Zack Ford, 28
As editor for the LGBT section of ThinkProgress, Zack Ford is one of the most influential journalists online. Ford's career has taken a path he didn't expect. He came out as gay while he was an undergraduate music education major at Ithaca College, and "that really started to affect how I engaged on campus," he says.
He decided to get a master's degree in higher education with the goal of becoming a campus LGBT coordinator, but he encountered a poor job market upon finishing. Then a few other factors, including his reaction to the passage of Proposition 8 in 2008 and a scholarship from Freedom to Marry that sent him to Netroots Nation, put him on the path to political journalism. He had started his personal blog while in grad school, and now he's been with ThinkProgress for three years.
"I sort of think of my role, still, as an educator," he says. Because much of ThinkProgress's audience is straight, albeit progressive, "I have to frame things in a way to help people who aren't LGBT understand a lot of these issues," says Ford. Outside of his work with ThinkProgress, he's a podcast cohost with activist and performance artist Peterson Toscano of the LGBT issues show Queer and Queerer. He also still loves music and is an accomplished pianist. Another of his passions is the secular movement, and he hopes to build a bridge between secularists and LGBT people.
"Because I share both of those identities, I want to help the secular movement grow as well," he says, aiming to create an understanding that religious liberty includes freedom from religion.