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Merrill Brown is an educator, consultant, advisor, investor and veteran media executive and journalist. In addition to writing for The Washington Post, he launched MSNBC.com and was the website’s founding Editor-in-Chief. He is currently the Director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Brown was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in political science in 1974.
Brown was associated with The Washington Post from 1979 to 1985, serving as a financial reporter (1979–1982), New York financial correspondent (1982–1984) and director of business development, Washington Post Company (1984–1985). Prior to that, Brown wrote for the Washington Star (1978–1979), Media General Newspapers (1975–1978), the Winston-Salem Sentinel (1974–1975) and the St. Louis Post Dispatch (1973–1974).
As a member of the launch team of the cable network Court TV, Brown worked on all facets of the network's operation leading up to its July 1991 launch. From 1990-1994, he oversaw program planning, advertising, promotion, marketing, public relations and development of day-to-day management.
He served as consulting senior editor of Money magazine, acting editor for Time Magazine Daily and as a consulting editor for Time magazine. During that time, Brown was a launch consultant for NBC Desktop Video, designing the network program plan and creating the network's on-air look for NBC's business news service delivered to personal computers.
In 1996, Brown helped launch MSNBC.com, and was the website’s first Editor-in-Chief. He was responsible for connecting Microsoft’s “technology wizards” and NBC’s “news hounds,” between MSNBC on the Internet based in Redmond, Washington, and MSNBC Cable, based in New Jersey. He went on to become Senior Vice President in August 2000 and during his tenure, the fledgling company grew to become one of the most visited news offerings on the Internet.
Brown’s consulting practice included projects throughout the media, technology and education categories and clients included Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Disney/ABC, major newspapers and National Public Radio. In 2012, Brown co-authored a report with Larry Kramer, publisher of USA Today, about the future of the PBS NewsHour. The report, commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, called on the program to “modernize news gathering production.”
In the spring of 2005, he prepared a report for the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which examined young peoples' changing media consumption habits. The report referenced in a speech later that year by News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch in a speech to the American Society of Magazine Editors in addition to other domestic and international outlets.
In September 2012, Brown was appointed as the Director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, a program that encompasses TV/Radio, communications studies, digital media, journalism, filmmaking, public relations, and organizational communication. Brown stated, “I am proud to be associated with the strong team within the new school and with an administration that’s committed to making the school a recognized leader in a field that’s critically important to the future of the state and the region.” Montclair State University's communications school has over 700 students, and an innovative curriculum that trains undergraduates to work in television, radio, public relations and the news media.
In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors for several online media and publishing companies: GoLocal24, Revenue.com and MedCity News. He is also an advisor to Capture Media Inc., Dstillery, Mixpo and is a member of the advisory board at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.
Previously Brown was Chairman of the Board at NowPublic, a citizen journalism network with contributors from around the globe, which was sold to Examiner.com, and was Chairman of the Advisory Board at TRA Global which was sold to Tivo. Brown has also served on the boards of Smashing Ideas Inc. which was sold to Bertelsmann's Random House division, New West Publishing, the Center for Citizen Media and the International Womens Media Foundation.
Additionally, Brown was principal of MMB Media LLC, which provided clients with management and strategy consulting, corporate, editorial and program development, business analysis and marketing services. Clients have ranged from companies in the news, information and wireless businesses to large foundations.
Brown was one of the founders of News21, an educational effort involving journalism grad students from five major universities— Columbia, Berkeley, USC Annenberg, Northwestern, and Harvard — a program that was guided by a support team of faculty and professional journalists. He served as the National Editorial Director of the project from June 2005 until January 2008.