network of more than 600 nonprofit organizations.

At Boys & Girls Clubs, Woolverton led a team that doubled major gift contributions over two years by raising more than $214 million in 2019.

Contact: jeffrey@inn.org

Beverly Young

Communications Assistant

Beverly Young is INN’s part-time communications assistant based out of INN’s headquarters in Los Angeles, where she assists with digital communications and special web projects for INN and its members. She previously supported INN on its Index project, an important bench-marking survey that gauges the status of the nonprofit news industry and INN membership.

She has worked at several other digital media projects including the USC Annenberg Knight Digital Media Center, Michele’s List, and the RFCUNY Entrepreneurial Journalism Network. She is also the digital media coordinator at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

Beverly is an avid nature photographer and is passionate about environmental sustainability. As a student, she received a photography award from the Journalism Association of Community Colleges. She is a graduate of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in communication and a minor in marketing management.

Contact: beverly@inn.org