Radio Free Asia (RFA) has announced changes to its editorial team, and the department as a whole, as part of a broader strategic expansion that includes the creation of new journalistic investigative and fact-check units. With the changes, veteran journalist Matthew Pennington, formerly RFA’s Managing Editor of Southeast Asia, will serve as Senior Managing Editor, a newly created role.
Pennington will lead daily newsroom operations, reporting to Executive Editor Min Mitchell. He also will directly oversee RFA’s digital affiliate BenarNews, as well as the investigative unit, which will work with RFA’s language services to produce in-depth, long-form reports. These initiatives are part of a wider set of shifts to realize RFA’s strategic vision to sharpen its editorial capacity covering China, Hong Kong, North Korea, Myanmar, Cambodia and other places in Asia with restricted media environments that are inundated with authoritarian disinformation.
“We are thrilled to take these key steps that will strengthen RFA’s incisive brand of journalism,” Mitchell said. “In leading many of these efforts, Matthew brings more than 20 years of invaluable newsroom experience and a deep Asia expertise. Those qualities and his incredible track record at RFA make him the right person to help us accomplish even more than we have to date.”
“It’s a tremendous privilege to step into this exciting role, which offers a unique opportunity to take RFA’s reporting to a new level,” Pennington said. “I look forward to helping RFA meet this crucial moment in history and be best equipped for the challenges ahead.”
Additionally, Paul Eckert, who served as Director of English News, will now be the English Editor-at-Large where he will oversee RFA’s English commentary section. Nadia Tsao, Managing Editor of East Asia, will lead the fact checking unit, which will map Chinese media influence worldwide and counter falsehoods in real time. With its expansion underway, RFA is in the process of recruiting for new positions within its language services and global Mandarin brand 歪脑 | WHYNOT, and to enhance its digital storytelling presentation, as well as filling Pennington’s and Eckert’s previous roles.
Matthew Pennington joined RFA in December 2018, after a 19-year career with The Associated Press as a reporter and editor. He began his career in Southeast Asia as a U.N. volunteer in Laos, raising awareness about the problem of unexploded ordnance left over from the Vietnam War. He worked as a correspondent for Agence France-Presse and then the AP, covering Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia, and spent five years based in Islamabad, where he became AP bureau chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was born and educated in England and holds a BA in Ancient History from the University of Bristol and an MA in Political Philosophy from the University of York.