Remembering Tiffany Shackelford

Tiffany Shackelford

UPDATE: Please join a virtual memorial Friday, Jan. 15 2021 at 7 p.m. ET to celebrate Tiffany Shackelford by sharing our stories, offering our fondest memories, and raising a glass to toast her life. Please visit for more information.

Tiffany Shackelford, The Society for News Design’s Executive Director, died on December 27th from complications resulting from a positive case of Covid-19. We honor our colleague and dear friend.

Tiffany was simply a force of nature. 

Her sharp intellect was often revealed with a sly smile, wrapped in a bawdy sense of humor. 

She was a connector — one possessing a generous spirit — who took pleasure in making introductions between those in her broad and varied network.

Many of her numerous accomplishments occurred when she combined her sharp strategic abilities with her enthusiastic delivery and potent convening abilities.

Yuri Victor, Senior editor, The Atlantic:

“Anyone who has been in the same room as Tiffany was instantly intoxicated with her boisterous love, laughter and occasional F-bombs. Tiffany was a tornado of goodness. She spun the world and moved us all.”

Tiffany touched many lives and made a remarkable number of connections across her rich professional history — from Capitol Beat to the Pew Center’s to the National Governors Association to Phase2 Technology and as a consultant for MG Strategy + Design. 

Perhaps where she had the most widespread impact was in her roles with three media-related organizations: Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the Online News Association and the Society for News Design.

Paige K. Connor and Tiffany Shackelford helped host SND’s first-ever all-virtual workshop in the fall of 2020.

Contributions to SND

In late 2019, SND was fortunate to hire Tiffany as the new Executive Director. Since then, she’s been working closely with the officers and the board on a number of critical projects to help modernize the Society. In the midst of a pandemic that saw the first-ever all-virtual global SND workshop, Tiffany was essential in establishing new connections and relationships, partnering with many traditional and non-traditional partners to create new opportunities for the organization. She was fundamental in helping to re-envision a more streamlined structure for SND that reflected the changing needs of its members and the industry.

Paige K. Connor, Principal, pkcxstrategy and SND immediate past-president:

“Tiffany stepped into SND during a critical time for the organization. She took on the daunting task of helping the organization reimagine what it needed to be for the ever-changing industry and — most importantly — for its members.

She was a fierce advocate for the industry’s rising stars — especially women. On more than one occasion, she reminded me that you must be your own advocate. ‘Be the f – – – ing badass that I know you are!’ she would tell me. Her belief in you provided the sense that you could do anything, and she would be right by your side. SND would not be ready to move into the future without her leadership and guidance.”

Alyson Morris, Chicago Tribune designer and SND president:

“Tiffany had this rare ability to see you – like really, really see you. She’d somehow fully realize your strengths and skills within your first few interactions together, even – and especially – if you didn’t. My favorite thing about her was that she’d find a way to compliment, drop knowledge and make you laugh all in the same breath of air. I will be forever grateful for the time I had learning from her and all the moments of laughter we shared.” 

Tara McCarty, Washington Post designer and SND 2020 workshop planning committee:

“Tiffany gave her attention to what should matter most to those working in our field: progress, community and integrity. She said things like they were, sugarcoated nothing, and I believe she had much more to say. I hope to see SND as an organization pick up where she left off.”

Douglas Okasaki, SND international board member and former SND president:

“This is such a shock, we talked with her just last week in the SND board meeting. Tiffany’s energy, enthusiasm, and sense of humor were clear from the very beginning. Our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time. Her SND family offers its support.”

Matt Mansfield and Tiffany Shackelford in front of a typical packed audience for ONADC. They were skilled collaborators and knew how to muster a crowd (and almost always a waiting list). As organizers, they rarely appeared in front of the room (or the camera).

Contributions to Online News Association/DC

The strength of a volunteer organization is determined by the enthusiasm of its organizers. Like those of SND, members of ONA (Online News Association) in Washington, D.C. benefited greatly from the energy of Tiffany. The chapter sprung from a small gathering she organized and was propelled by her efforts — and those of a dedicated core of volunteers — to become a group of more than 1,000 digital journalists within just a few years. 

Matt Mansfield, Partner, MG Strategy + Design; former SND president and ONA organizer: 

“One of Tiffany’s mundane superpowers, her words, was getting people involved. She let you know you could contribute, could lead from any seat, and always passed along her enthusiasm and warmth. That’s not mundane at all. It was a special gift she used to bring people together and empower a whole tribe of digital journalists.” 

