Anne Nelson is a prize-winning author and lecturer specializing in the role of media systems in shaping societies, currently a Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at SIPA.  Her most recent book is Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, exploring the broadcast and digital media platforms deployed by Christian nationalists and fossil fuel interests to win political and economic power.  Her previous books include Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler, which was named Editors Choice by the New York Times Book Review, and Suzanne’s Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.  She received a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship for her research on Nazi Germany, and a 2015 Bellagio Fellowship for her work on digital media and society.

Nelson has taught at SIPA since 2002.  There she created the first curriculum on digital media with her groundbreaking course, “New Media and Development Communication.”  She subsequently oversaw a series of capstone courses putting theories of digital tools for development into practice, with field research in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the Quechua Nation in Peru.  These projects were carried out in collaboration with the Wikimedia Foundation, the Mount Sinai Global Health Program, and the Peruvian Ministry of Education, and have been chronicled on and other media.  Prior to her SIPA experience, Nelson was the director of the International Program at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, where she created the first journalism school curriculum on Human Rights reporting and oversaw the creation of “The Rohde to Srebrenica,” an innovative website detailing humanitarian crises in the former Yugoslavia.

Nelson is the former director of the Committee to Protect Journalists and one of the earliest staff members of Human Rights Watch, where she was the founding researcher on Latin America. Nelson is also a prizewinning playwright and screenwriter.  Her 2001 play, “The Guys,” dealt with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and opened off-Broadway with Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver, who reprised her role in a feature film by the same title.  “The Guys” won an Audie Award for best recorded play in 2003.  The play has been used to raise money in support of first responders in Fukushima, Japan, Perth, Australia, Dublin, Ireland, and many US venues. Nelson has appeared in a number of documentaries and interviews, including a 2021 appearance on Bill Moyers on Democracy, where he called her “a leading voice on media and human rights.”

Nelson has lectured at universities around the world, including Harvard, Princeton, Amherst, the University of Texas, Tsinghua (Beijing), Hong Kong University, Charles University (Prague) and San Andrés (Buenos Aires).  Nelson is a contributor to the Times Literary Supplement in London.

She is a graduate of Yale University and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Anne Nelson, Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right (New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019).

Other Articles, Testimony and Reports

Mila Atmos and Anne Nelson, “The Right’s Parallel Universe: Anne Nelson,” Future Hindsight, 24 August 2023.
Anne Nelson, “How Shadowy Organizations Creeped into American Politics,” The Wheelhouse, 16 August 2023.
Anne Nelson, “Edith Wharton Goes to War,” Wall Street Journal, 12 August 2023.
Anne Nelson, “The Divided Dial: Episode 2 – From Pulpit to Politics,” interview with Katie Thornton, The Divided Dial, 22 November 2022.
Anne Nelson, interview by Bee Soll, Your Call, KALW, 14 July 2022.
Anne Nelson, “10 People You’ve Never Heard of Who are Destroying Democracy,” The New Republic, 18 April 2022.
Anne Nelson and Debi Spindleman, “Business Unusual in Cuba: Letter from Havana,” Foreign Affairs online, 5 April 2016.