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Meet the Team


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    Alex Skatell

    Founder and CEO

    Alex's interest in tech and media began early on. While in college at Clemson, Alex developed numerous iPhone applications, including a top 25 application that was featured by Gizmodo, as well as making it in the "What's Hot" section of the iTunes app store. Next, only 4 years after graduating, Alex founded Independent Journal Review (IJR.com) in a small apartment in Charleston, South Carolina, investing all his savings and weekly paycheck into one goal: to reach a large population of America that next generation media companies were missing. Today, Independent Journal Review is a top 50 website in the country, and reaches more than 35 million monthly readers. The site employs more than 50 reporters and writers covering politics, news, culture, lifestyle, and current events from all across the country. On election day 2016, IJR was the most engaged news site on the planet, doubling up the 2nd most engaged site, The New York Times, and beating out traditional media heavyweights like BuzzFeed, CNN, USA Today, and the Huffington Post. Adding to the business, Alex co-founded IMGE, a full service digital agency in 2013. IMGE is based in Alexandria, VA, and has a team of more than 35 working with some of the world's largest brands, associations, and campaigns, developing innovative tech tools and implementing digital strategies to help clients reach their audiences and goals. Alex has been dubbed a "wunderkind" of media tech by the New York Times, and has been included in Forbes 30 under 30, Fortune Magazine's 40 under 40, and WIRED's political Tech Titans of 2016. Alex is a member of several advisory boards, including the Clemson University Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service, Digital Content Next, and the News Media Alliance.

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    Michelle Jaconi

    Senior Advisor

    Prior to joining the world of #Yolo, Vines and GIFs, Michelle spent six years at CNN, where she founded CNN’s Cross Platform Programming unit, leading political coverage across CNN’s television networks, digital properties and mobile apps. In that role, Jaconi led editorial partnerships with companies such as Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. Also in her six years at CNN, Michelle launched and led programs in every television day-part, including State of the Union and Inside Politics. She also worked extensively with CNN.com, launching next generation programming, video franchises and co-writing a daily newsletter during the 2012 presidential campaign. Prior to joining CNN, Michelle spent 12 years at NBC’s Meet the Press with Tim Russert, the longest-running television program in the world. She still considers herself a Russert girl and smiles at every opportunity to reminisce about the beloved newsman from Buffalo. Throughout her career, Michelle has earned multiple awards, including the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Media for producing the Meet the Press senate debate series, a Peabody for her help in producing CNN’s coverage of the Arab Spring, and back-to-back Emmy Awards for presidential election nights, at two different networks, CNN and NBC. Michelle has been described in the press as being "ecstatic" about campaign season and that somehow is an understatement. If you ever are in a room with Michelle, there is a good chance she'll ask you to weigh in on the political debate of the day, which is why she finds herself at home at Independent Journal Review. Michelle loves learning from everyday Americans and finds great joy in driving her pick up truck, simply because people tend to smile at a girl in a truck. Click here to view my Vine list on Why I Joined Independent Journal Review.

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    Brandon Paine

    Chief Revenue Officer

    Brandon Paine joined Independent Journal Review as Chief Revenue Officer after a long career of working in Internet media and ad tech going back to 1996. Brandon's experience spans two Silicon Valley start-ups, Internet policy and governance in Washington, D.C., and ten years with DoubleClick/Google. Brandon most recently led the Global Accounts team at AppNexus, where he was responsible for developing partnerships with the world’s largest and most influential online advertising companies. Brandon received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned an MBA from Columbia.  

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    Kyle Becker

    Managing Editor

    Kyle Becker began working for Independent Journal Review in 2012 and helped lead it to a top 50 publication online in terms of monthly readership. As Managing Editor, he helps package content to develop the website's social media presence. He is frequently among the top individual publishers in the world on social media on a daily basis. Kyle is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a background in Political Science. He holds a Master's degree in International Studies from the University of Iowa and has taken Phd.-level courses on subjects ranging from Terrorism to post-Soviet Russian politics. He formerly worked for the economic news agency Prime-TASS as a journalist in Moscow, Russia.

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    India Moorhouse

    Managing Editor of Liftbump

    Joining the MGA team in 2013, India Moorhouse is the Managing Editor of Liftbump, a vertical of Independent Journal Review that covers culture, lifestyle, and uplifting content — the kind of content you just can't help talking about. India manages a team of intrepid reporters who share her love of writing about what’s going on in the real world. She holds a B.A. from James Madison University in International Affairs and an M.A. in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies from George Washington University. She speaks Spanish, is passionately devoted to animal causes and loves every Real Housewives ever.  

