2016 Tow Fellows: Project Descriptions

On February 24, 2016, the Tow Center announced a cohort of Knight News Innovation Fellows. Below are descriptions of the six new projects from from this Fellowship cohort.

Assessing the Impact and Metrics of Virtual Reality
Dan Archer, Empathetic Media

The aim of this project is to investigate the unexplored territory of analytics, impact and engagement in the 3D journalism space, using virtual and augmented reality technology. 360 videos and computer-generated virtual reality environments are at the forefront of immersive storytelling, yet there have been no conclusive studies to empirically prove their alleged merits, such as: heightened empathy; higher probability of proactive change in the user; prolonged time spent inside the story; and increased shareability.

Meeting in Digital Spaces: American News Organizations Using Chat Apps to Cover Political Unrest
Valerie Belair-Gagnon, Colin Agur and Nick Frisch, Yale University

This project explores the ways that journalists at major American and other Western news organizations (e.g. the BBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, Storyful, Bloomberg, Reuters, AP, and others) are using chat apps as meeting, newsgathering and distribution tools in coverage of domestic and international stories (the 2015 Baltimore protest and Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong). This usage includes interacting with witnesses and participants in emerging stories and conveying digital narratives (in text, photo, and video formats) to audiences. By studying multiple chat apps, we will understand how journalists used apps in similar and differing ways, and understand the spaces of reporting particular to each chat app.

Guide to Data Science Literacy for Public Affairs Reporting
Sarah Cohen, New York Times

Data science, particularly machine learning and natural language processing, are still mysteries to most public affairs reporters. We’ve had several years of apparent experimentation. But it’s still unclear how and when these methods might reduce the time or cost of investigative stories or might make some stories possible that never were before. This project aims to document the current state of machine learning and its cousins in investigations and create a suite of case studies that can inform reporters in the future.

Developing Clipper: A Social Audio Tool
Stephanie Foo, This American Life

Clipper will be a functional tool that should be an easy, one-step process for sharing audio. It will empower users to finally be able to fully harness the power of social media—by making it fun to share. It will access new audiences of different backgrounds who haven’t listened to podcasts before. Fans without audio mixing experience and software can quickly and easily critique specific segments or sentences—facilitating a very live, intimate relationship between creators and their audiences and subsequently helping podcasters to improve their content.

Illuminating 2016: Helping Journalists Cover Social Media in the Presidential Campaign
Jenny Stromer-Galley, Syracuse University

Illuminating 2016 is a computational journalism project, large in scope, that will empower journalists covering the 2016 presidential campaign. Political reporters must cover not only stump speeches, campaign events, and TV ads, but also what is happening on social media. Covering it increases transparency and accountability of the campaigns, and is a way to take the pulse of the electorate. The sheer volume of information that flows through social media, however, makes it challenging to report accurately and comprehensively. Our goal is to help journalists in that important work by providing a useable yet comprehensive summary of the content and sentiment—that goes beyond counting likes or retweets. Illuminating 2016 will enable political journalists an insightful yet accessible summation of the important political conversation online.

Digital Journalism and the Challenges of Managing a 21st Century Newsroom Workforce
Matthew Weber and Allie Kosterich, Rutgers University

This project examines the changing composition of newsroom workforces by analyzing the work histories, educational backgrounds, and employee skillsets of newsroom employees. The results of this study will provide publishers and managing editors with specific recommendations regarding recruiting strategies, target skills, and educational backgrounds that will complement existing newsroom workforces. We will focus on profiling news organizations by examining: (a) the general culture of the organization and the associated product, and (b) the composition of the workforce within the organization.