Erinn Whitaker

Senior Researcher

Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Erinn Whitaker, a former senior analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency and US State Department, is a senior researcher at the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A policy analyst with nearly 15 years of experience, she now specializes in how US “news deserts” are eroding key democratic institutions. This topic builds on Whitaker’s previous expertise in Russian domestic politics, where she scrutinized areas such as the Kremlin-controlled media environment.

During 2017-2019, Whitaker led Penelope Muse Abernathy’s research team to produce the nationally-recognized report “The Expanding US News Desert.” This report identifies the US communities most at risk and delves into the implications for the news profession and the country.

Whitaker draws on this research in her capacity as a board member of the University of North Carolina’s the Daily Tar Heel, which is an independent, nonprofit media lab for UNC and the communities of Orange and Chatham counties.

When Whitaker is not researching, she teaches a course “Writing and Briefing for Intelligence,” helping students interested in careers ranging from public policy to journalism fine tune their written and oral communication skills.

Whitaker earned a BA from Middlebury College, where she spent a year studying Russia in Siberia, and a MA from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. She speaks German and Russian.

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We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.