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    Emily Hulsey

    Director of Remote Operations and Senior Editor

    Before joining the team in early 2013, Emily graduated from Huntingdon College with a degree in Global Leadership and earned her MBA from Rollins College. She previously led a campaign to develop interest in social entrepreneurship at Rollins, which resulted in curriculum changes, the addition of a minor, a national designation and an international award. She developed her management and social media skills by working in the marketing division of a leading e-commerce website and, prior to that, managing private defense contracts with the Army. Emily enjoys spending time with her husband and two puppies, learning to cook, and traveling around the world.

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    Benny Johnson

    Chief Content Officer

    Benny Johnson is obsessed with the intersection of politics and the social web. He works day-to-day on curating Washington’s complex political discourse into a relatable, online dialogue for a socially native audience. He worked previously as the Digital Director of National Review, the Viral Politics Editor at BuzzFeed, the Viral Politics editor at TheBlaze and Multimedia Director at Accuracy In Media. Benny is based in Washington D.C. and hails from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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    Andrew Clark

    Managing Editor, The Review

    Andrew Clark works at Independent Journal Review as the Managing Editor of The Review, Independent Journal's vertical for opinion contributor content. He poaches perspectives and news from all over the spectrum on a daily basis. Clark has a background in Republican digital communications, most recently serving as Digital Press Secretary at the NRCC and as Deputy Digital Rapid Response Director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Previously, Clark worked as a digital media consultant for Hynes Communications. Originally from California, Clark graduated from the George Washington University with an B.A/M.A. in Media and Public Affairs in 2012.

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    Matt Manda

    Communications Director

    Matt heads up Independent Journal Review's internal and external communications and marketing needs. He has several years of political experience; including successful Senate and Congressional campaigns, and worked as a Communications Director on the Hill in Washington, DC as well. In his role at Independent Journal Review, Matt focuses on developing and implementing strategies to increase Independent Journal's visibility, helping to tell our story, to enhance brand identity, and help build and strengthen relationships for Independent Journal Review. A native of Kansas - home of the best BBQ on Earth - Matt graduated from the University of Kansas. Rock Chalk! Matt is also one of many Eagle Scouts on staff at Independent Journal Review.

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    Megan Foley

    Publishing Editor

    Megan Foley is an editor for Independent Journal Review. She was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Great Falls, Virginia. Previously, she taught creative writing at Columbia University, where she earned her MFA in Nonfiction. She has written for publications including The Village Voice, Thought Catalog and Poet Lore.

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    Colin Chocola

    Staff Contributor

    As a member of Independent Journal Review’s creative content team, Colin develops original content based on humor, entertainment, and video. Before Independent Journal Review, he produced videos in both the political and corporate spaces, and developed viral content for a humor-based publication. He’s currently trying to find a way to be casted in the new Star Wars trilogy.

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    Dave Jorgenson

    Staff Contributor

    Dave is a writer and contributor for Independent Journal Review, focusing on the creation of original viral content. He is originally from Kansas City, though he has lived in Tulsa, OK, Greencastle, IN, Summerland Key, FL, New York, NY, Minneapolis, MN, Los Angeles, CA and now Washington, D.C. Before joining Independent Journal Review, this Eagle Scout gained experience through internships at the Colbert Report, MTV2, and a strange job working as a customer service representative in Jared Leto’s house, amongst other things. He also co-created a late night variety show his senior year at DePauw University with Independent Journal Review’s Colin Chocola, and hosts and produces three podcasts.

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    Ethan Czahor

    Chief Engineer

    Ethan Jon Czahor is the Chief Engineer at Independent Journal Review, where he oversees technical development and deployment of websites, native apps, and various other digital properties. Previously, Ethan was a founder and Chief Technology Officer at Hipster (sold to Aol), CTO at The Honest Company, CTO at America Rising PAC, and founder and CTO at Bold Global Media. He's been featured on FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN, and his work has been covered by New York Times, Techcrunch, Buzzfeed, MTV, Time, and several others.

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    Nicole Yesel

    Staff Contributor

    Nicole Yesel is a Content Creator for Independent Journal Review and Liftbump. Coming from a publishing background, Nicole has worked with both digital and print advertising in creative, strategy, and operation capacities at Macmillan. She has also spent time freelancing in the marketing and editorial departments for various publishers. Nicole earned her undergraduate degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and her Masters in Digital Publishing from New York University.

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    Amanda Ghessie

    Staff Contributor

    Before joining the team, Amanda received her law degree and worked in several different arenas – from the legal department at a defense contracting company to the advocacy team at a nonprofit organization. Her favorite place to be is in the kitchen or traveling to new and exciting places. Obsessions include foster dogs and SEC football.

