Megan Marrelli, Program Manager of Meedan
“[Working on Patriot Act] taught me a lot about different information priorities. Strong journalism is inherently nuanced and complicated. “Funny” is inherently reductive. There was an interesting tension of priorities. I saw that the success of the show relied on this tension.”
Meet Megan Marrelli. Megan is the Program Manager of Meedan, which was founded by Ed Bice during the Arab Spring. Meedan is a global non-profit based in San Francisco, with cells in Oxford, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Cairo, Mexico, and London. It designs programs and digital tools for newsrooms committed to working on digital verification, “information disorder,” and open-source investigations.
Megan is relatively new to civic tech, having previously staffed the excellent Netflix show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj and before that, acting as a digital editor at the Globe and Mail. While studying at the Columbia School of Journalism, Megan had the opportunity to take computational journalism with Mark Hansen, a friend of Civic Hall who runs the Brown Institute at Columbia University, which sits at the intersection of journalism and data. She enjoys snorkeling, snowboarding, and… crosswords. You can contact Megan via her email, Twitter, or Slack.
Megan Scuba Diving in Saba.
What Does She Do?
Megan is a program manager at Meedan, which builds urgently needed tools for journalism and translation, used not only by newsrooms but also human rights investigators and researchers who are looking into trends on online misinformation.
“I lead Pop-Up Newsroom, a collaboration framework that brings newsrooms together for election reporting. We’ve covered elections around the world, including Indonesia, Mexico, and the Philippines.”
“We are currently working on expanding the Pop-Up concept to news events outside elections, including climate coverage and migration news.” (Megan has been speaking with Civic Hall alum Documented about collaborating on their migration coverage.)
Meedan’s projects and programs include:
- Digital Health Lab – which focuses on better ways to increase access to health.
- Bridge: global translation
- Check: a verification tool that has been used by Electionland, Verificado, and Checkpoint. (Here’s a Medium post on how Checkpoint had a tipline within WhatsApp for citizens to report rumors and disinformation during the Indian elections last year.)
- The Content Moderation Project: Which hopes to publish its research findings later this year.
Megan also works as a freelance investigative reporter for Type Investigations (formerly, The Investigative Fund) where she is mining data for patient safety violations in U.S. hospitals.
How Did She Get Into This Work?
Megan was born in Toronto to a psychotherapist mom, and lawyer dad.
“I got my Mom’s empathy and my dad’s critical thinking.”
“My sense of community comes from growing up in a tightly-knit neighborhood in Toronto known for its frequent street parties.”
Megan’s work history is eclectic. She worked at a (since shuttered) Wilco-themed sandwich store; was bored to tears interviewing Canadian stockbrokers for an investment newspaper; and wrote hyper-local stories for Torontoist (cousin to Gothamist).
Mark Hansen’s data journalism course at Columbia Journalism marked a pivotal, professional levelling up: “All of a sudden I had data skills others coming out of J-School didn’t have – and they helped me get this [Meedun] job.
During her time at Patriot Act with Hasan Minaj – a news show in the vein of Daily Show, Last Week with John Oliver, and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – she was a member of its news team:
“[Working on Patriot Act] taught me a lot about different information priorities. Strong journalism is inherently nuanced and complicated. “Funny” is inherently reductive. There was an interesting tension of priorities. I saw that the success of the show relied on this tension. I also learned about the idea of access. If you’re not an Economist reader, you’re at a different access level. One is not necessarily better than the other. But access to information changes your access to other things – including civic engagement.”
While Meedan COO An Xiao Mina, the author of “From Memes to Movements,” was actually a guest on Patriot Act, it was a mutual friend who brought Megan inside the organization through work on its Credibility Coalition program, a collaboration which aims to find indicators of misinformation, and one-day train machine learning algorithms to detect misinformation based on those signals.
How Did She Come To Civic Hall?
“An Xiao Mina told me about this space and its collaborative environment. It immediately felt right up my alley.”
What is She Reading?
Megan is currently pouring through Sam Anderson’s Boomtown (Subtitle, just because: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding… Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis).
“It’s making me think about two things:
1) Just about anything is fascinating if you do enough research.
2) Small towns in the United States have stories that we metropolitan people should be paying more attention to.”
Megan is also reading Michael Lewis’ Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World.
What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?
Ask: “Get in touch with me if you want to talk about story ideas, open-source investigations, or ways to get involved in Meedan’s work.”
Also, as a freelance journalist herself, Megan asks the community to: “Pitch me your stories. Anything with data!”
Offer: Megan hopes to host a Lunch & Learn later this year on either migration or climate change. If you or your org would like to collaborate with Meedan on one of their projects or would like to access their tools for your work, it’s an informal process. Just email Megan.