The Board and Staff

Founding Board Members

Chairman: Nils Hanson, journalist and editor. Hanson was for 15 years editor of the weekly investigative journalism program “Uppdrag Granskning” (Mission Investigate) on Swedish national public service television.
Treasurer: Daniel Simons, lawyer specializing in communications and freedom of expression-related issues. Simons is Dutch, but mainly based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Secretary of the board: Elisabetta Tola, an Italian science, tech and data journalist, has worked on several crossborder investigative projects. She is also a media trainer on digital journalism and verification.

Journalistic staff and management

Director: Brigitte Alfter, is a senior German-Danish journalist, founder and director for Arena for Journalism in Europe and lecturer at the University of Gothenburg. Having practiced journalism on local, national and European level, she realised the need for cross-border collaborative journalism structures. Since 2003, she thus has developed European support- and infrastructures for cross-border journalism along her own journalism practice. Today, she combines journalism practice including editorial advice and mentoring, entrepreneurial activities, teaching/training and academic research.

Deputy director, Dataharvest director: Trine Smistrup, journalist and trainer, co-founder of Arena for Journalism in Europe, director of Dataharvest – the European Investigative Journalism conference and communications officer for Arena and Dataharvest. Trine has worked with journalism and training for journalists in Denmark, the Nordic countries, and Russia, and was involved in the SCOOP project, a peer-to-peer program for investigative journalism in Eastern Europe and Russia. Her special interest is making difficult subjects interesting and understandable for readers. She also holds a master’s degree in digital communications.
Deputy director and operations manager: Mikala Rasmussen supports the sustainable growth of Arena across financial, organisational, and logistical aspects. She has a background in the not-for-profit sector in Europe and experience with international project coordination and strategic organisational development.
Project coordinator: Lucas Batt is a community engagement and media innovation freelancer based in Bristol, UK. Lucas previously worked at the Bristol Cable for over seven years, where he led on membership engagement and fundraising. An experienced small newsroom manager, Lucas is now a coordinator of the Reference network, where he focuses on supporting members to learn from and support each other, through knowledge exchange, building connections, and working together on hard problems for independent media. He also coordinates Arena's and Reference’s communications.
Project manager: Ruben Brugnera is a Brussels-based investigative journalist and lecturer at the Thomas More school of journalism. For Dataharvest in Mechelen, he coordinates the volunteers and takes care of conference logistics.
IT and tech manager: Benedikt Hebeisen is a freelance IT consultant and journalist based in Berlin. He manages all digital things for the Dataharvest and Arena.
Project coordinator: Dumitrița Holdiș is a project coordinator, researcher and podcast enthusiast based in Budapest, Hungary. She has experience in managing research projects, conducting studies on media funding, forms of cooperation in journalism and media innovation. She is trained as a sociologist and prior to joining the Reference Circle she has worked in universities and in the non-profit sector in Hungary and Romania.
Data skills coordinator: Adriana Homolová is a Slovak-born Netherlands-based freelance data journalist and Python trainer. For Arena, she is coordinating the hands-on data skills track for the Dataharvest conference, and working as a data librarian of the Crossborder Journalism Campus. Next to that, she works with the Dutch-based investigative newsroom Follow The Money, focusing on European topics and crossborder collaborations.
Lorenz Matzat is a journalist and organizer, based in Switzerland. Since 2010, Lorenz worked in data journalism, civic tech and later in algorithmic accountability reporting. Thus, he is the co-founder of the NGO AlgorithmWatch. Recently, he turned to climate journalism and was involved in launching the German and Swiss Climate Journalism Networks. He is visiting professor at the journalism department of the University of Leipzig.
Project coordinator: Maike Olij is an Amsterdam based journalism researcher, consultant and innovator. She coordinates the Reference network, the self-organizing body of independent news organisations in Europe. She also programs the entrepreneurial track of the Dataharvest conference. With a background in broadcast journalism, Maike helps newsrooms in digital transition, develop new formats and establish valuable relationships with their audiences. She’s also a board member of the Dutch Journalism Fund (
Project coordinator: Sarah Pilz is a journalist working in cross-border teams and coordinating the Arena Food & Water Network.
Project coordinator: Jelena Prtoric is a freelance investigative journalist who has reported for a variety of publications in English, French and her native Croatian. Her work has focused mainly on migration, the environment/climate, social movements and gender rights. She is also an occasional podcaster and translator of graphic novels. As of 2023, she will be working as deputy conference coordinator for Dataharvest, the European Investigative Journalism Conference, and will pursue investigative work within the Arena Climate and Food and Water networks. Previously, she set up and coordinated the Arena Climate Network. In 2022, she was a Bertha Challenge fellow, working on in-depth research into water pollution from agriculture.
Zeynep Sentek is a Turkish investigative journalist reporting on the environment, human rights, and corruption. She is the project director of the Arena Climate Network, where she brings journalists, scientists, and civic tech together for better climate reporting in Europe. She was formerly the managing editor of the independent news platform The Black Sea (, where she remains a board member. She previously worked at UK-based news site openDemocracy. She was a part of the pan-European journalism consortium European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) Network and was a board member. She has a PhD in political science from Heidelberg University in Germany.
Arena Networks Coordinator: Hazel Sheffield is a British journalist reporting on all aspects of business and economics, from US fund managers attempting to crack China to community co-operatives in the British countryside. At Arena, she is leading on the Arena Academy, developing Arena's expertise in collaborative cross-border journalism into shareable, teachable formats. Hazel co-ordinated "Money to Burn", a cross-border investigation into the effects of Europe's renewable energy subsidies on forests in Estonia which was published across 10 newsrooms including the Guardian, Die Zeit Online and Publico. In 2023, she is a European Journalism Fellow at the Freie Universität in Berlin.
Jonathan Stoneman has been a freelance trainer concentrating mainly on datajournalism since 2010. Before that Jonathan was in the BBC for 20 years: he joined in 1990 as a researcher, moving to BBC World Service in 1992. After various jobs there, Jonathan in 2002 moved to the World Service Training department, serving as one of its joint heads until 2010 when he decided to go freelance.
As a freelancer Jonathan has worked with various broadcasters in Eastern Europe under various projects with the European Commission, the OSCE, and the European Broadcasting Union’s Eurovision Academy.
Jonathan’s main interest in the last decade has been data journalism; building and delivering a one-day workshop for the BBC, then working with the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London, Goldsmiths University, London, and at Brunel University