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. He was a finalist two years later, in 2019, for Terese Marie Mailhot’s "Silence Breaking Woman," a personal essay about surviving racism as a Native writer.
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.