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    Reid Mene

    Staff Contributor

    Reid Mene is a content creator for Independent Journal Review who specializes in human interest stories and original content. A recent graduate of The Catholic University of America with a degree in Media Studies and Religious Studies, he gained experience with Final Cut Pro and Photoshop through a variety of positions and internships throughout college. Reid credits his creative outlook due to his seven years as a sponsored skateboarder. During this time he was featured in numerous magazine and skateboard videos, in which he had the opportunity to travel across the country doing demonstrations.

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    Conor Swanberg

    Staff Contributor

    Conor studied history at the University of Redlands in Southern California, graduating with a B.A. in 2014. He is originally from Connecticut, but has recently left New England for the D.C. Metro Area where he works for Independent Journal Review. Conor is an avid guitar player, car enthusiast, and lover of all things nerdy.

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    Mike Miller

    Contributing Editor

    A lifelong political junkie, Mike joined Independent Journal Review in 2012. In addition to working as a writer and contributing editor for Independent Journal, Mike also co-hosts "The Right Mics Radio Show" at www.TheRightMics.us. Mike's articles have been featured on Forbes.com, Fuse, Newsvine, Discovery News and various other sites.

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    Erin McPike

    White House Correspondent

    Erin McPike is Independent Journal Review's White House correspondent. She's previously covered the White House for CNN and national politics for Reuters, RealClearPolitics, National Journal and NBC News. Erin grew up and Ohio and graduated from American University in Washington. Email [email protected] and follow @erinmcpike on Twitter.

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    Becca Lower

    Contributing Writer

    Becca Lower is the assistant to the Editor and a copy editor at Independent Journal Review. She has previously written at Conservative Daily News, ViralRead and Lowering the Boom.

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    Justen Charters

    Content Specialist and Viral Editor

    Justen Charters is a content specialist and viral editor for Independent Journal Review who focuses on covering original stories. Before writing for Independent Journal Review, Charters worked in politics and media has been featured on Fox News, the LA Times, Forbes, Politico, Breitbart and the Media Research Center.

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    Sara Vallone

    Staff Contributor

    Sara is a reporter for Independent Journal Review's vertical Liftbump. In 2013, she graduated from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism with a degree in Broadcasting, but her true love lies with writing. She has dabbled in the world of freelance and has worked as a Digital Intern for Comcast SportsNet Chicago, where she had the privilege of covering the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup championship run and various pop culture news within the Chicago Sports realm. Her favorite hobbies include watching sports and enjoying a late 80's, early 90's sitcom.

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    Maegan Vazquez

    Political Reporter

    Maegan Vazquez is a political reporter for Independent Journal Review, focusing on the Perry, Cruz, Carson, and Graham presidential campaigns. She is a recent graduate of New York University and hails from Laredo, Texas. While in college, Maegan worked for CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins.

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    Phil Wolf

    Video Journalist

    New York born. DC raised. Phil is a video journalist with a background in creative direction and editing. He’s developed documentary films, government and corporate recruiting videos, and live broadcast media for organizations across the U.S. When he’s not working, you'll usually find Phil having fun with his twin daughters, Audrey and Mikaela, or watching baseball...or both.

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    Liz Kelly

    Ad Optimization Specialist

    Liz is an Ad Optimization Specialist. She used to work at TEKsystems, but made the move to Independent Journal Review to use her advertising degree. She's originally from Texas and went to the University of Texas, but now resides in Centreville, VA. She loves running and is obsessed with English Bulldogs.

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    Jason Howerton

    Deputy Editor

    Jason Howerton prides himself on being able to find and tell the compelling stories that others miss. As deputy editor, he collaborates daily with Independent Journal Review’s creative team to advance the national conversation on trending issues with original reporting delivered through IJR’s unique lens. He previously worked his way up from an entry level writer to deputy managing editor at TheBlaze in less than five years. Before that, he worked as a local political reporter for two different West Virginia newspapers. Jason was born and raised in Texas. When he’s not doing CrossFit in his free time, he’s challenging Navy SEALs to grappling matches and shooting competitions. Jason has four great loves in his life: His God, his country, his wife, and his dog, Max.

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    Andrew Behringer

    Head of Sales

    Andrew Behringer is Independent Journal Review’s Head of Sales.  Prior to joining Independent Journal Review, Andrew spent over six years at National Journal on the advertising and events sales team, most recently as VP, Strategic Partnerships.  In his early career Andrew worked for U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and on public affairs campaigns for New Media Strategies (now MXM). Andrew has a B.A. from the University of Richmond, and an MBA from the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary.

