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Center for Public Integrity Audience Engagement Editor Ashley Clarke has been named to Editor and Publisher magazine’s “25 Under 35” list celebrating leaders in the journalism industry.

Ashley Clarke smiles.
Ashley Clarke (Bunmi Abari for the Center for Public Integrity)

Clarke, 25, was honored among reporters, editors, audience development, fundraising and finance professionals working in local and national news organizations and journalism industry nonprofits across the country.

The group, according to Editor & Publisher Editor in Chief Robin Blinder, “showcases our future — one that’s inspired, passionate and innovative, reinvigorated by fresh ideas and talent.”

Clarke joined Public Integrity two years ago, in the early days of a mission change and transformation of how one of the country’s oldest nonprofit news organizations approached its journalism.

She has helped lead a story development process that aims to report with and in service to the communities most affected by what Public Integrity covers, rather than “about” them in a voyeuristic or extractive way for someone else.

In her two years in the role, Public Integrity has partnered with dozens of local news organizations, and Clarke has helped build more equitable models for partnership with local newsrooms, with a particular focus on publishers that primarily serve communities of color.

Along the way, she has contributed to Public Integrity’s investigative journalism as a reporter as well, including an investigation that prompted reform of a Washington, D.C., housing program before her story was even published, and being part of a team that exposed how state tax policies are placing a disproportionate burden on lower-income people.

“One of Ashley’s many superpowers is the ability to identify and center the stories and lived experiences of the people in the middle of and most impacted by our investigative journalism,” said Public Integrity Director of Audience Lisa Yanick Litwiller. “Her leadership has changed the way we think about audiences and sources: from the beginning of the reporting process all the way to the ‘what’s next’ after publishing a project.” 

In offering advice to other young journalists, Clarke told Editor & Publisher that “no job is worth destroying your mental health. You don’t want to be a part of a newsroom that still subscribes to the archaic practice of bullying early career journalists as a means of initiation.”

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“Specifically for young Black female journalists — take up space,” she said. “You belong in whatever space you dream of, so dream big. Find mentors in your newsroom who will advocate for you.”

Clarke was inspired to pursue journalism by her childhood in Baltimore, realizing that “people will tell your story wrong if you’re not in the room.” 

Before joining Public Integrity in March 2021, Clarke worked at NBC4 Washington as a production assistant and weekend assignment editor. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland, where she studied multiplatform journalism and Arabic.

In addition to its own investigative reporting about inequality in the U.S., Public Integrity aims to build capacity for similar work at local news organizations primarily serving communities of color. In a short time, Clarke has worked to build equitable partnership models that put power in the hands of those closest to the communities affected.

“The minute you meet her, you know she’s a leader and a rising star,” Litwiller said. “Ashley does and will continue to push traditional journalism by challenging outdated confines of what investigative journalism is, who is represented within the stories and how their story is told, and who gets a seat at the table.”

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