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John Harvard's Journal | Harvard Portrait

Nicco Mele

November-December 2017

Nicco Mele
Photograph by Jim Harrison


Nicco Mele
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Nicco Mele owes a lot to the Internet. The new director of the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy grew up across Asia and Africa—the son of two foreign-service officers—and first connected with American culture by checking baseball scores online. When he learned his future mother-in-law “had lived in the same house in South Orange for 35 years or something, [it was] the most exotic thing I’d ever encountered.” After majoring in government at William and Mary, he joined the rapidly expanding online organizing scene at Common Cause; he also worked on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, and later, on Barack Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign. His wife, Morra, founded Women Online, a marketing organization that has worked with both Hillary Clinton and Obama. But instead of diving deeper into a career in politics, Nicco found satisfaction in a “selfish love of learning” by landing teaching jobs at Johns Hopkins and HKS, thanks to his expertise in the intersection of the Internet and politics. This expertise later drew him west to join the Los Angeles Times as deputy publisher in 2015. As one of the self-proclaimed earliest forecasters of Donald Trump’s success (he says it with sorrow, not schadenfreude), Mele has turned to the Internet once again to connect with the American public in what he calls “an extremely uncertain future” for democracy. The Shorenstein Center will play a critical role in preventing the rise of fake news, he claims, by helping audiences become smarter consumers of information online. The biggest challenge will be innovating to keep both sides of the political aisle engaged. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur. If I weren’t at Shorenstein, I’d still build some kind of business in the media space.” 

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