Nicholas Jackson

Nicholas Jackson
Editor, Writer, Media
Consultant & Strategist

  • Currently Based: Santa Barbara, California
  • Home: Chicago, Illinois
  • Previously Located:
    • Austin, Texas
    • Washington, D.C.
    • Santa Fe, New Mexico
 
 
 
 
 
 
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In Brief

Nicholas Jackson is an award-winning editor and writer who believes that good storytelling is at the root of making change, and that an informed public is essential to a functioning democracy. He cares deeply about media and using the tools of journalism—comprehensive, iterative, and investigative reporting; immersive photography and multimedia; compelling design; thoughtful (and thought-provoking) opinion and analysis; considered aggregation, curation, and packaging—to start informed, civil conversations, and to engage, entertain, and inspire audiences across platforms. He has considerable experience launching new editorial products, organizing and motivating editorial teams around ambitious goals, and maximizing the impact of modest newsroom budgets.


Background

Nicholas Jackson (born 1987) is an award-winning American editor, writer, and media strategist who has held several high-profile positions with large national magazines, including The Atlantic, Outside, and Pacific Standard, which reports on social and environmental justice issues from its headquarters in Santa Barbara, California. He is best known for his innovative work with traditional media outlets—including launching and overseeing new areas of coverage, engineering rapid audience expansion, and bridging the print-digital divide—as well as his participation in experiments to find new ways of funding critical reporting and ambitious storytelling. It's been said that "he cares about the future of publishing and isn't afraid to innovate in an industry which desperately needs it" and that "he knows his stuff and is proud to be cultivating stories that inform and change people's lives." He was twice named to Folio: magazine's annual Under 30 list "spotlighting the younger professionals driving media's next-gen innovation" and won his first National Magazine Award at 29 for "Adrift," a photo essay that took readers on a search-and-rescue mission for refugees in the Mediterranean with the international relief organization Doctors Without Borders.

In addition to magazines, he has worked for Slate's news aggregation team and Encyclopaedia Britannica, where he wrote profiles of pop-culture icons ranging from Bjork to David Letterman and covered architecture and design, and was the first editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, an online publisher devoted to discovery and exploration founded in 2009 by author Joshua Foer and documentary filmmaker Dylan Thuras. He started in journalism at the age of 14 by writing letters to the editor of the Daily Herald, a newspaper based in Arlington Heights, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and went on to intern at Texas Monthly in Austin, Texas, where, among other responsibilities, he covered Barack Obama's 2008 campaign and helped then-executive editor Pamela Colloff with transcription for her oral history project on the standoff between David Koresh and the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas. As a consultant and strategist, he has done freelance work for a number of media-adjacent organizations, including the public relations and marketing consultancy firm Edelman and World Sport Chicago, the "living legacy" of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

He has participated in several panel discussions on the future of journalism, combating fake news, and building more collaboration within and among media outlets, and has discussed his work on various international radio and television programs, including the BBC Radio 1 in the United Kingdom, "Q" on Canada's CBC Radio One, and C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" out of the District of Columbia. He has interviewed several public figures of note, including the political commentator and former White House Press Secretary Bill Moyers and Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein in front of sold-out crowds at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, California. A member of the American Society of Magazine Editors, he regularly judges the National Magazine Awards, which honor "superior execution of editorial objectives, innovative techniques, noteworthy enterprise, and imaginative design" in an annual competition.

Jackson is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, where he concentrated on magazine editing and filled various roles with student journalism outlets the Daily Northwestern and North by Northwestern, and served as the editor-in-chief of both the Summer Northwestern and Chicago Unzipped, a 384-page guidebook to the city produced by more than 50 undergraduate writers and photographers from several area universities. In 2017, he was profiled in Medill's alumni magazine. While an undergraduate, he was also part of the launch team and then editor-in-chief of the Weekly, a magazine-style weekly insert in the Daily Northwestern, the only daily print publication for Northwestern University and the city of Evanston, Illinois (pop. 75,000). In addition to Medill, he is a graduate of The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, an experimental three-year residential high school founded by Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, director emeritus of nearby Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; while a student at IMSA, Jackson was the opinion editor of the Acronym, the school's student newspaper, and a marketing intern at SciTech Hands On Museum, a 30,000-square-foot interactive science museum located in a historic post office in Aurora, Illinois. Focused, at that time, on coverage of pop culture and the arts, he contributed critical music commentary and reviews to Filter, Sound the Sirens, and other outlets.

Over the years, his interests—as both an editor and a writer—have shifted and evolved. He's overseen coverage of everything from technology to health and food (and alcohol) to extreme sports to climate change and the environment. He's sent writers and photographers all over the world, including Everest Base Camp for an entire climbing season; worked on a story package that brought together writers and high-profile public figures from all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories); and helped to make a magazine from start to finish over one 48-hour weekend. As an editor, he's been praised for "maintain[ing] [a] dedication to all kinds of diversity," and for "paying promptly and valuing writers." Unless you count the business and future of media (regardless of what form it takes, or where it lives), he doesn't follow one specific beat; instead, the unifying thread to his body of work is a desire to find and tell stories of consequence—no bullshit, no fluff.

