The GroundTruth Project, home to Report for America and Report for the World, is pleased to announce the selection of Rob Zeaske as its CEO and president, following a national search launched last summer. Zeaske will step into the role on Jan. 23, a return of sorts as he was the nonprofit’s chief operations officer from 2019-2020.
Zeaske is a seasoned executive and social entrepreneur who has rapidly grown multiple mission-driven organizations, most notably having served for more than a decade as CEO of Second Harvest, one of the nation’s largest hunger relief and nutrition organizations. There, he tripled the amount of food distributed, quadrupled annual philanthropic support, fostered deep cross-sector relationships, and led a $50 million capital campaign.
“Rob is, without a doubt, the right leader for this moment in our organization’s history. His record of success—as measured by growth, financial strength, staff engagement and satisfaction, and impact—is unparalleled. He brings a commitment to service, inclusion, journalism, and open societies,” said Joanne Heyman, GroundTruth board chair, and the founder and CEO of Heyman Partners. “On behalf of the board, I am thrilled that we have a leader of his caliber as we look to scale our groundbreaking journalism initiatives and meet the needs of communities across the country and globally.”
Zeaske takes the helm as GroundTruth looks to significantly scale its flagship programs to tackle the growing decline in local news across the globe. Over the past five years, Report for America has placed 547 reporters and photographers, nearly half of whom are journalists of color, in more than 300 newsrooms across all 50 states, Guam and Puerto Rico. Report for the World, now in its second year, has doubled in size with some 30 corps members working in 17 newsrooms in eight countries across five continents.
“I’m delighted to be taking on this role with the organization and mission that I’m so passionate about,” Zeaske said. “We have all the ingredients necessary to significantly grow our support of the local news ecosystem and I’m eager to work with our partners in understanding how we can do more.”
Zeaske most recently served as the director of Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI). There, he oversaw SEI’s strategy and operations, including MBA and executive education programming, alumni and practitioner engagement, and faculty research and curriculum support. In 2018, Zeaske was named one of the ten “Most Admired CEOs” by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University.
Zeaske’s arrival follows the transition of GroundTruth founder Charles Sennott from CEO to editor-in-chief last fall, and Report for America co-founder Steven Waldman’s stepping aside from his position as president to focus fully on the advancement of public policy through the Rebuild Local News Coalition, which he founded two years ago.
“Through my time as a staff and board member I have gotten to know Steve and Charlie as visionaries and friends,” Zeaske said. “They have built an organization, a vision and a set of values that are innovative and impactful, and I can’t thank them enough for their support during this transition and their willingness to stay active in the organization, including as board members.”
The GroundTruth Project thanks Ann Davis Vaughan for serving as transition chair and the acting CEO during the search and for her continued role as a member of the board of directors.
Under her leadership, the organization focused on operational support for core programs and refined a number of key roles. Kevin Grant took on fundraising as chief development and partnerships officer, and Kim Kleman became executive director of Report for America. Additionally, Earl Johnson was promoted to vice president of recruitment and alumni engagement, and Teri Hayt became director of corps and newsroom excellence, both for Report for America.
About The GroundTruth Project
The GroundTruth Project is an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up. GroundTruth serves under-covered communities by supporting the next generation of journalists to do on-the-ground reporting and to advance sustainability, innovation and equity in journalism worldwide. GroundTruth’s flagship programs — Report for America and Report for the World — place talented, diverse local reporters in the newsrooms that need them most.