Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism to foster news innovation with $3 million in new support from Knight Foundation

Press Release

January 13, 2015


Recruitment for new Knight News Innovation Fellows begins this month

NEW YORK — Jan. 13, 2015 — Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism announced today that a major research initiative to expand innovation in newsrooms is being funded for an additional three years by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  The $3 million in 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.

Knight Foundation has previously contributed to research initiatives at Columbia’s Tow Center, and this new funding will build on these efforts. The Tow Center focuses on digital journalism research to advance the field and support journalism education reform. To this end, it offers fellowships to academics and journalists and disseminates its research for application in real newsrooms.  

With the new Knight funding, the Tow Center will pursue some of its most promising research, while adding areas of inquiry and extending the reach of its work. A portion of the support will help recruit senior research fellows to work at the Tow Center in four key areas:

1.     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.

2.     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.

3.     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. 

4.     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.

Knight News Innovation Fellows, who will also work on other projects, will lead each of the four areas. Tow Center will begin recruiting research fellows this month. Please contact [email protected] for application guidelines and procedures.

“We are thrilled to have the continued support of Knight Foundation,” said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, who will oversee this initiative. “The purpose of this is to aid the profession in experimentation with and adaptation of new technologies, and to inform the practice and teaching of journalism. The overall goal is to strengthen journalism within a rapidly evolving information ecosystem.”

“The Tow Center is at the edge of what is next in journalism, answering questions that have not yet been asked and making tech innovation and experimentation in media a standard,” said Shazna Nessa, Knight Foundation director for journalism and Tow Center advisory board member. “As we develop a better understanding of the digital disruption, the center is now poised to help the field dig deeper, adapt new technologies and elevate the practice and teaching of journalism.”     

This project will build on work previously undertaken by the Tow Center and its partners, with funding from Knight Foundation, The Tow Foundation and the Tow Center. Previous Tow-Knight projects include reports, workshops and other activities on topics including:

The Tow-Knight projects have established the Tow Center as a leader in digital journalism practice and research.

“The generosity of Knight Foundation and its commitment to digital innovation has been critical to our ability to conduct and distribute ground-breaking research about journalism’s new technological frontiers,” said Columbia Journalism Dean Steve Coll. “Knight Foundation is a visionary in this space and a wonderful partner, and we are grateful for its continuing support.”  

“The Tow Center has an important role to play in helping to evolve journalism education, while providing newsrooms with the knowledge and practical experience that they need to meet the information demands of the 21st century,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “Building on the strong impact it has already made, we hope to expand the center’s reach as a research and development laboratory for new innovations in journalism.”

Visit for more information on the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. For application procedures and guidelines on becoming a Tow research fellow, contact the Tow Center administrator at [email protected].

About the Tow Center for Digital Journalism

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, established in early 2010, provides journalists with the skills and knowledge to lead the future of digital journalism and serves as a research and development center for the profession as a whole. The center explores how the development of technology is changing journalism, its practice and its consumption -- particularly as consumers of news seek ways to judge the reliability, standards and credibility of information.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more information, please visit

About the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

For over a century, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has been preparing journalists in a program that stresses academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry, and professional practice.  Founded by Joseph Pulitzer in 1912, the school offers Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. For more information, visit



Elizabeth Fishman, Columbia Journalism School, 212-854-8619, [email protected]

Sabina Lee, Columbia University, 212-854-5579, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation: 305-908-2677, [email protected]