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    Kara Pendleton

    Contributing Writer

    Previously having written as a ghost writer and under the pen name Daniella Nicole, Kara Pendleton is the author of 7 books and contributing author to 1 book, with more in the pipeline. Her education includes finance, housing and consumer issues, as well as journalism and health/nutrition. Kara has a Master Certification in English Vocabulary. She has been a radio talk show guest and a public speaker on various financial topics.

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    Angie McPherson


    Angie McPherson is a writer for IJR, and has more than five years of experience working in journalism and communications. She was previously a special initiatives producer at United Nations Foundation (UNF). Before that she worked as an associate producer for National Geographic, where she helped launch various digital projects for the magazine.

  • Jenni Fink


    Jenni joins IJR as a writer focusing on political and news commentary. She received a B.A. in Communications from the University of Arizona, and was a top-10 community contributor for BuzzFeed. Jenni recently published “Sentenced to Life,” a fiction novel depicting life after college, which was featured on Fox News’s “The Five.”

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    Kathleen Gaeta


    Kathleen joins IJR as a culture and entertainment writer. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in Creative Writing. She dove headfirst into an all-American charity, where she advocated for citizens' access to affordable housing via cycling across the United States and building homes along the way. Kathleen previously wrote pop culture and hard news for 20 Some. She's been published by several outlets, including Fusion and Thr33fold for brand marketing work, and also wrote copy for several major Miami companies.

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    Sarah Caskie


    Sarah joins IJR as a writer for the culture and entertainment team. She has written for publications like Thought Catalog and Alternative Press Magazine. Sarah graduated cum laude from Penn State University in 2015 with a degree in Journalism.

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    Cassandra Webb

    Deputy Editor

    Cassandra serves as the deputy editor of culture and entertainment at IJR. She earned her B.A. in Journalism from Angelo State University, and received her M.A. in Journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Since then, Cassandra has worked in public relations, marketing, and television news.

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    Leo Lutz

    News Producer

    Leo Lutz is a News Producer with Independent Journal Review. He works across teams helping to develop and manage IJR's news products. He also runs all homepage operations. Leo grew up on a farm in central Missouri, and graduated from Westminster College (MO). He is a huge fan of the Ole Miss Rebels, and he goes to as many sporting events as he can.

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    Lauri Goodling

    Content Editor

    Lauri Goodling has built a career in professional writing and editing and devoted her life to increasing political engagement among young people. She holds an undergraduate degree in English from Florida State University, where she spent two years as a legislative intern at the Florida House; a Master's degree in Professional Writing; and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition, where her dissertation focused on social media as a tool for increased civic engagement. She has been awarded fellowships in service learning and civic engagement and instructional technology. Lauri has served as managing editor of a parenting publication, contributing writer to magazines and newspapers, content developer and manager for e-commerce and e-learning websites, and textbook author. She has also published scholarly articles on multimodal composition, social media, and digital activism, and she is currently an English professor.

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    Michelle Ray

    Political Editor

    Michelle Ray joined Independent Journal Review's editing team in December 2014. She is a mother of 4 and involved liberty activist and policy wonk. Prior to joining Independent Journal Review, she worked as editor and contributor to Conservative Daily News, Freedom Works, and has worked on several advocacy campaigns and organized and presented at political events across the country. She is a serial entrepreneur and hosts the radio show In Deep with Michelle Ray. You can usually find her on social media talking about politics, music, the startup economy or where to spend her bitcoin.

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    Virginia Kruta

    Content Creator

    Virginia Kruta is the wife of a small business owner, mother of five, and stepmother of one. She is a ten year Army Veteran, and a 2014 graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a dual BS in Political Science and History. She has been a regular content contributor to Dana Loesch since 2012, has been published at The Blaze and Breitbart.com, and contributed commentary to Misfit Politics for over a year. She writes in the space between Comic-Cons, when she’s not experimenting with cooking or building chain maille jewelry.

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    Parker Lee

    Content Creator

    Born in Charleston, SC, Parker is a graduate of Clemson University, where he studied business and English. Prior to working with Independent Journal Review, he spent several years at a Charleston-area non-profit, eventually serving as Communications Manager. Parker spends as much time as he can with his awesome niece and his two big-headed dogs. He also holds a degree in graphic and web design.

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    Victoria Taft

    Content Creator

    Victoria Taft is an award-winning journalist and award-winning radio talk show host living in Southern California. In addition to her duties at Independent Journal, Victoria is seen frequently on One America News and has appeared on Fox News, Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew on HLN and is heard on the airwaves mostly in Southern California. She loves long walks on a windy beach in her dress and smart girl glasses. She’s a University of Washington grad. Go Dawgs. Go Hawks.