Sharon Pian Chan has been named director of journalism initiatives for The Seattle Times.

“This new role builds on our success at developing new funding sources to expand our storytelling, commentary and community engagement beyond what we could otherwise afford,” said Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen. “As one of the country’s last independent metro dailies, we are fiercely committed to our journalism/public service mission. Anything we can do to grow nontraditional revenue to expand our journalism is of significant benefit to our community.

“As an experienced and highly regarded journalist, Sharon is the ideal fit for this new role. She already has extensive experience in the nonprofit journalism community.”

Chan will focus on funding journalism by building partnerships between The Seattle Times, nonprofits and philanthropy. This special assignment reports to the publisher. Chan will begin in October.

“This is an incredible opportunity to create new pathways for high-impact journalism,” said Chan. “I’m honored to have the chance to do that at The Seattle Times. In an era of aggregated commodity news, cat photos and what-state-are-you quizzes, this news media company is investing in journalism that matters and building the partnerships to deliver it.”

The new position builds on Chan’s community engagement work for Education Lab in 2013-14. Education Lab is a year-long partnership with the nonprofit Solutions Journalism Network, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Knight Foundation, and highlights promising approaches to education’s greatest challenges. It showcases community voices online and in print, convenes community events in partnership with nonprofit groups, and creates regular forums for online dialogue through live chats and Google+ Hangouts.

In creating this position, The Seattle Times is formalizing its successful efforts to develop nontraditional funding for quality, independent journalism. Examples of recent and ongoing projects that have received foundation funding include reporting on the environment (the “Sea Change” series, in partnership with the Pulitzer Center), reporting on the rollout and impact of the Affordable Care Act, which was funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and international reporting and commentary funded by the Seattle International Foundation, as well as the innovative Education Lab.

Currently, Chan is associate opinions editor/digital for The Seattle Times. She is responsible for guest column submissions, and oversees The Times’ innovative Education Lab opinions, newsletter, and engagement efforts. She led development of The Times' robust digital opinion blog, which along with the popular letters to the editor blog, Northwest Voices, has become among The Times’ most popular blogs. Chan serves as deputy editor of the editorial page and as a member of the editorial board.

Chan served as national president of the Asian American Journalists Association from 2009 to 2010, where she worked with foundations to create journalism projects to engage the Asian American community. She served as vice president of UNITY: Journalists for Diversity alliance from 2011 to 2012.

Prior to joining The Times' editorial board, Chan was a senior producer for The Seattle Times home page and mobile platforms. Chan has extensive experience as a Times news reporter, most recently covering Microsoft for the business section. She has also covered Seattle City Hall, King County, and the University of Washington.

She grew up in Southern California and received her bachelor’s degree in literature from Pomona College.