Lauren Alix Brown was an influential editor in the development of digital journalism at Quartz, who died of cancer in 2019 at the age of 37. The Lauren Brown Fellowship was created by her friends and family in her memory.
Lauren joined the global business news startup Quartz in 2012 as part of its founding team, and shaped the culture and editorial approach of the organization as much as anyone. As director of special projects, she oversaw some of Quartz’s most ambitious journalism, and initiatives including a print book, unique events, and a podcasting co-production. (You can see Lauren and hear her briefly explain her role here.) Earlier, Lauren was Quartz’s deputy Ideas editor, commissioning work from outside contributors around the world.
Lauren championed writing from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and advanced an organizational and editorial commitment to gender equality. Lauren was central in realizing Quartz’s important multi-year How We’ll Win project on women and work. “I see you,” she once messaged a female colleague during a tense group meeting, providing a crucial vote of confidence that was typical of how Lauren raised up people around her, especially women early in their careers. She mentored most of the young journalists who came through Quartz, and many of the veterans as well.
Lauren excelled at giving other people space to tell their stories. She worked with writers from every walk of life, talking them through pieces on topics as wide-ranging as Japanese monetary policy, same-sex marriage, the fine-art economy, Nelson Mandela’s legacy, and why mainstream American companies lose talented Black workers.
Lauren identified how the digital forces wracking traditional journalism could be harnessed to expose readers to people whose voices were traditionally overlooked. “People don’t necessarily care where a story comes from or often who is writing it—they just want to read something interesting,” she wrote. “This affords us a great opportunity to tap into new voices and unlikely experts; people on the ground around the world who are witnessing firsthand the forces behind macro-economic changes.”
Lauren’s own practice of digital journalism, as an editor and writer herself, was ahead of its time, and has been deeply influential in demonstrating how you could be highly creative while also producing high-quality work. (You can watch her and a former Quartz colleague talk at a 2018 conference in Almaty, Kazakhstan.)
Before her tenure at Quartz, Lauren was an editor at Business Insider, where she oversaw all contributors and syndication partnerships. Lauren received a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism, where she specialized in digital media. She also worked for WorldNow and Wiley, and was a contributing writer for Movmnt Magazine. She received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University, where she majored in English and history.
Lauren in 2015 wrote that her illness had brought things into sharp focus for her: “The experience taught me that, despite all of the circumstances in life we can’t control, ‘happiness’ is one thing you can. Happiness is not a feeling, but an orientation. It is an active approach to life, in a million small ways, that insists on persevering through shitty circumstances. Sure, this approach means that much of the time, you’re faking happiness before you feel it. But that’s when it’s most important.”