Susan K. Barnett, an Emmy-nominated investigative journalist (ABC News magazines Prime Time Live, 20/20, and Dateline NBC) now consults with nonprofits at the nexus of media/communications/advocacy. Susan works with a diverse range of organizations and leaders committed to domestic issues: race, economic equality, immigration, LGBTQ & gender equality, gun safety, prison reform, climate change, religious freedom and more); global health, development and humanitarian assistance; interfaith dialogue.
A bit more about me:
I was fortunate enough to spend 16 years as an investigative producer/director for some of the most successful newsmagazines in U.S. television history: Prime Time Live, 20/20 (ABC News), and Dateline (NBC News). It was a time when our shows were drawing audiences in the millions with in-depth reporting. I got to report and produce stories on a wide range of topics: the lack of quality affordable daycare, the deregulation of the federal meat inspection program, congressional conflicts-of-interest, the American puppy mill industry, abuse of migrant labor by the U.S. government, pilot fatigue, labor and food abuses at the fastest growing grocery chain and dozens more.
After leaving the networks, frankly, I wasn't sure what to do next. But broadcast journalism was changing and I wanted a change, too. So I started talking to people in the broader world of communications and one by one, they told me that I "thought differently". It seems, even though I had left the profession of journalism, I could never stop thinking like a journalist.
Slowly I moved into strategic communications, putting my journalism experience to work, consulting with a few nonprofit organizations and leadership to help increase impact with targeted, effective messaging that capitalizes on clean writing and compelling storytelling.
One of my favorite quotes:
"No one ever marched on Washington because of a pie chart."
- Andy Goodman, media guru
Then one day, a rabbi walks into the Vatican... and this is where my career path starts to sound like a bar joke. But it's true, I did get a call from the son of an American rabbi who taught at a Pontifical University in Rome. He had been close to Pope John Paul II. The pope had just passed away and this rabbi wanted to make sure that his history-changing work of interreligious dialogue, which had dramatically improved relations between Jews and Catholics, didn't get lost in events. And that is what started a niche specialty: working at the nexus of media, faith and social justice advocacy. Faith leaders and organizations can provide a thoughtful and inclusive voice and lens that influences important domestic and international issues. Of course, I work with plenty of secular organizations, too.
But I didn't give up production completely:
In West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), I produced/directed a 2-part film series, in Indonesian, linking the rainforest to local health, which has helped efforts to stop almost all illegal logging in one Borneo’s last great rainforests.
This follows my role as "first-in" producer of the award-winning documentary, No Place On Earth, the story of the longest underground survival in recorded history, set against the backdrop of WWII Ukraine. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, has been seen on six continents in theatres, on television and in festivals, and is stilling traveling the world today.
I started my career at the nonprofit Better Government Association, BGA, a government watchdog group in Chicago. I graduated from Northwestern University (go Cats!) where I had intended to head to law school but forgot to do so after I accidentally discovered my love of social justice through journalism. Which leads me to my favorite quote:
"Never give up. No one knows what's going to happen next."
- Dorothy, 1904