Desiree Rios for The Texas Tribune

About RNN

The Rural News Network is a project of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a resource hub for 450 nonprofit newsrooms dedicated to producing journalism as a public service.

Defining ‘Rural’

As an INN member, we would consider you for the Rural News Network if one or more of the following applies to your coverage area and news plan:

It includes remote towns, unincorporated areas

It includes a city or county with a resource-based economic history – such as logging, mining, agriculture, tourism seasonality

It includes communities of people who must travel lengthy distances to obtain basic goods and services, like groceries, health care, school or fuel

There are geographic features that affect access and transportation such as mountains or islands

It includes a town, a community, a county without a dedicated, on-the-ground news source

RNN Leadership

Alana Rocha


Alana Rocha leads INN’s Rural News Network — its most ambitious collaboration to date. As editor, Alana works with 70 member outlets in 46 states to guide and amplify coverage of remote areas. Alana joined INN after 20 years as a news and politics reporter in Florida, Kansas and Texas. Most recently, she worked for The Texas Tribune — a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization based in Austin — directing news partnerships and producing award-winning multimedia journalism in English and in Spanish.


Bridget Thoreson 


Bridget Thoreson works with INN member newsrooms to frame, fund and execute project-based editorial collaborations, ongoing partnerships and collaborative networks. Prior to INN, she worked with more than 100 newsrooms on audience engagement strategies at Hearken and served as project manager for Election SOS. She’s also held reporting, editing and audience development roles at a daily newspaper and magazine publisher.


Jonathan Kealing


Jonathan Kealing strengthens collaboration among nonprofit newsrooms in the INN Network and develops partnerships and services that help them meet their missions and increase the reach and impact of their journalism. Jonathan oversees the Amplify News Project among Midwest newsrooms piloting news sharing and distribution models. He is especially interested in ways local and regional news organizations can work together and with national organizations to extend the impact of their journalism.



These news leaders are advising us on the buildout and growth of this consortium of newsrooms covering rural America. Advisory board members serve one-year terms and are chosen based on their ability to contribute to the success of RNN as a whole, including their collaborative expertise and ability to develop meaningful partnerships on behalf of members. To learn more about applying for an advisory board position, contact

Ernesto Aguilar

Executive Director of Radio Programming and Content Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives, KQED

Born in East Houston, Ernesto Aguilar’s life was transformed by public media. His career has traversed daily newspapers and alternative weeklies to public radio news and program director roles. At KQED, he oversees radio broadcast content and DEI initiatives in the organization’s Content division. Prior to KQED, Aguilar served stations nationwide for five years as executive director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. A Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education Fellow, Sulzberger Executive Leadership Fellow, and Public Media CEO/COO Bootcamp graduate, Aguilar has a B.A. in journalism, with minors in sociology and Women’s Studies from the University of Houston. In his spare time, he writes OIGO, a newsletter on public media and Latino audiences.

Maud Beelman

PROFESSOR, walter cronkite school of journalism, founding director, howard center for investigative journalism at asu

Maud Beelman, a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass
Communication, was the founding director and executive editor of the Howard Center for
Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University, and currently serves as its
collaborations editor. During her leadership from 2019 to 2023, Howard Center journalists produced seven national investigations that have been honored with professional or collegiate journalism awards. Maud has been a journalist for more than four decades, working first as a domestic, foreign and war correspondent, and for the last 25+ years as an investigative editor. She has worked across the media spectrum, from large international news organizations to online, nonprofit news outlets. Maud was the founding director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), launched in 1997 as the world’s first cross-border investigative reporting collaborative. She has participated in or led multiple cross-newsroom collaborations and has helped train journalists in the United States, Central America, Europe and Australia. Her work has been honored with numerous journalism awards, including the George Polk, Investigative Reporters & Editors, Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association and the Overseas Press Club. Maud is a fellow of the Alicia Patterson Foundation and serves as vice president of the foundation’s board of directors.

Lauren Gustus

Executive editor,
the salt lake tribune

Lauren Gustus became Executive Editor of The Salt Lake Tribune in 2020. The Tribune is the first major metro news organization to become a nonprofit. It achieved sustainability in 2021 under Lauren’s leadership. Lauren co-launched the Great Salt Lake Collaborative in 2022, a group of 17 organizations focused on elevating solutions to the lake’s challenges. And in 2023, she led the transition of The Moab Times-Independent to a nonprofit that is now owned by The Tribune and available free to everyone who lives in Moab. She previously worked for McClatchy as West Region Editor, overseeing 10 news organizations in Idaho, Washington and California, including the flagship Sacramento Bee. Lauren has also served as an editor in Colorado, where her work on transparency contributed to a new law that facilitated greater access to public records, and in Reno, where her team’s work on the housing crisis was recognized nationally. Lauren is a coach in the Media Transformation Challenge at The Poynter Institute, supporting news leaders as they make performance-driven change. Lauren and her husband Zach mostly enjoy coaching their sons’ soccer teams, and always enjoy mountain biking and skiing.

Nic Garcia


Nic Garcia coordinates state politics and policy coverage from The Texas Tribune reporters who live outside of the major metropolitan areas. A native of Colorado, he began his professional journalism career at Out Front, a Denver-based magazine that is one of the oldest LGBTQ news organizations in the U.S. Nic went on to work as a reporter or editor at Chalkbeat, The Denver Post and The Dallas Morning News. Most recently, he was the politics editor at The Des Moines Register. Nic is based in Dallas.

Dianna Hunt

national editor and coach,

Dianna Hunt, the national editor/coach at ICT, formerly Indian Country Today, is a longtime editor and reporter at news organizations large and small. As metro editor of the Houston Chronicle, she directed and edited the Pulitzer Prize-finalist breaking news coverage of Hurricane Harvey. She has also worked for The Dallas Morning News and other newspapers in Texas and Louisiana, and she and her husband owned and operated a weekly newspaper. She served three terms on the board for Investigative Reporters and Editors and now serves on the boards for the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Covering Climate Now, and the Investigative Editing Corps.


The Institute for Nonprofit News receives funding for the Rural News Network from organizations that care about independent journalism. Financial supporters have no say in editorial decisions.

Major funding provided by:

Collaborations and internships supported by:

Interested in supporting RNN? Get in touch with us today.


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