Rita McNeil Danish, CEO of Signal Ohio
Rita McNeil Danish, CEO of Signal Ohio

After serving for decades as an attorney, Judge, and civil rights advocate, McNeil Danish will lead Signal in its mission to ensure Ohioans have access to quality, public service journalism.

Media inquiries: press@localnewsforohio.org

COLUMBUS — December 13, 2022 —Signal Ohio, a new nonprofit organization that has raised more than $7.5 million to serve Ohio, and which launched Signal Cleveland as its first newsroom this year, announced today it has hired Rita McNeil Danish as Chief Executive Officer. The announcement follows a comprehensive national search conducted in partnership with Columbus-based firm BeecherHill that yielded an exceptional, competitive pool of candidates.

Based in Columbus, McNeil Danish has more than 30 years of professional legal experience there and in Cincinnati, Dayton, and Chicago. She has been involved in a range of industries and business sectors, including service as a Commissioner on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, as City Attorney for the cities of Cincinnati and Dayton, as a Franklin County Judge, legal counsel in the Ohio governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Commerce. McNeil Danish was appointed Judge by Governor Kasich, and most recently was Partner and DEI Strategic Business Partner at Taft Law, where she provides counsel to municipalities and small, minority, and women owned businesses. Across her many roles, McNeil Danish has been dedicated to building bridges across party, racial, and gender lines, fostering open cultures, dismantling prejudices, and empowering individuals.

McNeil Danish was selected following an open search by a committee that included some of Signal Ohio’s board members, and local and national experts in journalism, nonprofit, and business. As CEO, she will lead a nonprofit, statewide network of local newsrooms, rallying local support for community-centered journalism to launch initiatives such as the one in Northeast Ohio that culminated in the launch of Signal Cleveland, a 17-person newsroom, this fall. She will be building and leading a statewide team that provides strong, sustainable business and operating support to newsrooms across the network, and ensure that Signal’s community-centered values and mission to make quality, unbiased information accessible to all residents of the state, are realized. And, as part of accepting role as CEO of an independent journalism organization, McNeil Danish will be resigning from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which is comprised of commissioners appointed by the governor enforces the state’s laws against discrimination.

“Signal Ohio is dedicated to rebuilding critical, public service local journalism resources across the state, so in filling this role we were looking for an exceptional leader who could not only grow and sustain a thriving new organization, but mobilize communities around Ohio,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, Chair of the Board of Signal Ohio and CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council. “Rita has engaged elected officials, state legislators, community stakeholders, and business leaders to find a foundation of unity on which to build systems that have strengthened Ohio communities. Her passion and dedication to public service in our state, and the unique breadth and depth of her experience, make her perfect to take on this vitally important role.”

Equal access to quality, independent, local news and information is part of the foundation of a strong democracy, and strong communities in which all Ohio residents can thrive in their daily lives,” McNeil Danish said. “With the continuing decline of local journalism resources, this is the moment for those of us who are passionate about the future of our state, and the wellbeing of all Ohioans, to step up to address it—and I’m honored to be doing it with the Signal team.”

McNeil Danish joins Signal Cleveland Editor in Chief Lila Mills as the senior leadership of Signal Ohio, making the organization one of the largest Black-led nonprofit news organizations in the country.

“As a member of the board and search committees, I’m proud of the extensive process we underwent to fill this ambitious role, as well as for Cleveland Editor in Chief. We approached both searches with deep integrity that yielded diverse pools of highly talented individuals, and led to the hiring of two outstanding and visionary leaders,” said Tim Tramble, President and CEO of the St. Luke’s Foundation. “Rita, Lila and the dynamic team assembled represent the rich diversity of Cleveland, Columbus and the state of Ohio. This continues an inspiring trend in a world where executive searches have historically led to less inclusive outcomes.”

Along with McNeil Danish’s appointment, Signal Ohio posted two more open roles: a Chief Financial and Operations Officer, who oversee all fiscal management, human resources, and administration functions for a growing network of local newsrooms across Ohio, and Chief Development Officer, who will lead the organization’s sustainability and growth strategy by growing funding streams in institutional philanthropy and major giving. Full job descriptions for these roles, and additional roles that will be posted in the coming months, can be found at localnewsforohio.org/jobs.

Very special thanks to the CEO search committee members:

  • Dale Anglin, VP, Program, Cleveland Foundation, and Signal Ohio board observer
  • Eddith Dashiell, Director, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University
  • Henry Gomez, Ohio native, longtime Cleveland-area resident, national politics reporter at NBC, Signal Ohio board vice chair
  • Tom Katzenmeyer, CEO, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Signal Ohio board chair
  • Michael Ouimette, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Startups, American Journalism Project, Signal Ohio board member
  • Richard Tofel, Principal, Gallatin Advisory LLC and former President of ProPublica
  • Tim Tramble, President & CEO of the Saint Luke’s Foundation and founder of WOVU
  • Doug Ulman, CEO of Pelotonia, Signal Ohio board member

Interested in getting involved? Signal Ohio’s work to provide all Ohioans with the local news they need will depend on strong local support. Reach out to us at partnerships@localnewsforohio.org to inquire about making a gift, becoming a sponsor, or working with us. You can also sign up for news and information from the Signal Cleveland newsroom here.

About Signal Ohio

Signal Ohio, formerly known as the Ohio Local News Initiative, is a network of independent, community-led, nonprofit newsrooms, starting in Cleveland, and backed by a coalition of Ohio organizations, community leaders and the American Journalism Project. The coalition, which includes the Cleveland Foundation, the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, Saint Luke’s Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation, the Visible Voice Charitable Fund, and the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, has raised over $7.5 million so far in response to research by the American Journalism Project, which found many northeast Ohio residents did not feel they had adequate, relevant, and accessible information about their communities and the decisions that impact their daily lives. In November, the organization launched Signal Cleveland, which is one of the largest local nonprofit news startups in the country with a staff of 17 and growing.