madbair profile

Madeleine Bair is a journalist and media developer. As a Campaign Manager at the advocacy organization, Free Press, she supports newsrooms and community members to work together to strengthen local journalism across the country. 

Madeleine is the founder of El Tímpano, a local participatory reporting lab designed to serve Oakland's Latino immigrant community. As a 2018-2019 Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow, she piloted a mobile news platform as one approach to local, community-engaged journalism.

At the international human rights organization, WITNESS, Madeleine led a pioneering program dedicated to advancing the use of eyewitness video as a tool for human rights. She oversaw the Webby-nominated Human Rights Channel and was lead author of the organization’s groundbreaking Ethical Guidelines for Using Eyewitness Video for Human Rights.

Before joining WITNESS, Madeleine served as an I.F. Stone Fellow with Human Rights Watch’s multimedia team, where she created videos and podcasts to accompany advocacy reports, and assisted researchers in capturing multimedia in the field. In 2010, she documented extrajudicial killings in Jamaica for the country's leading human rights organization, producing a video series that was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Madeleine has presented on community-driven journalism at the Latino Media Summit and Oakland’s City Hall. She has presented on citizen video and human rights at SXSW, the U.S. State Department, the Newseum, the Kennedy School of Government, Barnard College, Aperture, and the National Conference for Media Reform. Her stories have appeared in the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, Colorlines, MediaShift, and Orion, and broadcast on public radio programs including PRI’s The World. Her documentary film on a first-generation high school graduate aired on the public television program, POV, as part of its Latino Graduates series. 

Madeleine earned a dual MA in Journalism and International Studies from UC Berkeley, and a BA from the University of Chicago. She is a native of Oakland, California, and a lover of cumbia, mangos, and mixtapes.


My passion for journalism is guided by my belief in the impact of storytelling—not just on the audience, but on the people asking the questions, those telling the stories, and the communities and societies whose stories are told.

This belief took root during my experience in the pioneering youth media organization, Children’s Express. It was not the publication of my stories that mattered to my eight-year-old self so much as the discovery that, despite the fact that I didn’t look like a reporter, my perspective was worth sharing, and my questions worth asking.

My involvement in youth media continued in Chicago, where I learned radio production at RadioArte—a bilingual, youth-run radio station serving the city’s Mexican community. I continued teaching young adults the art of radio there while working at Chicago Public Radio, and volunteered with a Costa Rican youth radio program, RadioUpe, several years later.

As a journalist, I strive to use the storytelling process to empower subjects, audiences, and communities. For instance, when making the PBS documentary, “Can’t Hold Me Back,” with Betty Bastidas, we gave a camera to our protagonist and incorporated his voice and footage into our film. As a human rights journalist and advocate, I am committed to leveraging the capacity of average citizens to document their communities.

You can contact me at mb [at] madeleinebair [dot] com and click here for my complete CV