Northwestern University Knight Lab advances news media innovation and education. Developing ideas from experimentation through adoption, the Lab makes technology that aims to help make information meaningful and promotes quality storytelling on the Internet.
Located just outside Chicago, Northwestern University Knight Lab is a joint initiative of Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The Lab was launched and is sustained by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with additional support from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the National Science Foundation.
Our focus is on adoption.
As Northwestern University Knight Lab, we are a team of technologists, journalists, designers and educators working at advancing news media innovation through exploration, experimentation. We take ideas from concept to completion, working toward adoption. Straddling the sciences and the humanities, we agree that there has never been a more exciting time to be working at the intersection of media and technology. Every bit of what it means to be a journalist is being reassessed, redefined. As an industry, we are witnessing a rebirth. As the Knight Lab, we feel we are participating in a revolution.
The Lab develops prototypes, projects and services that help make information meaningful, promoting quality journalism, storytelling and content on the Internet. Lab projects arise in response to ideas from news consumers, students, and faculty as well as in collaboration with news publishers of all sizes. As our technology becomes more realized, we work with journalists and publishers to install prototypes, gather feedback and iterate on the ideas that have momentum. We strive to make a difference no matter the project’s scale.
Who is our customer?
The Lab develops technology for:
- News publishers of all sizes, in all markets;
- Reporters, editors, producers and other journalists.
- News readers and consumers.
While there are other users of the Lab’s open source products, our core audience is composed of digitally-focused journalists. We prioritize our development and support efforts with that core audience in mind.
As a co-owned center for interdisciplinary collaboration, the Lab has the power to meaningfully connect journalism researchers, educators and students at Northwestern University with researchers, educators and students in computer science. The Lab fosters collaboration and educational exchanges between professional journalists and technologists.
What problem are we solving?
We care deeply about journalism. The free press is essential to a functioning democracy. But in 2013, journalism is still struggling with its digitally-focused future. Technologists are winning at media technology innovation, but they do not understand “journalism.” Worse, many journalists barely understand how the Internet works, let alone how to get the most out of storytelling on the web.
Half of this problem is a technology problem. The other half is a people and culture problem. While Knight Lab’s primary focus is on solving the first half of the problem, the Lab also fosters a culture that rewards media innovation, infuses design-thinking into news processes, and empowers a younger generation of highly adaptable, technology-focused journalists.
What are we doing to solve it?
- We develop web-native tools for journalists and storytellers to help them publish interactive, immersive stories to the Internet. Our tools are open source, highly malleable, lightweight and future-friendly. For each tool, we provide significant outreach and support to encourage significant adoption by our core audience.
- Using artificial intelligence techniques, we experiment and explore ideas that help make information meaningful and find meaning in our social behavior on the web.
- We provide a physical space, as well as host events and educational events, to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and education around journalism and computer science for our community.
Three years in, we (a team of about eight faculty, more than twenty students and seven staff members) have prototyped more than 40 ideas, developed 10 systems and produced four products, all free and available for all the world to see. We have hosted 38 workshops and events, and reached hundreds of working journalists in face-to-face sessions and conferences.
There are few moments in time more innovative, entrepreneurial and exciting than right now in the news industry and Knight Lab is ecstatic to play a part.