Seeking developers interested in journalism: New options at Northwestern

Through a unique scholarship program, the Medill School at Northwestern University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have brought a dozen talented developers into journalism over the last several years.

Successful as these scholarships have been, the program could benefit only those technologists who were able to take a year out of their lives to study journalism in Medill's full-time master's degree program.

Now that's changed: Money from the Knight Scholarships is now available to technologists who want to study and innovate at Northwestern without the need to enroll for a full year as a full-time student.

We are looking for technologists interested in journalism who'd be interested in any of the following:

  • A master's degree in journalism -- earn an MSJ in our one-year full-time program.
  • One or two academic terms (3-6 months) of journalism study -- starting with the first quarter of our master's program, which provides foundational skills in reporting, storytelling and undersanding today's media landscape
  • Enrollment in specific courses of the student's choosing (presuming space is available and the student can demonstrate they have met any course prerequisites)
  • A paid 3-month or 6-month Knight Lab fellowship allowing the technologist to research, learn or build an application relevant to journalism.


The goals of the Knight/Medill program remain the same as they always have been: first, to get talented developers involved in journalism and motivate them to help solve the problems confronting journalists, publishers and media consumers; and second, to spark innovation in media and journalism.

Medill has offered these scholarships since 2007, when Knight awarded us one of the first Knight News Challenge grants to create the scholarship program. Since then, 12 scholarship winners have graduated from Medill and taken jobs in journalism and media organizations.

Brian Boyer and Ryan Mark, awarded Medill's first two Knight scholarships, created the Chicago Tribune news applications team, which earned a worldwide reputation for developing and deploying new technologies that help inform and engage online users. Under the motto "Share Your Work," the Tribune team also released a large amount of open-source code that is widely used by journalists and media organizations. In 2010, the team won the first Gannett Foundation Award for Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism, administered by the Associated Press Managing Editors.

Boyer now leads the visuals team at NPR. Mark is editorial engineering director at Vox Media. Other graduates of the program are working at news and technology companies like Vox, Narrative Science, the Chicago Tribune and the Huffington Post.

If you're interested in the Knight scholarships and fellowships, here's what to do:

  • If you want to earn a master's degree in journalism (a year of full-time study), you'll apply through the normal application process and complete one supplemental essay. More information about the Medill MSJ program can be found here. Specifics on curriculum and courses are here.
  • If you're interested in taking courses at Medill, but not a full master's degree, we recommend that you enroll full-time in the first quarter (11 weeks) of our master's program, which we call Journalism Methods. The quarter includes ''Frameworks of Modern Journalism,'' an overview of the social, audience and technology trends shaping the media industry; classes in news reporting and editing; and training in multimedia storytelling skills. Depending on your background and course prerequisites, we can also let you take individual courses that you are interested in. If you think you might be interested, contact Prof. Rich Gordon, who won the grant that established the Knight scholarship program.
  • If you're interested in a Knight Lab fellowship, think of ways you could apply your skills and interests to the development of software useful to journalists, publishers or media consumers. Your fellowship could include time to conduct user research, build a prototype, collaborate with Lab developers and students, or otherwise contribute to the Lab's mission. To discuss your interest, contact Joe Germuska, director of the Lab.


More details are available on the Medill website.

About the author

Rich Gordon

Professor and Director of Digital Innovation

Journalism/tech intersection, my passion for 25 years, data journalism, Miami Herald web director, now hacker journalism.

Latest Posts

  • A Google Spreadsheets change affecting TimelineJS users

    Google recently changed something about their Sheets service which is causing many people to run into an error when they are making a new timeline. Note: there should be no impact on existing timelines! After this change, many of you click on the "preview" and get this message: An unexpected error occurred trying to read your spreadsheet data [SyntaxError] Timeline configuration has no events. There is a straightforward work-around, but it requires those of you who have...

    Continue Reading

  • How Americans think and feel about gun violence

    A man killed his wife, then himself. I want you to see his face and learn that he enjoyed fishing with his grandchildren. A small-time drug dealer is shot by two men in a parking lot. I find his Facebook profile and a photo shows him striking a playfully irreverent pose, giving the camera the middle finger. The photo’s comments take a mournful turn after a certain date. “Rest easy bro ???” Gun Memorial runs...

    Continue Reading

  • Software developers interested in journalism: Northwestern and The Washington Post want you!

    Northwestern University and The Washington Post are offering a unique opportunity for two talented software developers interested in applying their programming skills in media and journalism. Here’s the proposition: (1) a full-tuition scholarship to earn a master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University, followed by (2) a six-month paid internship with The Post’s world-class engineering team, with the possibility of subsequent full-time employment. These opportunities are made possible by the John S. and James L....

    Continue Reading

  • What happened when Gun Memorial let anyone contribute directly to victim profiles

    If you’re reporting local or niche news, there’s a good chance that your audience collectively knows more about the story than you do. That’s especially true for us at Gun Memorial, a small publication with a nationwide mission of covering every American who is shot dead. In our latest, mostly successful, experiment, we let readers add to our stories without editor intervention. This article shares some lessons from that experience. Asking for reader contributions A...

    Continue Reading

  • How conversational interfaces make the internet more accessible for everyone

    This story is part of a series on bringing the journalism we produce to as many people as possible, regardless of language, access to technology, or physical capability. Find the series introduction, as well as a list of published stories here. In 2004, human-computer interaction professor Alan Dix published the third edition of Human-Computer Interaction along with his colleagues, Janet Finley, Gregory Abowd, and Russell Beale. In a chapter called “The Interaction,” the authors wrote...

    Continue Reading

  • Three tools to help you make colorblind-friendly graphics

    This story is part of a series on bringing the journalism we produce to as many people as possible, regardless of language, access to technology, or physical capability. Find the series introduction, as well as a list of published stories here. I am one of the 8% of men of Northern European descent who suffers from red-green colorblindness. Specifically, I have a mild case of protanopia (also called protanomaly), which means that my eyes lack...

    Continue Reading

Storytelling Tools

We build easy-to-use tools that can help you tell better stories.

View More