Laura Cochran, SVP Research & service design, Valley Bank and ONA organizer:

“Tiffany broke the mold for what it meant to learn, inspire and grow together as a local journalism community in DC. She took a seed of something and grew it into a community of people invested in not just ONA’s success, but in each other’s success as digital journalists.” 

Jessica Estepa, Political producer, CNN and ONA organizer:

“Without Tiffany, the local network of ONA wouldn’t exist. That isn’t an exaggeration — it was only through her dedication and execution that ONADC and the framework that followed came to be. We are all the better for it.” 

Irving Washington, Executive Director/CEO, Online News Association:

“Tiffany’s impact on the field of digital journalism was immeasurable. Two words will always follow her legacy — a force. She was a force for connectedness as one of the co-founders of our first Local Group — ONADC — which later led to building 50 volunteer-run groups across the world. She was a force for journalism innovation as a previous ONA Conference co-chair. And, she was a force of a friend as she mentored, sponsored, and tirelessly helped so many members of ONA.”

Contributions to Association of Alternative Newsmedia

Perhaps no other stop on Tiffany’s career better showcased her zeal and irreverence than her time as executive director from 2010 to 2015 for the AAN (Association of Alternative Newsmedia), a group renowned for its spirit and enthusiasm, serving local publications across the US and Canada. She simultaneously put her business savvy and deep industry connections to use, as she championed first amendment issues and helped spread ideas among a rich network of local media outlets struggling as their business models morphed.

Jason Zaragoza, former AAN colleague:

“Tiffany had a way of charming everyone she met, from interns and freelancers to governors and senators. Her laughter was infectious, and even a mundane conference call could feel like a party if she was on the line. It’s hard to fathom this world without her. I hope the angels are prepared to laugh their asses off.” 

John Heaston, current AAN president:

“Tiffany was a bright light in any room she entered and a spark for any group she joined.” She was an agent for constructive change, which today is reflected on so many fronts. She continued to advise periodically after she left, and helped drive diversification and collaboration at levels never seen before. “Tiffany’s legacy is in the future of the media and civic engagement, and will be defined by the seeds she planted that we can only strive to nurture. Her deep concern, joyful nature, scrappy outlook and hearty laugh will always illuminate those efforts.”

Fran Zankowski, AAN president when Tiffany first joined:

“When hired, we asked Tiffany to give AAN a higher profile in D.C. and throughout other media organizations. She did that and more. Rest In Peace Tiffany, may light eternal shine upon you.”

Ellen Meany, The American Prospect, former AAN treasurer:

“Her professional network was vast and amazing, and she wielded it wisely for anyone who asked. Her personal friendship was so valuable and fulfilling, whether with just a quick text exchange or over cocktails, I will miss this most of all.” 

In the end, no matter how extended or brief our time with Tiffany was, we are each grateful to have been inspired, informed and entertained by her, and that bright light she so generously shared along her path. She will be dearly missed. 

Amy Webb, Founder, the Future Today Institute.
Professor, Strategic Foresight: NYU Stern School of Business: 

“Tiffany was a beloved mother, colleague and friend, and a longtime member of our community. She had a fast, acerbic wit like no one else, and her generosity touched legions of people. Everyone who knew Tiffany has a great story to tell — she was a bright, amazing light. May her memory be a blessing to all who knew her.”

Scott Goldman, Partner, MG Strategy + Design and former SND president:

“Tiffany took such pride in making people laugh, and bringing people together. And here, in this awful ending to an awful year … she’s done that again. Bringing us all together, to remember her, and to mourn her tragic and heartbreaking loss.”

Sam, Tiffany Shackelford and Aaron Castelo

Share your support

We are committed to supporting Tiffany’s son Sam and her loving husband Aaron in this tragic time. GOFUNDME: Please consider donating to this fund established by Tiffany’s friends and family, to help support Aaron and Sam through this challenging time.

Join the virtual memorial

Friends are organizing a virtual celebration of Tiffany’s life. The program will include toasts, poetry readings, short stories and memories, and musical interludes. Tiffany wouldn’t have wanted a somber event. Sign up to share a photo, anecdote, toast or poem (Jan. 15, 7 p.m. ET. Visit for more information).

NEXT STEPS: This is a huge loss for SND and the journalism world. In the coming days, the SND Executive Committee will determine how best to move forward. Tiffany is irreplaceable, but we will continue to build on her vision for the Society. Please follow for updates; share questions or comments to [email protected]

About Kris Viesselman and Steve Dorsey


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