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Research Assistant
Christopher Ali of the University of Virginia and Hilde Van den Bulck of Drexel University are looking for a graduate research assistant for their project on PBS and trust, funded by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. They are looking for someone with experience gathering and analyzing cross-sectional survey data. This includes survey design in Qualtrics, data-cleaning and data analysis. The ideal candidate is someone who is comfortable working independently and remotely

Learn more and view the full job description here.

Redefining Local News: Deconstructing the News Desert
Wednesday, September 9th, 12PM ET

As the crisis for local news has intensified in recent years and significantly worsened thanks to the pandemic-induced financial crisis, researchers have made use of a range of ecological concepts--ecosystems, deserts, etc.-- as framing devices to understand the rapid changes journalism and consumers of journalism are experiencing. These concepts are increasingly being recognized and cited by groups outside academia, including funders, policy makers, and even the public. Yet there is no widespread agreement between these various sectors about who and what counts as “high quality” local news, or the absence thereof.

Moderator: Sara Rafsky


Penny Abernathy, Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics Professor, UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media

Aaron Foley, Black Media Initiative Director, Center for Community Media, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

Sarah Stonbely, Research Director, Center for Cooperative Media

Matthew Weber, Associate Professor, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota

Find more information and register here.

COVID-19 newsroom cutbacks tracker
The Tow Center is conducting a project to track newsroom lay-offs and cutbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have been affected or know of a newsroom that has, please add to our form. We are extremely grateful for any contributions.

Help us understand life at small market local newspapers
Tow Fellow Damian Radcliffe has launched an online survey focused on the experience of local newspapers in the United States. The survey builds on Damian’s earlier research for the Tow Center in 2016-17, enabling us to see what’s changed—and what hasn’t—during the past 3-4 years. 

If you work in a small market newspaper (print circulation of 50,000 or less), or you know people that do, then please do encourage them to participate.The survey is an opportunity for us to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on local newsrooms, as well as other changes which are shaping what local newspapers do and how they do it. It takes 8-12 minutes to complete, and we will share the findings from the study later this year.


New Leonard Tow Chair is Established

Emily Bell, Pioneering Digital Journalist and Professor, is Named to Post

Columbia Journalism School and The Tow Foundation today announced Emily Bell as the inaugural holder of a newly endowed chair.  She will be known as the Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism and Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

The Tow Center was established in 2008 by The Tow Foundation, and Emily Bell assumed leadership as its director in 2010.  Under the direction of Professor Bell over the past decade, the Center has become a leader in research, curricular development and professional convenings on subjects at the intersection of technology and journalism. The MacArthur, Newmark and Open Society foundations are among the funders that have joined The Tow Foundation in supporting this work.

Leonard Tow, for whom the chair is named, received his doctorate in economic geography from Columbia University and spent his early working life teaching and pursuing business ventures in Africa, South Asia and Europe. He was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Citizens Utilities Company and Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Century Communications Corporation, a leading cable television company. Dr. Tow was also Founder and Director of Centennial Cellular Corp. He and his late wife Claire established The Tow Foundation, which supports numerous programs at Columbia University. The Foundation focuses on the fields of theater, journalism, criminal and juvenile justice reform, medical research and higher education in New York, Connecticut and nationally.  Dr. Tow chairs the Foundation’s Board of Directors and his daughter Emily Tow, an alumna and former trustee of Barnard College, serves as the Foundation’s President. Dr. Tow was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2019.

"Leonard Tow saw, long before most of us, that technology would re-shape journalism, and that the profession needed a resource to help it meet the challenges that disruption would bring," said Steve Coll, Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism. “Emily Bell has led the Tow Center to fill that role. We are honored to have this new chair she will occupy named for Leonard, a stalwart advocate of free speech and a free press, and a friend to the school and to journalism.”

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism under Professor Bell has conducted more than 75 research projects. It was early in helping establish the field of computational journalism, housing the dual Master’s in Journalism and Computer Science at Columbia University, and in helping to define the field of algorithmic accountability for journalists through its research fellows. The Center has made significant contributions to the field of leveraging computational journalism in investigating disinformation and influence campaigns.

One of the Center’s earliest publications, "Post Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present" (2012), co-authored by Professor Bell with Clay Shirky and C.W. Anderson, was a seminal paper identifying many of the trends and challenges that journalism would face in the world of rapidly scaling technologies. She has also personally led two major, multi-year initiatives with research, convenings and curricular components that have shaped the Center’s reputation as a leader in original scholarship and innovative thinking on the ways technology is changing journalism.

