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Claire Wardle joins Tow Center as Research Director

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Claire Wardle as research director for the Tow Center. Wardle is currently the senior social media officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and has significant background in academia and journalism research and working with journalists in the field.

“We are delighted that Wardle is joining the Tow Center to lead our research program. She has the rare combination of being a leading figure in academic research in the field and someone who has a firm grasp of the practical needs of newsrooms,” said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Wardle holds a PhD in Communications and an MA in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies in the United Kingdom for 5 years. She is one of the world’s experts on user-generated content, and has led two substantial research projects investigating how it is handled by news organizations. She was previously director of News Services for Storyful, and currently sits on the World Economic Forum’s Committee on Social Media. In October 2014, Wardle co-founded Eyewitness Media Hub, a non-profit initiative committed to providing content creators and publishers with continuing research and resources. From October 2013 to May 2014, she was a research fellow at the Tow Center, and published the Tow-Knight Report, “Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content.”

In early January 2015, the Tow Center announced $3 million in new funding from the Knight Foundation. The funding will build on the Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s innovative research and field experiments that explore the changing relationship of journalism and technology, while helping newsrooms and educators meet tomorrow’s information needs.

”The Tow Center has established an extraordinary, distinctive record of research on the intersection of journalism’s democratic function and the new tools of the digital age. The Center’s work has been at once visionary and actionable. Wardle’s research and career is in a similar vein, and we are very fortunate to have her leadership at the school,” said Dean Coll.

Wardle will work with Tow Center Director Emily Bell to develop a new research program for the Center, with a focus on the following four areas:

    • Computation, Algorithms and Automated Journalism will explore ways to bring computer science into the practice of journalism and look at the benefits and challenges that automated reporting tools, large-scale data and impact evaluation metrics, among other solutions, can bring to the newsroom.
    • Data, Impact and Metrics will extend the work of Al Jazeera data journalist Michael Keller and metrics specialist Brian Abelson who are using technology tools and data to explore which stories have impact and ways to reproduce these effects.
    • Audiences and Engagement will study the new relationship between the journalist and the audience, examining the impact and new demands that social media, participatory journalism, crowdsourcing and other developments, are creating in the field.
  • Experimental Journalism, Models and Practice will develop field experiments with journalists around themes such as the influence of philanthropy on news startups; surveillance technologies used by and against journalists; applying game design techniques in newsrooms; and gender balance and diversity in journalism.

The Tow Center, established in 2010, works at the intersection of journalism and technology, researching new challenges in the rapidly changing world of digital journalism. The Center has quickly become a leader in the field, spearheading research in areas like sensors and journalism, algorithmic accountability, digital security and source protection for journalists, and the digitally native foreign correspondent.

In conjunction with our announcing Wardle’s appointment, we are pleased to announce a formal call for research fellows and research project proposals. Read more here.

All applications for research fellow positions must be submitted via the Columbia University Recruitment of Academic Personnel Site (RAPS). Read the full job description and submit an application here.