Over the past few months we have been putting together an exciting new program of research, the Tow/Knight Projects, marking a first for us at the Tow Center, the Columbia Journalism School, and the changing field of journalism. With generous funding from both The Tow Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we set out to attract proposals from those who care about the rapid evolution in digital journalism, whether are academic researchers or journalists.
The mandate of the Tow/Knight research program is to study three themes that we think are central to the future of journalism: how do you measure the impact of journalism in a digital media environment; what does it meant to be ‘transparent,’ for both media and those the media hold to account; and how can data be better understood and incorporated into the practice of journalism?
Together, we think these projects, and the Tow Fellows who will be leading them, represent an ambitious start to the program. We want the projects funded by The Tow Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to be an important part of stimulating debate, exploration and change in how we do and how we teach journalism over the coming years.
This represents our first round of awards and Tow/Knight Projects. We will be announcing many more in due course, and we encourage anyone with a proposal to pitch to contact us.
The Sensor Journalism Project, led by Fergus Pitt, explores how recent advances in sensor networks, citizen science, unmanned vehicles and community-based data collection can be used by a new generation of sensor journalist to move from data analysis to data collection. This project will involve a series of experiments between journalists and scientist to demonstrate the utility of sensor data collection and storytelling. The lessons learned in these experiments will for the core of a sensor journalism curriculum.
The Single-Subject News Network, led by Lara Setrakian and Kristin Nolan will study, build a network of, and develop best practices for, journalist-founders who have designed custom digital outlets focused on one area of coverage. Starting this fall, the Single-Subject New Network will be bringing together 20 leaders in the field to help develop best practices and advice for others.
Newsroom Places and Spaces in a Post-Industrial Age, led by Nikki Usher, will track prominent a sign of an adaptation to a post-industrial world: newsrooms that have left their buildings for smaller offices, often entirely designed around the idea of a digital-first model, or that have re-purposed their newsrooms to make way for non-journalists, hoping for synergy and a way to fill empty space.
Digital Activism and Citizen Journalism, led by Phil Howard, explores the intersection of citizen journalism and digital activism, developing original data and the visualization and query tools to make the data useful for working journalists and students doing advanced coursework in journalism.
Metrics: Production and Consumption, led by Caitlin Petre, studies of the role of metrics in news organizations and the decision-making and design process of analytics firms.
The Future of Digital Longform, led by Anna Hiatt, seeks to define the new format “digital longform,” articulate criteria by which digital longform journalism is judged and valued, and layout and discuss successful models for soliciting, editing, publishing, and disseminating — and, of course, monetizing — longform content in the digital ecosystem.
In a series of projects on Data Journalism, Jonathan Stray, Nick Diakopoulos, and Alex Howard will be conducting a range of academic research, public engagement and development of best practices in the field of data and computational journalism. Jonathan Stray will be exploring algorithm efficiency, and objectivity in document mining, and the privacy implications of location data. Nick Diakopoulos will be writing regularly for the Tow Center, hosting a lecture series on computational journalism, and working on a research projects exploring data storytelling. Alex Howard will be authoring a report on current best practices in Data Journalism and reporting for the Tow Center on issues and stories surrounding the emerging practice.
We also have two co-funded research projects with the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, at Columbia Journalism School and Stanford Engineering School:
CityBeat: A collaboration between The New York World housed in Columbia Journalism School, and the Social Media Information Lab at Rutgers University, this project will look for newsworthy events in the patterns of real-time, geotagged social media feeds.
The Declassification Engine: A partnership between faculty and students in the Departments of History, Statistics and Computer Science at Columbia University, this project will probe the limits of official secrecy by applying natural language processing software to archives of declassified documents to examine whether it is possible to predict the contents of redacted text, attribute authorship to anonymous documents and model the geographic and temporal patterns of diplomatic communications.
All of these projects will be hosting events at Columbia, blogging regularly on the Tow Center blog, and publishing they findings here, on the Tow Center site over the coming year