Toward a more perfect union: the case for culturally responsive computational journalism

The slides below are from a presentation I gave today as this semester’s Faculty Senate Colloquium lecturer at The College of New Jersey. To be chosen by one’s peers to deliver such a research talk is a singular honor. I am particularly grateful to my English department colleague, the distinguished scholar and pundit Cassandra Jackson, whose introduction made me sound like someone I’d like to meet.

Here is the presentation abstract:

I moved from industry into academia 25 years ago because I had come to an understanding that the “hollowing-out” and flattening, of corporate, political and cultural hierarchies would make the role of professional communicators more central to the effective functioning of businesses and communities. As the expansion of the Internet and online technologies upended the news and communication industries, I became increasingly engaged with understanding how professional communicators could adapt to these seismic changes. This ultimately led to my current research in the development of culturally responsive models for teaching and practicing computational journalism. In this talk, I will draw upon that research to articulate a vision for a culturally responsive journalism. I will argue that culturally responsive computational journalism is essential to realizing the constructive potential of the seismic changes that computer science has visited upon the news industry. Properly crafted and implemented, culturally responsive journalism could:

1. Create an inclusive epistemology of journalism that moves beyond naive empiricism and the current propagandistic journalism of assertion
2. Democratize access to media technologies by broadening participation in the development and deployment of civic media
3. Deepen and broaden critical user engagement with the news
4. Deepen and broaden civic engagement
Computing technology and networks afford almost everyone the opportunity to be a publisher, but they also reward those who are computationally fluent with superior access to the public square. For this reason, I envision a future in which broad application and refinement the pedagogical models being developed here and elsewhere can actually empower citizens and strengthen democracy.



Here are links to sources for the presentation:

“Newspaper Newsroom Workforce Continues to Drop.”  Pew Research Journalism Project. March 20, 2014

Broadband technology fact sheet.” Pew Research Internet Project.

Computer and Internet Use 1984-2012 US Census

Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and Technology Adoption Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project

The State of Digital Divides. Pew Internet Research Project. Nov. 5,2013

The Digital Divide is Still Leaving Americans Behind.” Jessica Goodman,  Mashable,  August 20, 2013

Yahoo Latest Tech Icon to Reveal Lack of Diversity.” Jessica Guynn, USA Today, August 15, 2014

Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers

CABECT research website

CABECT in a nutshell (flyer describing the project, with some preliminary data)


Spring semester, 2015 Research opportunities for TCNJ Journalism, Media and Public Health Students

What’s this all about?

We've been telling you in every class - you've got to learn how to collaborate and work in teams. You've got to get comfortable with technology. You've got to understand social media strategy. You've got to understand the business side of the news business. This is an opportunity to do that, working in one of two small teams with a professor. One team will write a business plan for a new media venture, drawing upon the experience gained from two prior media ventures launched by the program, and input from experts. The second team will complete work on the SOAP project - an environmental information system developed over the last several years through a collaboration between computer science students, journalism and Interactive Multimedia Students, and Trenton Habitat for Humanity.

JPW 391: SOAP (Students Organized Against Pollution)

The goal of the SOAP project is to create a software system that helps residents, developers and policymakers in Trenton, New Jersey easily access information about the environmental condition of a particular piece of property. This includes whether there are pollutants, whether there have been enforcement actions or remediation efforts, the potential health effects of those pollutants and additional sources of help and information. Substantial progress has been made in the development of the system, and a prototype should be near completion by the end of 2014. Students working on this project would collaborate with computer science students working under the direction of Dr. Monisha Pulimood to augment content for the system, improve its esthetics and usability, and build a social media strategy, among other projects. Students will complete a multimedia reporting project, a mapping project, and learn to write simple scripts to scrape public data from websites.

This project will be useful to students pursuing study in public health, health communication, and the environmental studies concentration. Although students who previously took Topics: Health and Environmental Reporting are encouraged to enroll, prior experience with that class is not required.

Although the weekly meeting time for this project will be flexible. Students must be available for for approximately six joint class meetings with Prof. Pulimood's students, occurring at Tuesdays and Fridays at 12:30.

Students enrolling in the independent research course need to fill out an independent study enrollment form that must be signed by Prof. Pearson and either Dr. Jean Graham or Dr. Glenn Steinberg. The independent study enrollment form is available in the English department office, Bliss 129.

JPW 393*: Reinventing unbound

In the journalism/professional writing curriculum, the practicum course is intended to allow students to pursue a substantial project related to the management of a campus publication. For Spring, 2015, we are launching a group practicum project that

Unbound was an experiment in online journalism that originated in Kim Pearson's magazine writing class and Elizabeth Mackie's graphic design class in the spring, 1996 semester. It ran continuously from then until the end of 2008. It was based, in part, on lessons learned from an experiment in launching a print magazine, College Money, which published four issues between 1991 and 1994. In the summer of 2006, students working under the direction of Dr. Monisha Pulimood created a content management system for unbound, running on a Postgres SQL database. Due to technical limitations of the system, we were unable to implement many interactive features that had become commonplace for online publications, and the project seemed to reach a dead end.

Now, however, we have an opportunity to start fresh. Students in the Fall, 2014 Writing for Interactive Multimedia class are reconceptualizing unbound as a dynamic platform for millenials seeking knowledge and resources that will give them a leg up in pursuing media-related careers. We will use their ideas, and consultations with industry experts, as a starting point for developing a formal business plan that will include:

1. A competitive analysis
2. Market research
3. A review of potential business models
4. Prototype development
5. A preliminary financial statement

Students enrolling in the practicum need to fill out an independent study enrollment form that must be signed by Prof. Pearson and either Dr. Jean Graham or Dr. Glenn Steinberg. The independent study enrollment form is available in the English department office, Bliss 129.
*An earlier version of this announcement identified the course as JPW 397. It should be JPW 393.

Teaching Games as Journalism: Pedagogy and Practice

Presentation to the NSF C-PATH Distributed Expertise Colloquium, Villanova University, June 3, 2013

A guide the acronyms and some other helpful references:
JPW- journalism/professional writing major at The College of New Jersey
IMM – interactive multimedia program at TCNJ
DE – C-PATH Distributed Expertise project NSF Award Abstract
Wolz’ Simple Storyteller