SEATTLE, September 20, 2022 — Grist, an award-winning, nonprofit media organization dedicated to telling stories of climate solutions and a just future, has appointed Nikhil Swaminathan as its new chief executive officer, the Grist Board of Directors announced today. Swaminathan has been Grist’s interim CEO since February 2022 and will take on the permanent position, effective immediately. The third CEO in Grist’s more than 20-year history, Swaminathan succeeds Brady Piñero Walkinshaw. Swaminathan, who has led Grist’s newsroom since 2018, established Grist as a leader in solutions-based climate reporting while positioning climate as a social justice issue.
Swaminathan, who began his work at Grist as a senior editor in 2017, became executive editor in 2018, then the top position in Grist’s newsroom. In 2021 he became editor in chief. Swaminathan led Grist’s environmental justice coverage before moving on to build and manage Grist’s distributed newsroom of nearly 30 journalists. Additionally, he established Grist’s environmental justice and investigations desks and was instrumental in launching Grist’s Indigenous affairs desk. Swaminathan built a talented and diverse staff that includes two former editors in chief from The Texas Observer and High Country News, all while dramatically increasing representation of people of color on the editorial team. Under Swaminathan’s leadership, Grist expanded its reach to nearly 2 million readers a month across its platforms. The organization continues to grow as more people recognize its leadership in making climate a top-of-mind issue that requires swift action.
“As editor in chief, Nikhil elevated Grist’s journalism, making the magazine into one of the premier publications on the climate change beat,” said Grist board member, writer, and author Julian Brave NoiseCat. “He cultivated an outstanding and diverse newsroom that told insightful and impactful stories about our warming world and the way humans are responding to it. As CEO, Nikhil will no doubt continue to find ways to push the climate conversation at a time when our democracy needs more voices like Grist’s.”
“Nikhil Swaminathan, an accomplished editor with a clear vision and bold ambitions, is an inspired choice to lead Grist,” said Susan Chira, editor in chief of The Marshall Project and a Grist board member. “He’s already expanded the reach and impact of Grist’s journalism, launched award-winning projects, and made it the go-to place for environmental and climate journalists — and he’s just getting started.”
During his tenure, Swaminathan led the transformation of Grist into an authoritative digital magazine, garnering an unprecedented number of awards, including two Edward R. Murrow Awards, its first-ever General Excellence nomination at The National Magazine Awards, three 2021 Online Journalism Awards, and Best Overall Consumer Website in the 2020 FOLIO: Eddie and Ozzie Awards. Under Swaminathan’s leadership as editor in chief, Grist was recognized as the best small newsroom in the country by the Online News Association and by the Radio Television and Digital News Association. Grist has received more than three dozen awards and nominations in just the last two years.
Prior to joining Grist, Swaminathan held editorial positions at Scientific American, Al Jazeera America, GOOD, and Archaeology, among other publications. He was also part of the inaugural class of Ida B. Wells fellows at Type Investigations (formerly The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute).
“I could not be more pleased to be the new CEO of Grist. I’m so excited to continue to foster Grist’s recent mission-driven culture of inclusiveness, hand-in-hand with our staff; our diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice committee; our new union; and our leadership,” said newly appointed CEO Nikhil Swaminathan. “I’m immensely proud of the work the editorial team has published during the time I spent leading Grist’s newsroom, as well as the recognitions we’ve received and the impact we’ve had. And I find deeply inspiring the innovative work of our solutions lab, Fix, as well as our efforts to bring diverse voices to the forefront of environmental media. I’m honored to lead this entire team of dedicated professionals whose success and well-being I care deeply about. We’re in such a strong place as an organization right now, and I look forward to harnessing this positive energy to drive deeper impact and start more urgent conversations about creating a more just and sustainable world.”
In his role as CEO, Swaminathan will continue to expand the initiatives he spearheaded, as well as lead new efforts to help Grist engage broad, diverse audiences. In addition to building Grist’s Editorial program, Swaminathan is eager to deepen the work of Grist’s solutions lab, Fix, which elevates the ideas and leaders that are on the cutting edge of climate progress, and expand Grist’s efforts to bring diverse voices to the forefront of environmental media through its Fellowship program and the Uproot Project. Swaminathan will look to collaborate with other media entities, conferences, and brands to initiate conversations, community engagement, and festivals that examine the human response to climate change from all angles.
Swaminathan is building on the strong foundation set by Grist’s founder Chip Giller, who enthusiastically remains on the Grist board. He recently stepped off the staff to explore telling stories through emerging technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality, to connect people in new, visceral ways, bridge differences, build empathy, and spur social change. Giller is also helping to steer a new philanthropic fund to support climate and justice leaders, as well as experiments with new forms of storytelling.
When Giller founded Grist in 1999, it was one of the first digital-only news organizations — certainly the first to focus on climate change and the environment. Over more than two decades, Grist has helped introduce climate into the mainstream, held power to account across our threatened democracy, and inspired millions to get engaged, take action, and even shift careers to focus their lives on the climate crisis, all while developing a sustainable model for a nonprofit newsroom. In recent years, Giller led the development of Fix, the organization’s solutions lab, which explores the world of what’s possible, identifying and celebrating climate and justice leaders on the annual Grist 50, connecting them to each other to deepen their impact, and telling unexpected stories about progress toward a more just, sustainable world. Giller, along with Walkinshaw, who introduced a social justice lens to Grist’s work and also continues to sit on the organization’s board, remains deeply committed to the future of Grist and Swaminathan’s success.
Grist also is pleased to announce its first board members emeritus:
- Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Family Foundation
- Don Chen, Surdna Foundation
- Bill McKibben, author and activist
- Dr. Benjamin Strauss, Climate Central
- Eugene Mirman, writer and comedian
Emeritus board members are individuals who contribute significant service to the Grist board and to the organization’s mission to affect positive progress in the field of climate media. Emeritus members will continue to support Grist’s mission by amplifying its work through their personal and professional networks, as well as advising Grist staff with their expertise. All Emeritus board members are independent representatives and do not speak for their organizations in relation to Grist.
Grist is an award-winning, nonprofit, independent media organization dedicated to telling stories of climate solutions and a just future. Using the power of storytelling, Grist illuminates the way toward a better world, inspires millions of people, and shows that the time for action around climate change is now. Since 1999, Grist has used the power of journalism to engage the public about the perils of the most existential threat we face. Fix — Grist’s solutions lab — builds on Grist’s journalism by connecting and elevating the people who make change happen through storytelling, events, and network-building. In the past two years, Grist garnered more than three dozen awards and nominations — including two Edward R. Murrow Awards, a General Excellence nomination at The National Magazine Awards, three 2021 Online Journalism Awards, and Best Overall Consumer Website in the 2020 FOLIO: Eddie and Ozzie Awards — and was recognized as the best small newsroom in the country by the Online News Association and by the Radio Television and Digital News Association.
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Image Caption: Grist appoints Nikhil Swaminathan as its new chief executive officer.