Speakers

Stay tuned for more details about our 2019 speakers

Meet our featured speakers for 2019

Laura Beil Laura Beil
Laura Beil is a freelance health and science writer whose work appears in the New York Times, Men’s Health, Science News, Texas Monthly, Cosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest and other magazines. She was also writer-reporter for the “Thugs” episode of This American Life in 2011. She was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in 2015, and has received top reporting awards from Association of Health Care Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. In 2018, she received the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting.

Most recently, Beil was the author of the popular "Dr. Death" podcast on Wondery. During the first four months of its release, Dr. Death was downloaded more than 25 million times.
Bensinger Ken Bensinger
Ken Bensinger has been a journalist for more than twenty years. He has worked at The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and, since 2014, for BuzzFeed News, as a member of its investigations team, and has written about sports, labor, art, automobiles, and politics, among other topics. He has been a winner of the ASME National Magazine award and the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Finance & Business Reporting, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in national reporting. He grew up in Seattle, graduated from Duke University, and lives with his wife, two children, and dog, in Los Angeles. Red Card is his first book.
Taylor Branch Taylor Branch - Saturday Keynote
Taylor Branch is an American author and public speaker best known for his landmark narrative history of the civil rights era, America in the King Years. The trilogy’s first book, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, won the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards in 1989. Two successive volumes also gained critical and popular success: Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65, and At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968. Decades later, all three books remain in demand. Some reviewers have compared the King-era trilogy, which required more than twenty-four years of intensive research, with epic histories such as Shelby Foote’s The Civil War and Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. Branch returned to civil rights history in his latest book, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement (2013). It presents eighteen key episodes across the full span of the era, selected and knitted together in language from the trilogy, with new introductions for each of the chapters. The result is a compact, 190-page immersion for readers in this transformative period of American history.
Pamela Colloff Pamela Colloff
Pamela Colloff is a senior reporter at ProPublica and a staff writer at the NY Times Magazine. Prior to joining ProPublica and the Times in 2017, she was an executive editor and staff writer at Texas Monthly. Her work has also appeared in The New Yorker and has been anthologized in “Best American Magazine Writing,” “Best American Crime Reporting,” “Best American Non-Required Reading,” and “Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.” At Texas Monthly, Colloff earned a National Magazine Award in Feature Writing for her 2012 story, “The Innocent Man.” She is a six-time National Magazine Award finalist. Her 2010 story, “Innocence Lost” — about a wrongly convicted death row inmate named Anthony Graves — was credited with helping Graves win his freedom after 18 years behind bars. One month after its publication, all charges against Graves were dropped and he was released from jail, where he had been awaiting retrial.
Ben Fountain Ben Fountain
Ben Fountain was born in Chapel Hill and grew up in the tobacco country of eastern North Carolina. A former practicing attorney, he is the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and the novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Billy Lynn was adapted into a feature film directed by three-time Oscar winner Ang Lee, and his work has been translated into over twenty languages. His series of essays published in The Guardian on the 2016 U.S. presidential election was subsequently nominated by the editors of The Guardian for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife of 32 years, Sharon Fountain.
Nikole Hannah-Jones Nikole Hannah-Jones - Friday Keynote
Nikole Hannah-Jones was named a MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow (one of only 24 people chosen, globally) for “reshaping national conversations around education reform” and for her reporting on racial re-segregation in our schools. This is the latest honor in a growing list: she’s won a Peabody, a Polk, and a National Magazine Award for her story on choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated city.

Nikole Hannah-Jones covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, and has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created—and maintains—racial segregation in housing and schools. Her deeply personal reports on the black experience in America offer a compelling case for greater equity. She has written extensively on the history of racism, school resegregation, and the disarray of hundreds of desegregation orders, as well as the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act. She is currently writing a book on school segregation called The Problem We All Live With, to be published on the One World imprint of Penguin/Random House.

Her piece “Worlds Apart” in The New York Times Magazine won the National Magazine Award for “journalism that illuminates issues of national importance” as well as the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. In 2016, she was awarded a Peabody Award and George Polk Award for radio reporting for her This American Life story, “The Problem We All Live With.” She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and was also named to The Root 100. Her reporting has also won Deadline Club Awards, Online Journalism Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, the Emerson College President’s Award for Civic Leadership, and was a previous finalist for the National Magazine Award.

Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her BA in History and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame. For the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, she investigated social changes under Raul Castro and the impact of universal healthcare on Cuba’s educational system. She was also selected by the University of Pennsylvania to report on the impact of the Watts Riots for a study marking the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report, 2007. Along with The New York Times, her reporting has been featured in ProPublica, The Atlantic Magazine, Huffington Post, Essence Magazine, The Week Magazine, Grist, Politico Magazine, and on Face the Nation, This American Life, NPR, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now, and radio stations across the country.
Walter Kirn Walter Kirn
Walter Kirn, American novelist, literary critic and essayist. Author of eight books, most notably “Up in the Air,” which was made into a film of the same name starring George Clooney.
Beth Macy Beth Macy
Journalist Beth Macy is the author of three New York Times-bestselling nonfiction books. She writes about outsiders and underdogs. Her 2014 J. Anthony Lukas Prize-winning “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town,” traced the aftereffects of globalization in America. Her 2016 book, “Truevine: Two Brothers, A Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest,” was a Kirkus Prize finalist and longlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Both books are in development for film/television.

So is her 2018 exploration of the opioid crisis, “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America.” Her latest book—shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in nonfiction, among other honors — was an instant bestseller and was named to more than a dozen best book of the year lists. Macy has also published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and O, the Oprah magazine. Based out of Roanoke, Virginia, for three decades, Macy was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard in 2010.
Jeff Maysh Jeff Maysh
Jeff Maysh’s story about a fast food fraud became one of last year’s most talked about magazine articles. The true crime caper revealed how an ex-cop stole millions in cash and prizes from McDonald’s famous Monopoly promotion. It created a heated bidding war in Hollywood, in which Ben Affleck and Matt Damon purchased the film rights in a record-breaking deal.

The story was typical of Maysh’s oeuvre: Writing for The Atlantic, Los Angeles, Playboy, Smithsonian, and The Daily Beast, he investigates bizarre crimes and unlikely criminals: He has profiled female bank robbers, fake cheerleaders, murderous pornographers, and an Aretha Franklin imposter.

His longform writing has been included in The Atlantic’s “100 Exceptional Works of Journalism,” “Best American Sports Writing 2017,” and on Longform.org’s annual list of ‘Most Read’ stories. He has won five times at the Southern California Journalism Awards, including “Best Crime Reporting” – twice. He is 36, and lives in the canyons above Los Angeles.
Sonia Nazario Sonia Nazario
Enrique’s Journey recounts the unforgettable quest of a Honduran boy looking for his mother, eleven years after she is forced to leave her starving family to find work in the United States. Braving unimaginable peril, often clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains, Enrique travels through hostile worlds full of thugs, bandits, and corrupt cops. But he pushes forward, relying on his wit, courage, hope, and the kindness of strangers. As Isabel Allende writes: “This is a twenty-first-century Odyssey. If you are going to read only one nonfiction book this year, it has to be this one.” Now updated with a new Epilogue and Afterword, photos of Enrique and his family, an author interview and more, this is a classic of contemporary America.
Naveena Sadasivam Naveena Sadasivam
Naveena Sadasivam is a staff writer covering the environment, energy and climate change at Grist. She previously covered environmental issues at the Texas Observer, InsideClimate News and ProPublica. At ProPublica, she was part of a team that reported on the water woes of the West, a project that was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for national reporting. She has a degree in chemical engineering and a master’s in environmental and science reporting from New York University and was a 2017 Ida B. Wells fellow at Type Investigations. You can contact her at nsadasivam@grist.org and follow her work on Twitter @NaveenaSivam.
Albert Samaha Albert Samaha
Albert Samaha is an investigative reporter at BuzzFeed News, a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and author of Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City, which was a finalist for the 2019 PEN/ESPN Literary Sports Writing Award and winner of the New York Society Library’s 2019 Hornblower Award. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Best American Travel Writing, and the Pop-Up Magazine live storytelling tour, and he was a recipient of the Emerging Writer Award at the 2014 Mayborn Literary Non-Fiction Conference.
Margot Lee Shetterly Margot Lee Shetterly - Saturday Featured Speaker
She is author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins) that became an Oscar-nominated movie. She is also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s.
Hampton Sides Hampton Sides - Sunday Keynote
Hampton Sides is best-known for his gripping non-fiction adventure stories set in war or depicting epic expeditions of discovery and exploration. He is an acclaimed journalist and the author of the bestselling histories Ghost Soldiers, Blood and Thunder, Hellhound On His Trail, In the Kingdom of Ice, and, most recently, On Desperate Ground.