Jackson currently serves as the editor-in-chief of Pacific Standard, a national magazine that combines research with ambitious narrative and investigative reporting. When the Columbia Journalism Review profiled the magazine in 2014 because it had "taken the Internet by storm," heavy emphasis was placed on the then-recent site redesign spearheaded by Jackson, brought in nine months earlier as digital director; writer Sarah Laskow described Jackson as "a young editor who has thought hard about how to make the Internet work for places like The Atlantic and Outside." When he was appointed editor-in-chief the following year, Jackson re-positioned the magazine to tell "stories that matter," focusing most heavily on social and environmental justice.

Under Jackson’s leadership, Pacific Standard has earned numerous accolades, including the industry's highest honor, a National Magazine Award for Feature Photography; it has also earned a Mirror Award for Best Profile from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, a Silver Medal for Feature Design from the Society of Publication Designers, and multiple arts and entertainment awards from the Los Angeles Press Club, among many others. The magazine has been recognized by the National Association of Science Writers and the Society of Environmental Journalists for its investigative environmental journalism, and works that first appeared in Pacific Standard have been featured in multiple anthologies, including Best American Essays, Best American Food Writing, Best American Science and Nature Writing, and What Future: The Year’s Best Ideas to Reclaim, Reanimate & Reinvent Our Future.

In addition to earning industry awards, Pacific Standard's national and international journalism—most often produced independently but occasionally in collaboration with other leading publications, including The Marshall Project, Magnum Photos, The Center for Public Integrity, the Guardian, The Food & Environment Reporting Network, The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and others—is frequently referenced in journal articles, taught in classrooms, and deployed by state and congressional leaders. Pacific Standard's reporting has been cited, for example, by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Richard Blumenthal, and by Congresspeople Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Don Beyer.

Prior to joining Pacific Standard as digital director, Jackson was the digital editorial director of Outside in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he was responsible for all digital efforts—website, newsletters, social media—of America's leading active-lifestyle and adventure-travel magazine. With a team of six and an annual budget of $1 million-plus, he grew traffic to OutsideOnline.com by more than 300 percent in a one-year period. Before that, he was simultaneously the editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura and an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he launched the oversaw the magazine's health coverage online and was part of a two-person team that developed TheAtlantic.com's technology channel and video strategy.

He is also a longtime officer of The International Association for Literary Journalism Studies, a multi-disciplinary learned society whose essential purpose is the improvement and encouragement of scholarly research and education in literary journalism. IALJS organizes an annual international conference and produces both a quarterly newsletter for members and a twice-annual, peer-reviewed journal that publishes scholarly articles on the theory, history, and pedagogy of literary journalism throughout the world. He was an early adviser to Beacon, a Y Combinator-backed start-up dedicated to finding new ways to support quality journalism.

Press

"Back in my idealistic youth, I liked to say that the purpose of journalism was to 'make what matters interesting.' It's easy enough to make interesting things interesting—sports, scandals, disasters—and it's even easier to make important things dull. What makes journalism different from entertainment is that it is supposed to deal with 'real' issues, problems, and concepts. Presenting them in a way that holds people's attention—that's the standard journalism, in its different forms, is always aiming for. Terry Gross does it in one way, Michael Lewis in another.... [Pacific Standard] is earning a place on that list."

— James Fallows, The Atlantic


"Pacific Standard is a bimonthly that focuses on social issues and public policy with the same passion that supermarket glossies lavish on Biggest Loser spreads and Heidi Montag's latest turn under the plastic surgeon's knife."

The Los Angeles Times


"Pacific Standard relaunched with a new, slick website—more mobile- and tablet-friendly, more Obama-era sans serif blue. ... The staff has grown too: Nicholas Jackson, a young editor who has thought hard about how to make the Internet work for places like The Atlantic and Outside, joined as digital director...."

The Columbia Journalism Review


"Small, off-beat magazines dominated the industry's annual awards competition, beating back their better-known, better-financed rivals. In category after category, it was editors and brass from Time Inc., Hearst, and Meredith standing to applaud folks from Mother Jones, Pacific Standard, Good, Eater, and Modern Farmer as they picked up their Ellie for excellence in magazine publishing.

The New York Post


"Nicholas is a very bright and resourceful editor who is brimming with ideas. If you are looking for an industrious and hard-working young editor, you need look no further."

— Charles Whitaker, Dean, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications


"As digital director, [Jackson] was charged with taking the bi-monthly [Pacific Standard] and building a Web presence around it that included a healthy dose of digital-only content. It was around this time that the magazine began producing some blockbuster articles that reverberated well beyond the publication's Santa Barbara headquarters into the larger media world."

