Board of Trustees

Our Board

Executive Director Tracy Simmons: Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 13 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.

Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently is a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University and serves as the executive director of FāVS News a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She also writes nationally and is a reporter and columnist for the Spokesman-Review.

You can reach Simmons at tracysimmons@spokanefavs.com.

Riff Mattre

Board President Riff Mattré: Employed more than 20 years behind the scenes at The Spokesman-Review, Mattré currently serves as its commercial print division’s Manufacturing Manager. In 2018, he completed his first bachelor’s degree in Integrated Social Sciences through the University of Washington, Seattle. A champion of investigative journalism, Mattré believes exploring difference is the key to strengthening commonality. It was in his 20s Mattré set out upon his own quest for answers regarding faith and values. His adventures eventually landed him at a Buddhist monastery in Southern France where he decided Jesus and Siddhartha would have been great friends. Mattré is convinced our greater society’s future sustainability hinges upon easing gaps between siloed and artificially polarized beliefs. Helping us each appreciate truths of one path as often reflected in aspects of another is Riff’s highest pursuit. Since 2013 he has continuously imagined and supported FāVS becoming the conduit of such exploration for our youth of both today and tomorrow.

Contact Riff at: spokanefavs.riff@gmail.com

Board Secretary Julie Banks:

After a varied career, Julie found her calling in non-profit and worked as a community development director for 15 years before retiring. A Spokane native, she was raised in the Christian (Disciples of Christ) church, giving her the foundation of faith as life’s journey. Currently, her journey includes studying non-violent communication, promoting empathy for another’s perspective before reacting out of emotion. The practice mindfully puts the Golden Rule into action. Becoming a board member of FāVS fits with her belief that making Spokane a better place for us all requires building bridges to those whose voices have not been heard. She lives with her husband, three cats and one dog.  

Contact Julie at: spokanefavs.julie@gmail.com

Board Treasurer Jody Cramsie:

Jody Cramsie has a background in history, theology, ethics and law.

In her free, time she enjoys music, reading and hosting dinner parties for family and friends. She lives in Spokane but prefers to be on the Olympic Peninsula or in the south of France.

Contact Jody at: spokanefavs.jody@gmail.com

At-Large Member Ben Backstrom:

Ben Backstrom

Ben Backstrom grew up north of Seattle in a non-denominational Christian church. After graduating high school, he attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a minor in Liberal Studies. Through this minor he had the privilege of taking several courses in religious study and history. After graduating, he moved to Spokane and started working for a software development company that provides digital Bible study tools to consumers. He recently completed a second bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Ben is interested in the intersection between belief and technology. He is also interested in finding ways to promote religious tolerance in communities of diverse beliefs.

At-Large Member Rebecca Cooney:


Born and raised in California, Rebecca Cooney is a Golden State girl at heart. With a 26-year career in integrated marketing communication, she has made an impact as both an educator and director of marketing initiatives. As a scholarly associate professor at Murrow College, Washington State University, Rebecca teaches classes in advertising, consumer insights and branding, and digital marketing. Her contributions extend beyond academia, as she serves as a co-investigator and communication specialist on an NCCIH/NIH-funded grant called the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research (NaPDI). Recognized for her talents, Rebecca has been honored with six educator fellowships, the President’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Career-Track Faculty, and the Muriel Oaks Award for innovations in teaching. When she is not teaching, building training programs, and doing cool side projects, you will find Rebecca writing, futzing around the yard, or walking the beloved family dog – a Goldendoodle Lucy-Lou. As a member of the FāVS board, she focuses on purpose-driven communication strategies and supports impactful initiatives such as the Religion Reporting project. Referred to as “Mo” by her kiddos, Rebecca is a proud parent of four amazing adult children raised in partnership with her husband Chris, a fellow WSU professor in entrepreneurship. She looks forward to making a positive impact at FāVS News and playing an important role in framing communication strategy and outreach for years to come.

Contact Rebecca at: spokanefavs.rebecca@gmail.com

Contact Ben at: spokanefavs.ben@gmail.com

Mission Statement

FāVS News informs and builds faith and non-faith community through digital journalism and online and offline engagement opportunities.

Values Statement

FāVS News believes in building community and in bridging divisions through independent, transparent journalism and commentary, and engagement that emphasizes inclusion, acceptance, understanding, and respect. We give voice to the widest range of belief traditions with a particular interest in those whose voices have been muted or ignored. We strive to be politically neutral but recognize the intersection of ethics and values in any discussion of religion, politics, and ideological diversity. We demonstrate a wide-ranging worldview but remain deeply rooted in our home, which is the Inland Northwest.

Vision Statement

FāVS News will be the primary place to articulate faith and nonfaith practices in the Inland Northwest in which divisions are healed and communities connected.

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