Who We Are
Emily Bell, Director
Emily Bell is founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, and a leading thinker, commentator and strategist on digital journalism. The majority of Emily’s career was spent at Guardian News and Media in London working as an award winning writer and editor both in print and online. As editor-in-chief across Guardian websites and director of digital content for Guardian News and Media, Emily led the web team in pioneering live blogging, multimedia formats, data and social media ahead, making the Guardian a recognized pioneer in the field. She is co-author of Post Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present (2012) with C.W. Anderson and Clay Shirky. Emily is a trustee on the board of the Scott Trust, the owners of The Guardian, a member of Columbia Journalism Review’s board of overseers, an adviser to Tamedia Group in Switzerland, chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council on social media, and a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board. She lives in New York City with her husband and children.
Susan McGregor, Assistant Director
Susan McGregor is Assistant Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism & Assistant Professor at Columbia Journalism School, where she helps supervise the dual-degree program in Journalism & Computer Science. She teaches primarily in areas of data journalism & information visualization, with a research interests in digital security, knowledge management and alternative forms of digital distribution. McGregor was the Senior Programmer on the News Graphics team at the Wall Street Journal Online for four years before joining Columbia Journalism School in 2011.
McGregor was named a 2010 Gerald Loeb Award winner for her work on the the WSJ’s “What They Know” series, and a finalist for the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards for Web Reporting in 2007.
In 2012, she received a Magic Grant from the Brown Institute for Media Innovation for her work on Dispatch, a mobile app for secure source communication, and in 2013 she was awarded a Knight Prototype grant to develop DataDocs, an platform for creating interactive, evergreen web videos. In fall of 2014 she received a Computational Journalism Focused Research Award from Google to develop InfoScribe, a crowd-sourced transcription platform for investigative journalism documents.
In addition to her technical and academic work, McGregor is actively interested in how the arts can help stimulate critical thinking and introduce new perspectives around technology issues, occasionally creating small prototypes and installations. She holds a master’s degree in Educational Communication and Technology from NYU and a bachelor’s degree in Interactive Information Design from Harvard University.
Claire Wardle, Research Director
Claire Wardle is the Research Director at the Tow Center. She is also a co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub and a member of the World Economic Forum‘s Global Agenda Council on Social Media. Since 2008, she has been researching, training and providing consultancy on user-generated content, social media, and verification. In 2009, Claire designed the social media training programme for BBC news and helped roll it out across the organisation. She subsequently went on to train over 3000 people around the world at different newsrooms, humanitarian organisations, universities and government agencies. Claire also worked at Storyful and UNHCR. Claire has a PhD in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She started her academic career at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural studies.
Pete Brown is a senior research fellow at the Tow Center. He is also co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub. Pete holds a PhD from Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. After completing his thesis, Pete worked on a Tow Center project examining eight 24-hour TV news providers’ use of eyewitness media. He subsequently designed and led two major follow-up projects for Eyewitness Media Hub. The first involved a content analysis analysis of over 27,000 articles from eight online news websites, and interviews with eyewitnesses whose content had been used in news output. The second, published in collaboration with the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford, was a study of news audiences’ attitudes towards eyewitness media, for which he conducted 10 focus groups in various locations around the UK.
Elizabeth Hansen, Senior Research Fellow
Elizabeth Hansen is a senior research fellow at the Tow Center and a doctoral candidate in Organizational Behavior at Harvard Business School. Elizabeth’s research focuses on the organizational and technological dynamics of innovation and adaptation amidst the massive digital transformation of the media landscape. Her dissertation examines how legacy public broadcasting organizations are adapting to digital modes of distribution and consumption (such as podcasting and mobile technology) while preserving successful business models and public service commitments. At the Tow Center, Elizabeth is leading a project examining the technological and institutional barriers to making podcasts shareable on the social web. Elizabeth has also written about the revenue strategies of online nonprofit news outlets, the opportunities and challenges of podcasting for science journalism, the strategic difficulties facing digital advertising agencies in the new media environment, and the team collaboration implications of digitally-enabled work. She is a 2016-2017 fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University where she is working on a project tracing the re-emergence of podcasting as an open format and growing media industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Latin from Swarthmore College.
Kathy Zhang, General Manager
Kathy Zhang is the General Manager for the Tow Center. Prior to joining the Tow Center, she managed communications and youth engagement at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), hosted at Columbia University. Kathy has worked with City Atlas, an online user’s guide to a sustainable NYC, as a content manager and strategist. As a student, she worked at the Earth Institute providing support to the Communications and Events teams. She is also the founder and advisor to the Sustainability Media Lab, a Columbia initiative working to make sustainable development more accessible, relevant, and compelling across all media. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Development from Columbia University and currently serves as the president of its Alumni Board.
Smitha Khorana, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Smitha Khorana joined the Tow Center as a Post-Graduate Fellow in June 2014. She graduated from the M.S. program at Columbia Journalism School in May 2014. She is a graduate of Brown University, where she studied Literary Arts and International Development. She was a Fulbright Scholar to India, where she produced a text and image project on Muslims in India that has been exhibited at the India International Center. Smitha briefly attended Medical School at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York where she was part of the “Humanities and Medicine Program” before leaving to pursue a career in journalism.
Nausicaa Renner, Web Editor
Nausicaa Renner edits and writes for the brand-new Tow vertical at Columbia Journalism Review. She grew up in Chicago and graduated from University of Chicago in 2012 with a BA in English. Previously, she was the managing editor of Social Service Review and associate web editor at Boston Review. She is also an associate editor at n+1, and writes book reviews for various publications.