Who We Are
Emily Bell, Director
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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
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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.
Jonathan Albright is the Research Director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Previously an assistant professor of media analytics in the school of communication at Elon University, Dr. Albright’s work focuses on the analysis of socially-mediated news events, misinformation/propaganda, and trending topics, applying a mixed-methods, investigative data-driven storytelling approach.
He is a co-author of Pew Internet’s recent report, “The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online,” and has undertaken an extensive investigation uncovering and mapping the emergent news ecosystem. He has presented his work at a number of leading international forums, including keynotes and panels at Johns Hopkins University, the International Journalism Festival, London School of Economics’ Polis, the Oxford Internet Institute, and Columbia’s own SIPA. Albright’s work and mapping projects have been featured in The Guardian, The Washington Post, CBC’s Spark, and Fortune Magazine, and cited in The New Yorker, Associated Press Technology, BuzzFeed, Fox Business, Quartz, and the BBC. His network visualizations have been exhibited at the Queensland Art Museum. In addition to his award-nominated work for The Conversation, he has been a contributor to The Guardian, Medium, The Huffington Post, and LSE’s Impact and US Politics and Policy blogs. He is an alumnus of the Oxford Internet Institute’s Summer Doctoral Programme, a past participant at the University of Amsterdam’s Digital Methods Initiative, and has worked for Yahoo, Google, and McClatchy. He holds an MS from the University of Oregon’s SOJC and a PhD from The University of Auckland.
Meritxell Roca, Project Director, Platforms and Publishers
Meritxell Roca is the Project Director of “Platforms and Publishers” at the Tow Center. Previously, she served as an Academic Program Manager at Princeton University. Born in Barcelona, Spain, she worked as a senior researcher at Open University of Catalonia (UOC) for seven years, conducting research on topics such as free software & free culture, transformation of media in the digital age and gender representation in the press. She also taught communication at Blanquerna School of Communication (Ramon Llull University) for over ten years. Meritxell has also held positions at The W. Edwards Deming Center for Quality, Productivity and Competitiveness (Columbia University), The New School in New York and the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and a Ph.D. In Communication and Humanities from Ramon Llull University.
Pri Bengani, Senior Research Fellow
Priyanjana Bengani is a graduate of Columbia’s MS dual degree in Computer Science and Journalism (2017). Previously, she was a Vice President within Equities Technology at Citigroup, London, where she built trading systems. She completed her BS in Computer Science and Business Studies from the University of Warwick in England.
Pete Brown, Senior Research Fellow
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Pete Brown is a senior research fellow at the Tow Center. As well as leading on Tow’s research into push alerts (conducted in partnership with the Guardian US Mobile Innovation Lab), he has contributed to the Center’s platforms and publisher project, conducting quarterly content analyses tracking a range of publishers’ distributed content strategies and co-authoring a US audience study. Pete holds a PhD from Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and is co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub, where he conducted research in collaboration with the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford.
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.
Jon Keegan, Senior Research Fellow
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Jon Keegan is a Senior Research Fellow at the Tow Center. Prior to joining the Tow Center, Jon worked 18 years at The Wall Street Journal on data and building news apps. Recently he built WSJ’s award-winning “Blue Feed, Red Feed” which looks at political polarization on Facebook. Jon worked on some of the earliest data-driven interactive projects at WSJ and led the interactive news graphics team for two years. He later worked as a Visual Correspondent and covered a wide array of topics, employing design, data visualization and code to explore hidden patterns in technology, culture and society. Jon is also a recovering illustrator whose artwork has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report and many other newspapers and magazines. He has a BFA from Syracuse University, and recently moved from Brooklyn to the country with his wife and two boys.
Nushin Rashidian, Lead Research Fellow, Platforms and Publishers
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Kathy Zhang, Associate Director, Operations & Special Projects
Kathy Zhang is the Associate Director, Operations & Special Projects, for the Tow Center. Prior to joining the Tow Center, she managed communications and youth engagement at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), hosted at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. She was also the founding director of the Sustainability Media Lab, a Columbia student 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 Columbia’s Sustainable Development Alumni Board.
Katie Johnston is a Program Assistant at the Tow Center. Following a ten-year career in health care, she returned to school and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Columbia University in 2016. Katie also serves as School Partnership Coordinator for the High School Network for Global Philanthropy; a non-profit academic enrichment program that connects low-income high school students with NGOs across the globe.