Suzanne Behnke, executive director of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism and its news outlet, IowaWatch, has been named to the Institute for Nonprofit News Emerging Leaders Council.

INN announced Thursday, May 21, that Behnke is among 11 leaders selected for the third Emerging Leaders Council, which identifies and supports leaders who will advance the nonprofit news sector throughout the next decade. 

Suzanne Behnke, IowaWatch executive director-editor

“This is a terrific opportunity to network, to support nonprofit news and to find ways to strengthen IowaWatch,” Behnke said. “I am excited to join a terrific group of journalists.”

Behnke joined the Center in 2019 after spending two years at the Des Moines Business Record, where she was an editor and contributor.  She also is a journalism and communications instructor at Simpson College in Indianola.

Behnke, a native Iowan, has a long and rich news reporting and editing history in the state. She was a reporter, copy editor and page designer at The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier from 1997 to 2000 before joining The Des Moines Register staff. In two stints, from 2000 to 2008 and again from 2012 to 2017, Behnke served The Register in vital management roles, including as front page editor, state editor and an online editor. Behnke earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Wartburg College in 1997 and a master’s degree in public administration from Drake University in 2010.

“Suzanne already is a great leader,” said Erin Jordan, IowaWatch board president. “The Emerging Leaders Council will help her learn even more about how to advance nonprofit news and make sure IowaWatch is in a strong position going forward.”


“This recognition is significant because it is reserved for the most promising minds in nonprofit journalism who can take on the Emerging Leaders Council’s important task,” Iowa Center board member Lyle Muller said. Behnke succeeded him as the center’s executive director and editor. “The goal is to make nonprofit news a strong, sustainable industry that produces needed journalism, and Suzanne can help make that happen.”

Jim Malewitz, an Iowa Center board member and author of IowaWatch’s first news story in 2010, also was named to the Emerging Leaders Council. Malewitz, a Grinnell College graduate who earned his master’s degree in journalism at the University of Iowa, is investigations editor at Wisconsin Watch.

Council members are nominated by their organization’s leadership. 

“Building leadership capacity is fundamental to the growth and sustainability of nonprofit news and to the service individual outlets bring to their communities,” Fran Scarlett, INN’s chief knowledge officer, said in the announcement.

This year’s Council includes leaders from publications both large and small, established and emerging, all united by skill, a spirit of innovation and a powerful commitment to nonprofit news, INN said. The cohort will collaborate and receive coaching on topics including major gifts, innovative audience-building strategies, building diverse and dynamic teams and leadership best practices.

The other 2020 council members are:

  • Irene Romulo, co-founder of Cicero Independiente, a bilingual, local news outlet for people living in Cicero, Illinois. 
  • Loren A. Lynch, development director at the Texas Observer. 
  • Jahna Berry, Mother Jones’ chief operating officer, based in San Francisco. 
  • Corrie MacLaggan, The Texas Tribune’s managing editor for newsroom administration. 
  • Lauchlin Fields, web and engagement editor at Mississippi Today. 
  • Judy Lin, assistant editor of CalMatters. 
  • Mukhtar M. Ibrahim, founder, editor and executive director of Sahan Journal, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to chronicling the struggles, successes and transformations of Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities. He is a previous Wisconsin Watch fellow.
  • Annie Chabel, chief operating officer for The Center for Investigative Reporting. 
  • Brandon Quester, founder, executive director and editor of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. 

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