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Author, social media pioneer and digital strategist Nicco Mele has been named the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Journalism.
Courtesy of Nicco Mele

Nicco Mele appointed as new Wallis Annenberg Chair at USC Annenberg

Nicco Mele, author, social media pioneer and digital strategist, has been named the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Journalism, the USC Annenberg School of Journalism announced today.

Mele is a senior fellow for the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy (CCLP) and formerly was senior vice president and deputy publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

“Given his extraordinary career accomplishments in multiple fields – including media, technology and academia – Mele is uniquely equipped to  lead cutting-edge journalism projects that leverage the USC Annenberg School of Journalism’s students, faculty and state-of-the-art facilities and technology,” said Willow Bay, Director of the School of Journalism.

The USC Annenberg School of Journalism Wallis Annenberg Endowed Chair is a termed chair position held by a transformational interdisciplinary professional or scholar, a thought leader, innovator and proven collaborator who can foster deep and meaningful connections between USC Annenberg, the wider academic community and private industry. The school hopes the holder of the Wallis Annenberg Endowed Chair will play a significant role in shaping the future of journalism and communication.

With an unusual mix of digital and traditional media experience, and a career at the intersection of technology and politics, Mele has long nurtured a deep passion for the role of journalism in democracy.

His work as the Wallis Annenberg Chair will focus on implementing key elements of the Annenberg Leadership Initiative, a new program funded by the Annenberg Foundation. Mele will design unique news management fellowship opportunities for early-career professionals from communities that are underrepresented in the media industry. The aim is to provide a powerful pipeline of diverse, interdisciplinary talent equipped to lead 21st century newsrooms.

Mele also will supervise the creation of Innovation Teams, which combine engineers and journalists working together to leverage digital technologies to broaden the reach of contemporary journalism. Inside the cutting-edge digital facilities of the Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center, these students and recent grads will learn how to harness emerging communication technologies in the service of journalism in the public interest.

At CCLP, Mele focuses on emerging business models for digital journalism and the challenges traditional media models face online. He also writes and speaks regularly about the use of technology in political campaigns, drawing partly on his experience as webmaster for Governor Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid, when his team popularized the use of technology and social media that revolutionized political fundraising.

At the Los Angeles Times, he was responsible for product, content, revenue, and audience development for all of the Los Angeles Times Media Group's brands – including growing existing digital products and services, identifying possible acquisitions, developing new business opportunities and launching new products.

Mele's 2013 book, "The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath," explores the consequences of living in a socially connected society, drawing upon his experience as an innovator in politics and technology.

Before moving to Southern California, Mele served on the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School, where he taught graduate-level classes on the Internet and politics. In the spring of 2009, Mele was the Visiting Edward R. Murrow Lecturer at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and in the fall of 2008 he was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. Prior to joining the Harvard Kennedy School, Mele taught at the Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Communication.

Mele is an active angel investor in technology startups, including Plympton (a publishing startup), UMS (mobile), Cignify (data analytics), and iDiet (health care). He is the co-founder of Echo & Co, a digital consulting firm with global clients and offices in Boston and Washington, DC. The firm aids clients facing overwhelming technological and social change, and has worked with dozens of Fortune 500 companies and other institutions on Internet strategy.

Born in Ghana to Foreign Service Officer parents, he spent his early years in Asia before graduating from the College of William and Mary in Virginia with a bachelor's degree in government. He is a co-founder of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and sits on the board of Tupelo Press.