Josh Stearns is the Program Director of the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. The Public Square Program works to ensure all Americans have access to the news and information they need to engage in civic life, and use their voices without fear of being harassed or silenced. Josh leads the foundation’s efforts to support trustworthy local news and investigative reporting, more equitable newsrooms, press freedom, community engagement, and digital spaces that advance democracy, not hate.
A journalist and community builder, Josh joined Democracy Fund from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, where he served as the Director of Journalism and Sustainability and worked to support and expand community-driven local news and develop new business models for journalism. Previously, Josh served as Press Freedom Director at Free Press, where he spent seven years running national advocacy campaigns in support of digital rights, freedom of expression, and media diversity. Before that Josh managed communications and policy for Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,000 college campuses committed to renewing the democratic purposes of higher education.
He helped launch the Local News Lab, First Draft News and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. His articles have appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Guardian, Columbia Journalism Review, PBS MediaShift, Orion Magazine, BuzzFeed, and Boing Boing. Josh has served as a visiting scholar in the Journalism and Communication Departments at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and has taught at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He has a B.A. in writing from St. Lawrence University and an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts.