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Civil Society and the Attack on Journalism

May 22 @ 10:00 am - 11:15 am


Moderated by Kimbriell Kelly, Visiting Lecturer, Council of the Humanities; Ferris Professor of Journalism


  • Melanie Lawson ’76, News Anchor and Reporter, Disney/ABC Affiliate, Houston
  • Maria A. Ressa ’86, President & CEO, Rappler
  • Laura Coates ’01, Senior Legal Analyst, CNN
  • Natalie Kitroeff ’11, Foreign Correspondent, The New York Times
  • Sarah Qari 16, Producer, Radiolab at WNYC Radio

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About the Moderator


Kimbriell Kelly
Visiting Lecturer, Council of the Humanities; Ferris Professor of Journalism 

Kimbriell Kelly is Washington bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times and a two-time visiting professor in the Program in Journalism at Princeton University. Formerly an investigative reporter at The Washington Post, Kelly has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and publisher. A 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist, she also was part of the team that launched The Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series on police-involved shootings. She is an expert on public-records requests, research and data analysis, and previously worked for The Chicago Reporter and The Daily Herald.

About the Panelists


Melanie LawsonMelanie Lawson ’76
News Anchor and Reporter, Disney/ABC Affiliate, Houston

Melanie Lawson ’76 is an anchor and reporter at KTRK-TV, a Disney/ABC affiliate in Houston. She helms Live at 5 and Eyewitness News at 11 a.m. every day. During her career, she has covered virtually every city, state and national election. Melanie has also interviewed a wide range of notables, from three Presidents to authors Maya Angelou and Ta-Nehisi Coates, to civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis, to actors Betty White and Denzel Washington. She’s earned three Emmys, among many other awards. Melanie has been honored for her work by the Houston Press Club, Houston Association of Black Journalists, the Anti-Defamation League, Women in Film and Television, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Houston Community College, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. She has also served on a number of boards, including as a trustee for Princeton University, the Houston Ballet, the Houston Museum of African American Culture, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, the National M-S Society, the Rothko Chapel, and Volunteer Houston. Melanie earned her undergraduate degree from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and a law degree from Columbia University. She is admitted to both the Texas and New York State Bars. Melanie and her partner, John Guess, are collectors of glass art and African American art. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Houston Chapter of the Links, Inc. and the church founded by her parents, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.


Maria RessaMaria A. Ressa ’86
President & CEO, Rappler

A journalist in Asia for 35 years, Maria Ressa ’86 co-founded Rappler, the top digital only news site that is leading the fight for press freedom in the Philippines. As Rappler’s CEO and president, Maria has endured constant political harassment and arrests by the Duterte government, forced to post bail 10 times to stay free. Rappler’s battle for truth and democracy is the subject of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival documentary, A Thousand Cuts. For her courage and work on disinformation and ‘fake news,’ Maria was named Time Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year, was among its 100 Most Influential People of 2019, and has also been named one of Time’s Most Influential Women of the Century. She was also part of BBC’s 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2019 and Prospect magazine’s world’s top 50 thinkers. In 2020, she received the Journalist of the Year award, the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award, the Most Resilient Journalist Award, the Tucholsky Prize, the Truth to Power Award, and the Four Freedoms Award. Among many awards for her principled stance, she received the prestigious Golden Pen of Freedom Award from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Knight International Journalism Award from the International Center for Journalists, the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Shorenstein Journalism Award from Stanford University, the Columbia Journalism Award, the Free Media Pioneer Award from the International Press Institute, and the Sergei Magnitsky Award for Investigative Journalism.  Before founding Rappler, Maria focused on investigating terrorism in Southeast Asia. She opened and ran CNN’s Manila Bureau for nearly a decade before opening the network’s Jakarta Bureau, which she ran from 1995 to 2005. She wrote Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia and From Bin Laden to Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism.


Laura CoatesLaura Coates ’01
Senior Legal Analyst, CNN

Laura Coates is a CNN Anchor and Senior Legal Analyst, SiriusXM Talk Show Host, and author. A native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Laura graduated from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the University of Minnesota Law School before beginning her legal career in private practice.  She practiced law in Minnesota, and New York, handling cases ranging from intellectual property litigation and First Amendment issues to Defamation and Media law. Called to public service, she transitioned from private practice to the United States Department of Justice, thriving as a federal prosecutor. She served as a Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice during the Bush and Obama administrations, specializing in the enforcement of voting rights throughout the country. She also served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, prosecuting a myriad of violent felony offenses, including drug trafficking, armed offenses, domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault. Laura’s depth of diverse experience and broad expertise has earned her acclaim across all media platforms. Easily branded a constitutional expert, her diversified expertise is both timely and topical. She is lauded across the globe for her persuasive objectivity and ability to break down complex and emotionally charged topics plainly and without partisanship. Recognizing the dire need for increased police accountability and improved police-community relations, she wrote the bestselling 2016 book, You Have the Right: A Constitutional Guide to Policing the Police. In the book, Laura removes the legalese and helps ordinary citizens know and understand their 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights. Since 2017, she has hosted the daily eponymous talk show, “The Laura Coates Show,” on SiriusXM, now airing weekdays 3-6PM ET on the P.O.T.U.S. channel. On her interactive show, Laura “edutains” an engaged audience with a lively discussion on the intersections of politics, law, and pop culture in a way that highlights her intelligence, humor, charisma, and … antics. Laura is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Law and routinely speaks across the country on civil rights, social justice, economic empowerment, and leaps of faith. Laura currently resides in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.


Natalie KitroeffNatalie Kitroeff ’11
Foreign Correspondent, The New York Times

Natalie Kitroeff ’11 is a foreign correspondent at The New York Times, based in Mexico City, covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In 2012, Natalie started work at The New York Times as a researcher for Nick Kristof and Charles Blow in Opinion. She then left the newspaper to cover higher education for Bloomberg for two years, before moving to California to cover the economy for The Los Angeles Times. She returned to The New York Times in 2017, as a business reporter. She worked on a series of investigations on pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and was part of a team of reporters that covered the Boeing 737 Max crashes, appearing on the Daily podcast and sometimes filling in as a guest host. She moved to Mexico in April 2020.


Sarah QariSarah Qari 16
Producer, Radiolab at WNYC Radio

Sarah Qari ’16 is a producer at the Peabody-award-winning podcast and radio show Radiolab at New York Public Radio. She reports and produces stories with a special interest in the Supreme Court, democracy and politics. She and her colleagues were recently awarded the 2021 duPont-Columbia Journalism Award for the series The Other Latif, about Guantanamo detainee Abdul Latif Nasser. She previously produced and reported stories for the Supreme Court podcast More Perfect, as well as On the Media and The Brian Lehrer Show. At Princeton, she was a proud member of the Anthropology department, the Muslim Students’ Association and Two-D Food Co-op.


May 22
10:00 am - 11:15 am
Event Categories:


Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08540 United States
(609) 258 - 3000