The first signature project was "Journalism After Snowden," an investigation of the legal, ethical and technological issues that Edward Snowden’s leak of top-secret government documents posed for the Guardian and the impact future large-scale leaks that were certain to follow would have on other news organizations — as indeed they did.

The second defining project, "Platforms and Publishers," is an examination of the relationship between journalism and the social media and search companies that have come to dominate the distribution of news, and, in many ways, the shape of news organizations, their business models, strategies and relationships with their audiences.  These relationships have profound implications for the vitality of the profession and its ability to carry out its role of holding power to account.  The Tow Center was the first research center to create a field of independent study around the influence companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have exercised over reshaping the field of journalism.

Before coming to Columbia in 2010, Emily Bell spent much of her career 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, she led the web team in pioneering live blogging, multimedia formats, data and social media, making the Guardian a recognized pioneer in the field.

Professor Bell is co-editor with Taylor Owen of “Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State” (Columbia University Press, 2017). She is a non-executive director of the Scott Trust, the entity that owns The Guardian, a member of Columbia Journalism Review’s Board of Overseers, and a member of the Advisory Board for Projects in Investigative Journalism at the Open Society Foundation. She also serves on the Commission on Information and Democracy, and has served as chair of the World Economic Forum’s Social Media Council and as a member of the national advisory board of the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit education and training center for professional journalists, which owns the Tampa Bay Times newspaper.

Professor Bell delivered the Reuters Memorial Lecture, Oxford University, in 2014, the Hugh Cudlipp Lecture at the University of London in 2015, and was the 2016 Humanitas Visiting Professor in Media at the University of Cambridge.

About Columbia Journalism School

For more than a century, the school has been preparing journalists in programs that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the school opened its doors in 1912 and offers Masters of Science, Masters of Arts, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, and Doctor of Philosophy in Communications. It houses the Columbia Journalism Review, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, The Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. The school also administers many of the leading journalism awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, the John Chancellor Award, the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, the Mike Berger Award and the WERT Prize for Women Business Journalists. 

About the Tow Foundation

The Tow Foundation, established in 1988 by Leonard and Claire Tow, funds projects that offer transformative experiences to individuals and create collaborative ventures in fields where they see opportunities for breakthroughs, reform, and benefits for underserved populations. Investments focus on the support of innovative programs and system reform in the fields of juvenile and criminal justice, medicine, higher education and culture. For more information, visit or follow @Towfdn on Twitter and Facebook.

  • As the 2020 Republican Party Convention starts this week, Facebook is bracing for a potentially disruptive Election Day. Anonymous sources told the New York Times last week that executives at the company have, “discussed a ‘kill switch’ to shut off political advertising after Election Day,” in an attempt to curb the threat of the spread of misinformation. In recent weeks, Facebook and its contemporaries have faced heightened scrutiny over how they will handle a disputed election or delays in results from an increased number of mail-in ballots

  • Axios reports that President Trump’s campaign confirmed the purchase of over $1 million in ads for over 96 hours of programming on platforms including Facebook and YouTube over the course of the week of the RNC. (Last week, the campaign took over the masthead of The Washington Post, inciting a social media storm.) The price ticket of these purchases is part of a spike in digital-only campaign spending linked to social distancing measures and an even larger trend toward platform-based advertising, according to Quartz early on into the pandemic. 

  • Poynter published a comprehensive list of automated fact-checking tools for journalists and split them into two distinct categories: primary source comparison and “stance detection.” The latter, is based on a, “computing technique that determines whether a piece of text agrees or disagrees with a claim.”The other method, used by apps like Squash, rely on more traditional models of comparing new news statements against catalogues of verified facts. Neither method is without flaws and Poynter concluded that, “In the end, automated fact-checking will only be successful if closely intertwined with media literacy.”

  • Podcast plagiarism? Digiday reports that Anchor, a Spotify-owned podcast distributor, is allegedly publishing podcasts with titles that mimic some of the audio world’s most popular series. Shows like “Serial” and “Call Her Daddy” are among the podcasts that are now competing with podcasts that have adopted their same names. According to the article,  “phony shows have the potential to create confusion among potential listeners, degrade the listening experience on different apps, and possibly cost them money.” On the flip side, podcast analytics experts say that Anchor isn’t relevant enough to warrant concern. Read the full report here.

Copyright © 2020 Tow Center for Digital Journalism, All rights reserved.

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