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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.

Community-Centered Journalism: Book Launch Panel 
Monday, August 24th, 12PM ET

As we grapple with the crisis facing local journalism, this discussion will explore what kind of local news we need to build to increase public trust in journalism. We’ll get a preview of a new book by Tow fellow, Andrea Wenzel, that makes the case for community-centered journalism using case studies from around the U.S. And we’ll learn about three efforts doing work that seek to center and share power with communities—collaborating with newsrooms, as community organizers, or providing service journalism that directly addresses the needs of residents.

Find more information about the book here.

Moderator: Andrea Wenzel


Sarah Alvarez, Founder and Executive Editor of Outlier Media,

Alicia Bell, Free Press’ News Voices Organizing Manager

jesikah maria ross, Senior Community Engagement Strategist at Capital Public Radio.

Find more information and register here.

Building the Stack: Five Decisions with Paul Ford
Monday, August 24th, 5PM BST

What are the biggest decisions people working in public media tech have to make? If there was a decision they could change, what would it be? In this new fortnightly webinar series from the Public Media Stack, we explore the art (and science) of making tech decisions with some of public media’s prominent voices. Matt Locke, Public Media Stack's Founder, will ask them five simple questions and unpack the issues that universally affect our industry - problems with workflow, the relationship between newsrooms and tech teams, reader engagement innovation, funding diversification - as well as the presence of and reliance on Big Tech and the efforts to create alternative ecosystems.

Paul Ford, CEO of Postlight.

The webinar will last 30 minutes and take place on Zoom at 9am PST, 12pm EST, and 5pm BST. They are free to attend and will be recorded.

Find more information and register 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.

New Tow survey asks: What’s it like to work for a local newspaper in 2020?

By Damian Radcliffe

A new online survey is asking local journalists in the United States to share their stories and experiences, as part of a project examining the health of local newspapers.

Supported by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, this study comes at a time when the local newspaper industry is grappling with the implications of COVID-19, a development accelerated by the need to identify new and sustainable business models, as well as the creative and financial opportunities afforded by digital, while underlying concerns about “fake news”, mistrust in journalism, and growing “news deserts,” persist.

This new study builds on the findings of earlier Tow research from 2016–17, which shared lessons from the perspective of 420 local newspaper journalists across the United States.

Local Journalism under threat

Since then, the local newspaper industry, like the media as a whole, has gone through a period of further change and disruption.

The statistics speak for themselves:

Alongside this, the news industry continues to adapt and evolve, as a result of changes to the media landscape.

Since we last ran this survey at the end of 2016, other notable developments include: the election of President Trump, widespread adoption of the term “fake news,” emergence of the Stories format on social media, a podcasting renaissance, a move away from the “pivot to video,” as well as a shift to subscriptions and reader revenue.

Survey Goals

By revisiting this earlier study, researchers hope to compare — and contrast — the experience of local journalists in late-2016 and mid-2020, while also highlighting the contemporary characteristics of today’s media landscape. Fundamental to the research is the desire to hear, and amplify, the experiences of local journalists working on the front-line.

I believe that the voice and the experiences of local journalists working across the United States deserve to be heard, and this survey gives them that opportunity to share not only their challenges but also examples of innovation and resilience.

Why now?

As I wrote recently in The Conversation:

“The irony is that while battering journalism, the pandemic has also underlined the need for reliable local news — access to accurate information tailored and relevant to your community can be crucial during a public health crisis.”

To support local journalism, and local journalists, especially right now, we need data.

Encouraging journalists to take a survey in the middle of a pandemic is a big ask, but it’s vitally important that the voices and experiences of local journalists are used to inform efforts to invest in — and support — the future of local journalism.

Tow’s wider commitment to local journalism

Dr. Peter Brown, Director of Research at the Tow Center, agrees.

“This survey comes at an important time for the media and the local news industry,” he says. “It is a great opportunity for journalists to tell us about how their job is changing, as well as their hopes and fears for the future.”

“The research feeds into a wider commitment by the Tow Center to support local journalism across the U.S., and we’re looking forward to sharing the findings of this survey when we publish them later this year.”

The survey can be found at

It closes at 11.59pm PST on Sunday August 30th.

  • In another round of local newsroom closures last week, Tribune Publishing, which owns dozens of papers across the country, shuttered the newsrooms of some its most famous publications, including the Daily News in New York City and the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. Despite the “surge in media consumption” amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a slew of shuttered newsrooms and layoffs in the past several months. 
  • There’s been a surge in news focused on QAnon--a group of far-right conspiracy theorists, anti-government activists, which now includes a Georgia candidate for the House of Representatives. But in a recent op-ed published by The Guardian on Tuesday, two political scientists argue that the media is blowing the group’s size and influence out of proportion. By examining polling data, they concluded that, “Q is neither well-known nor well-liked.” 

  • Misinformation about the pandemic on social media platforms is the latest hurdle facing doctors fighting the coronavirus pandemic. As the New York Times reports, patients across the country are questioning their doctors on topics ranging from hydroxychloroquine prescriptions (which the CDC does not recommend as a treatment for the virus) to the false rumor that physicians make money by attributing a death to Covid-19. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have pledged to combat this spread of public health misinformation but, “Doctors say patients regularly resist their counsel, more inclined to believe what they read on Facebook than what a medical professional tells them...” 

  • Last week, Axios reported that Facebook is changing its rules over how U.S. news sites that are explicitly political are allowed to advertise on the platform. According to the report, “Since the 2016 election, reporters and researchers have uncovered over 1,200 instances in which political groups use websites disguised as local news outlets to push their point of view to Americans.” The Tow Center has been tracking similar efforts in its series on pink slime, or “low-cost automated story generation” on seemingly local news sites. 

  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was able to raise $35,000 in advertising revenue for the paper by dedicating a special section to thanking local essential workers. Managing editor, Mark A. Waligore, explains how publishing drawings from kids in the community helped the newsroom both raise funds and connect with readers during a time of unprecedented uncertainty. 

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

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