Inside Climate News has named Sonya Ross as managing editor, effective Jan. 1, 2022. She joins ICN after a long and distinguished career at The Associated Press, where she was the editor who established specialty race and ethnicity coverage that transformed AP’s approach to gathering news for and about people of color.
She was the first Black woman assigned to the White House beat by The AP, and worked as a reporter and editor in the news service’s Washington bureau. She is also the first Black woman elected to the board of the White House Correspondents Association.
“We are delighted Sonya is joining our leadership team to help us take our nonprofit newsroom to the next level of ambition and impact,” David Sassoon, founder and publisher of Inside Climate News, said. “She’s a deeply experienced journalist of the highest caliber and accomplishment, and a person of great courage and integrity well-prepared to confront the present moment of environmental peril and injustice.”
Ross will succeed Erica Goode, who is retiring after a two-year stint in the position, capping a distinguished career as a reporter and editor at The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report and the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Erica helped us strengthen our culture of excellence with her talents as a story editor, big thinker and collegial leader, and we are forever indebted to her,” said Vernon Loeb, ICN’s executive editor. “Sonya will bring us new strengths with her deep commitment to reporting on racial justice, which she demonstrated as an early advocate in the industry for broader and deeper coverage of race and ethnicity, and she will be critical to the continued development of our newsroom.”
After leaving the AP after 33 years in 2019, Ross founded and was editor-in-chief of Black Women Unmuted, a nonprofit start-up that reports on the political and civic engagement of Black women in the United States.
An Atlanta native, Ross began her career in 1985 while studying for her B.A. in journalism by day at Georgia State University, and working as a library clerk for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at night. The AP hired her as an intern in 1986 and quickly moved her into political reporting. Ross distinguished herself covering the Georgia Legislature, the 1988 Democratic National Convention and the 1990 Georgia governor’s race between Zell Miller and Andrew Young. She joined AP’s Washington-based national reporting staff after the 1992 Los Angeles riots, covering civil rights and urban affairs.
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Ross moved to the White House in 1995, assuming a beat that would take her on assignment to 48 countries and all 50 states. She was the print pool reporter aboard Air Force One with President George W. Bush as he was evacuated during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, having watched his face drain of color in a Sarasota, Florida, classroom minutes earlier as an aide whispered in his ear what had happened in New York.
The following year, Ross became an editor for AP, directing Washington coverage of international affairs/national security, and domestic regional news. In 2010, she became the AP’s first race and ethnicity editor. Others in the industry soon followed suit and created similar teams.
Ross was inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists Hall of Fame in 2018, and was the founding chair of the political reporting task force for the National Association of Black Journalists from 2010 to 2019.
She is the incoming deputy vice president of the board of the Journalism & Women’s Symposium, and currently serves on the boards of the Washington Press Club Foundation, the SPJ Foundation and the National Newspaper Publishers Association Fund. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Inside Climate News launched in 2007 and has grown to a staff of 20, becoming one of the largest environmental newsrooms in the country. Based in Brooklyn, ICN has created regional reporting networks in the Southeast, Midwest, Mountain West and California, and has established a national environmental justice reporting team and an environmental justice fellows program for college journalists of color.
In 2013, ICN won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, probing an oil spill that leaked more than 1 million gallons of heavy bitumen crude from the Canadian oil sands into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River and triggered the most expensive clean up in U.S. history.
In 2016, ICN was a finalist for the Public Service Pulitzer Prize for revealing that Exxon’s own scientists had concluded decades ago that burning fossil fuels was warming the Earth, while the oil company’s leaders actively sought to discredit that truth. ICN has also won dozens of other awards for its accountability, investigative, explanatory and beat reporting on all aspects of climate change and the environment.