Tow Center Projects

The following projects are made possible by generous funding from both The Tow Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. For further information, see our Request for Proposals page or write us at

Tow/Knight Projects

The Sensor Newsroom

Printed Circuit Board

Summary: Exploring 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 scientists to demonstrate the utility of sensor data collection and storytelling.

Project Leaders: Fergus Pitt, Sara-Jayne Farmer

WATCH | Sensor Workshop 2013
MORE INFO | Summer Sensor Newsroom
CONNECT | Follow on Twitter #TowSense
READ  TOW REPORT: Sensors and Journalism

Single-Subject News


Summary: To study, build a network of, and develop best practices for journalist-founders who have designed custom digital outlets focused on one story. On Nov. 8-10, 2013, more than a dozen publishers and editors of single-subject news websites gathered at Columbia University for the
Single-Subject News Conference.

Project Leaders: Lara SetrakianKristin Nolan

MORE INFO | Details of Study Statement
READ | Tow Brief: Seeking the Single-Subject News Model
WATCH | Single-Subject News Conference Panel Discussions
CONNECT | Follow on Twitter @hypertopical | #nichenews

Data Journalism

Summary: The Tow Center is conducting a wide range of academic research, teaching, public engagement and development of best practices in the field of data and computational journalism.

Project Leaders: Jonathan Stray, Nicholas DiakopoulosAlexander Howard

READ Tow Brief: Algorithmic Accountability Reporting: On the Investigation of Black Boxes
WATCH | An Evening with Twitter’s Simon Rogers
WATCH | Computational Storytelling
WATCH | Computational Thinking: Jeannette Wing
WATCH | Algorithms: On the Investigation of Black Boxes
WATCH | Carlos Castillo: Social Media News Mining
WATCH | An Evening with Ethan Zuckerman
READ  TOW REPORT: The Art and Science of Data-Driven Journalism
 #TowTalk | #Data

Metrics: Production and Consumption

Summary: Studying the role of metrics in news organizations and the decision-making and design process of analytics firms.

Project Leader: Caitlin Petre

Newsroom Places and Spaces in a Post-Industrial Age

Summary: This project journeys to newsrooms that show a prominent sign of an adaptation to a post-industrial world: newsrooms that have left their buildings for smaller spaces, often entirely designed around the idea of a digital-first model, or that have repurposed their space to make way for non-journalists, hoping for synergy and a way to fill empty space.

Project Leader: Nikki Usher

Newsrooms Launch

MORE INFO | Moving the Newsroom: Post-Industrial News Spaces and Places
READ | Tow Report: Moving the Newsroom: Post-Industrial News Spaces and Places
LISTEN Podcast: Moving the Newsroom Panel Discussion
WATCH | Interview with Randy Brubaker, The Des Moines Register
WATCH | Interview with Rick Hirsch, The Miami Herald
CONNECT | Follow on Twitter #TowReport | #TowTalk

Digital Activism and Citizen Journalism

Summary: Policy relevant research on the intersections 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.

Project Leader: Philip Howard

The Future of Digital Longform

700-AllSpace Summary: The research seeks to define the new format “digital longform,” articulate criteria by which digital longform journalism is judged and valued, and discusses successful models for soliciting, editing, publishing, and disseminating  and monetizing longform content in the digital ecosystem.

Project Leader: Anna Hiatt 

MORE INFO | The Future of Digital Longform
READ | Tow Report: The Future of Digital Longform
WATCH | The Future of Digital Longform Conference
CONNECT Follow on Twitter #Longform

Video Now: The Forms, Cost, and Effect of Video Journalism  

State of Video
Summary: The Video Now report proposes to examine the forms, costs, and effects of video journalism today.  The report will examine the editorial, production, and business strategies of newsrooms, ranging from the New York Times and the Washington Post to startups and non-traditional video operations such as Vice.  The report will focus primarily on U.S.-based organizations.

Project Leader: Duy Linh Tu

MORE INFO | Video Now: The Forms, Cost, and Effect of Video Journalism
WATCH | State of Video Panel Discussion
CONNECT Follow on Twitter #TowTalk

AMATEUR FOOTAGE: A Global Study of User-Generated Content 

State of Video
Summary: This project is a global study into the integration of User-Generated Content (UGC) in news output in television broadcasts and online.

Project Leaders: Claire Wardle and Sam Dubberley

MORE INFO Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content in TV and Online News Output
READ | Phase 1 Tow Report: 
Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content in TV and Online News Output
READ  | TOW REPORT: Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content in TV and Online News Output
Follow on Twitter #TowTalk

The New Global Journalism

Summary: A project that maps the landscape of digitally-native foreign reporting,

Throughout the twentieth century the core proposition of foreign correspondence was to bear witness—to go places where the audience couldn’t and report back on what occurred. Three interrelated trends now challenge this tradition. First, citizens living through events can tell the world about them directly via a range of digital technologies. Second, journalists themselves have the ability to report on some events, particularly breaking news, without physically being there.  Finally, the financial pressures that digital technology have brought to legacy news media have forced many to close their international bureaus.In this age of post-legacy media, local reporters, activists, ordinary citizens—and traditional foreign correspondents—are all now using digital technologies to inform the world of breaking news, and to offer analysis and opinions on global trends. These important changes are the focus of this research project, and are outlined in  detail in a report authored by Burcu Baykurt, Al Omran, Anup Kaphle, Kelly Golnoush Niknejad, and Jessie Graham, edited by Ann Cooper and Taylor Owen.

MORE INFORead a Blog Post about the Report by Ann Cooper
READTOW REPORT: The New Global Journalism

Project Leader: Ann Cooper

Broken News:

Summary: Understanding the interplay of traditional and social reporting during major news events

Project Leader: Andy Carvin

Social Sharing of Longform Journalism

Summary: The research explores the nature of how people discover, consume and share longform journalism. The main goal is to look at the sharing process – what gets shared, with whom, when, through what channels, as well as the social consequences and rewards of sharing such content.

Project Leaders: Michelle Levine and Michael Shapiro


State of Video
Summary: The NewsLynx project seeks to create an platform for media organizations to document the short and long-term impact of investigative news stories by combining automated metrics with flexible tools for capturing qualitative insights.​

Project Leaders: Brian Abelson, Stijn Debrouwere, and Michael Keller

MORE INFO | Newslynx Project


In addition to the Tow/Knight Projects, the Tow Center co-sponsors two Magic Grants with the Brown Institute for Media Innovation.

Brown Institute for Media Innovation Magic Grant Projects

The Declassification Engine

The declassification engine refers to a set of applications that will provide new forms of access to official documents as well as tools to help interpret them. This toolkit will expand over time. Currently its main projects are the (de)classifier, a tool displaying cable activity over time for different embassies and topics contrasting the number of documents declassified with the number still withheld, the (de)sanitizer, an app that illuminates previously redacted text to show what kinds of information is considered particularly sensitive, and the sphere of influence, a visualization of diplomatic activity around the globe based on the volume of classified and declassified cable traffic. We hope to combine these and other tools in a platform that will accept user-submitted documents to further improve its capacity to predict what still-classified documents might reveal.

Project Leaders: David Madigan, and Matthew Connelly


A collaboration between The New York World housed at 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, geo-tagged social media feeds. Designed by journalists for journalists, CityBeat is a multi-platform application that sources, monitors and analyzes hyper-local information from multiple social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Foursquare, in real time.

Project Leader: Raz Schwartz


Read the latest Tow Center Reports and Tow Briefs from the Tow Center and Tow Fellows.