J-Lab Staff

Jan Schaffer

Executive Director, jans@j-lab.org
Twitter: @janjlab

Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, runs one of the nation's most successful incubators for news entrepreneurs and innovators and is a leading thinker on the emerging new media landscape.

A Pulitzer Prize winner for The Philadelphia Inquirer, she left daily journalism to lead pioneering journalism initiatives in civic journalism, interactive and participatory journalism and citizen media ventures.

She launched J-Lab in 2002 to help newsrooms use digital technologies to engage people in important public issues. The center has a history of rewarding new ideas and practices through the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism.  It has helped launch 77 news start-ups through its New Voices and New Media Women Entrepreneurs projects. It pioneered 23 innovative collaborative journalism partnerships through its Networked Journalism project and its Enterprise Reporting Awards. The center publishes web tutorials on how to launch and manage startup news sites, and it develops information and resources for online community news sites at the Knight Citizen News Network.

J-Lab is the successor to the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, a $14 million project Schaffer previously led. From 1993 to 2002, the center helped to fund more than 120 pilot projects that developed new reporting techniques to engage people better in public life.

She brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to her work. Schaffer joined The Inquirer after earning a masters degree from the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. For more than 20 years, she held a range of reporting and editing positions on the city desk, the national desk, in the business news department and was Business Editor when she left.

As a federal court reporter, she helped write a series that won freedom for a man wrongly convicted of five murders. The stories led to the civil rights convictions of six Philadelphia homicide detectives and won several national journalism awards, including the 1978 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service. Also while covering federal courts, she broke the Philadelphia Abscam story about the FBI sting operation that used agents posing as Arab sheiks. She was sentenced to jail for six months for refusing to reveal her sources; the sentence was stayed on appeal.

Schaffer serves on the Journalism Advisory Committee of the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.  She was a member of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 SXSW Accelerator Advisory Boards. She is a winner of the Manship Prize, awarded by Louisiana State University's Manship School of Mass Communication for innovative media work that has advanced citizens' understanding of challenges in the public arena.

Currently, Schaffer serves as a speaker, researcher, trainer, author, consultant and Web publisher on the future of journalism, civic engagement and education. She is married to a Smithsonian Magazine editor and has two children.

Jill Clarke

Project Coordinator, jill@j-lab.org

Jill is J-Lab's Project Coordinator.  Previously, Jill has worked in a range of nonprofits.  At Working Capital she focused on helping entrepreneurs, primarily women and minorities, gain access to small business loans and other resources.  At the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University she worked with journalists, practitioners, and academics looking at policy dilemmas through the lense of human rights issues.  At both the Academy for Educational Development and One Laptop Per Child she worked with colleagues to leverage technology to provide access to information for communities on issues around government accountability and education.  Jill has earned a Master's in Science from Suffolk University's Sawyer School of Management in Philanthropy and Media.  Outside of work, she enjoys her toddler and traveling with her family.


Chris Holt

Web & Social Media Editor, chrish@j-lab.org

Chris is communications specialist who is interested in international development communications. He taught English as a second language for two years in Turkmenistan as a Peace Corps Volunteer and has traveled professionally to Russia, Tunisia and the Philippines. He returned to Washington, D.C. in August 2011 after living for two-and-a-half years in Paris with his wife and son. He is currently enrolled in the Interactive Journalism graduate program at American University.


Justin Warren

Graduate Assistant

Justin is a graduate student at American University pursuing a MA in Journalism and Public Affairs. He comes to Washington, D.C. from Dallas, where he received a BBA in Finance from Southern Methodist University in 2010. Justin is focused on media and communications for the public sector.


Sophia Barnes

Undergraduate Assistant

Sophia is a sophomore studying in the School of Communications. In the past, she worked on different student news TV shows as an editor, producer, writer, and contributor. Currently, Sophia is also interning at Public Citizen. Her main interests are politics, activism, and creating media - especially producing video and using social media as a tool to inform. She is working to combine these interests in a career in new media journalism.


Tess Diefendorf

Undergraduate Assistant

Tess is currently a sophomore, studying in the School of Communications. She is majoring in public communication and recently declared a minor in graphic design. Tess is also a member of Phi Sigma Sigma. This semester she holds a leadership position in the sorority as their fall social chair.