Thoughts on Journalism, Medium

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National Magazine Award

Pacific Standard won the National Magazine Award for Feature Photography in 2017 for "Adrift." Other finalists in the category, which honors the use of photography in a feature story, photo essay, or photo portfolio, included The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic (twice). The award citation from the American Society of Magazine Editors read: Sensitively paced and complemented by elegant typography, Francesco Zizola's photographs of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean combine a strong visual perspective with a powerful narrative voice.

Photo: Pamela Colloff, Nicholas Jackson, and Taylor Le. (Credit: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for the Ellies)


With just over five months under his belt as digital editorial director for Outside, Nicholas Jackson has taken the reins on the magazine's digital presence as overseer of its website and digital staff. Prior to joining the Outside team in April of 2012, Jackson worked at The Atlantic for a year and a half assisting the launch of the technology and video channels, as well as taking control of the life channel and managing the daily operations of the health channel. Under Jackson's authority, Outside's digital team is improving online navigation and functionality by refining how content is showcased, engaging the audience with more social media, and overhauling the site's commenting platform. Outside Online's August 2012 audience is more than four times that of August 2011.

FOLIO's 15 Under 30 (2012)


Since assuming editorial leadership of Pacific Standard in 2015, Nicholas Jackson has renewed the magazine's editorial vision. With limited resources, Jackson has made Pacific Standard a must-read for those interested in working toward forward-looking solutions to social and environmental problems by focusing on private behavior and public policy. Jackson's accomplishments include numerous industry accolades, a complete redesign and improved internal workflow, implementing a platform-agnostic approach to publishing across print and digital, and expanding the print magazine's frequency from six to eight issues per year.

FOLIO's 30 Under 30 (2017)

AS THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF PACIFIC STANDARD


Pacific Standard's national and international journalism has earned multiple accolades, including a 2017 National Magazine Award for Feature Photography (the magazine's second, following the 2015 public interest award), a 2018 Mirror Award for Best Profile from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University (following a 2017 nomination for Best Commentary), a 2017 Society of Publication Designers Silver Medal for Feature Design, and two 2017 arts and entertainment awards from the Los Angeles Press Club, among many others. The magazine has been recognized by the National Association of Science Writers and the Society of Environmental Journalists for its investigative environmental journalism. Works that first appeared in Pacific Standard have also been featured in multiple anthologies, including Best American Essays, Best American Food Writing, Best American Science and Nature Writing, and What Future: The Year's Best Ideas to Reclaim, Reanimate & Reinvent Our Future.

AWARDS


Since its founding in 2008, Pacific Standard has been a leading voice in public-policy discourse. Pacific Standard stories have regularly been cited in academic research, Congressional hearings, policy proposals, and state Supreme Court decisions, and have been a topic of discussion among such leading figures as Bill McKibben and Bernie Sanders. In addition, the magazine's work is regularly promoted through organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A few examples of when Pacific Standard's reporting made its way to the desks of Capitol Hill: Senator Elizabeth Warren cited "There's a Strategy That Helps Prevent Injuries at Work. Why Isn't the Federal Government Using It?" in a special Labor Day report on the Trump administration's lack of worker protections; Senator Richard Blumenthal cited Dan McGraw's reporting in his call to action for a policy response to the opioid epidemic; Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz cited Andrea King Collier's reporting on friendships among female politicians; and Congressman Don Beyer publicly recommended staff writer Kate Wheeling's reporting on methane rules and the Santa Barbara oil spill.

IMPACT


As a small non-profit publisher known for ambitious reporting that's backed by the latest academic research across the social and behavioral sciences, Pacific Standard has become something of an industry darling. Major media organizations, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg regularly cite the magazine's work because they know it's fair and reliable.

Researchers regularly celebrate Pacific Standard contributors and reporters for writing in a nuanced and accurate way about their findings. They feel strongly enough about the magazine's work to cite it in their journal articles and teach it in their classes. Sample journal citations include Information, Communication & Society, the Harvard Journal on Legislation, the International Journal of Cultic Studies, Substance Use & Misuse, the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, PNLA Quarterly, the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, and the International Journal of Philosophical Studies. And sample course packet requests include the University of Michigan/English 125, Indiana University/Madness and Melancholy, the University of Southern California/Sociology 340, and the Aspen Institute/Artificial Intelligence, Business, and the Future of Work.

The Pacific Standard team also works on collaborative editorial and social media projects to increase the magazine's reach and influence. Editorial partners include The Marshall Project, the Guardian, The Center for Public Integrity, Magnum Photos, The Trace, and Climate Central; social media partners include ProPublica, New America, News Deeply, CityLab, The Daily Beast, The Conversation, Massive Science, Mongabay, Greater Good Berkeley, SAPIENS, Fortune, CNBC, and the Climate Desk; funding partners include The Food & Environment Reporting Network, The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, the McGraw Business Journalism Fellowship, The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, the University of California–Berkeley's 11th Hour Food & Farming Fellowship, The American Council on Germany, The International Reporting Project, The French-American Foundation's Immigration Journalism Fellowship, and The Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being.

INFLUENCE

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