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Columbia Journalism Logo

Summary: I have won a fellowship to create a guide to crowdsourcing at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University in New York, along with two other researchers, Jan Schaffer, head of the J-Lab at American University, and Mimi Onuoha, a researcher, artist and academic who is currently a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow. Here’s a link to the announcement



The project, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s grant to the Tow Center, is one of a number of projects launched formally today in a cohort that includes 31 fellows working on topics like ours.

Our project, “A How-To Guide to Crowdsourcing,” is described this way on the Tow Center’s site:  “The ability of news consumers to participate in acts of journalism has moved far beyond eyewitness accounts captured in photos and video.  This project examines how crowdsourcing has developed since the term was first coined a decade ago, develop a robust taxonomy of uses, showcase important examples in case studies, and explore emerging best practices.”

Other research topics in this cohort: “Algorithmic Accountability,” “Programming Language for Journalism,” “Machine Learning and Campaign Finance Reporting,” Technology Criticism” and a “Conflict Analysis Toolbox.”

There will also be other “how-to” guides like ours on topics like design for journalism, podcasting, secure practices in newsrooms, chat apps and others.

And one of the projects will place sensors on rats in New York City.

Our crowdsourcing work with our media partners

Our work on the how-to guide is an extension of our crowdsourcing work on this site and with our media partners. won a Knight Foundation prototype grant last year to build an interactive widget to generate a community-created guide to health-care pricing with our partners at KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC/Southern California Public Radio in Los Angeles. Here’s some of our collected coverage, including our Harvard Business Review piece and our JAMA Internal Medicine piece, as well as the coverage generated by the three partners, all collected on one Tumblr blog.

We just renewed with them, and also launched a clone with WHYY public radio in Philadelphia, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (don’t miss “If restaurants billed like hospitals”).

Our pilot was with WNYC public radio in 2013; here’s a link to a project page.

KQED-FM is one of the country’s most listened to public radio stations, with 735,000 listeners tuning in during an average week. Further information here.

KPCC’s programs reach more than 600,000 affluent and educated listeners throughout Southern California each week. Demographics here.

WHYY reaches 442,700 affluent, educated and unduplicated listeners each week. Details here.

We just launched another partnership, this one with MedPage Today, the leading source of news and features for health care professionals, reaching 670,000 licensed doctors in the US, and offering free continuing medical education. We’re joining hands with our colleagues over there to invite clinicians to share prices and also to engage with them on the topic of price transparency. MedPage Today is a wing of the health giant Everyday Health. Links are here and here.

About the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University

From the center’s site: “The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, established in 2010, provides journalists with the skills and knowledge to lead the future of digital journalism and serves as a research and development center for the profession as a whole.

“Operating as an institute within Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, the Tow Center is poised to take advantage of a unique combination of factors to foster the development of digital journalism. Its New York location affords access to cutting-edge technologists, a strong culture of journalism and multiple journalism and communication schools, with outstanding universities attached to them. The Tow Center is where technology and journalism meet, and where education and practice meet.

“The Center explores how the development of technology is changing journalism, its practice and its consumption — particularly as consumers of news seek ways to judge the reliability, standards and credibility of information. By commissioning research in these emerging areas, and developing teaching methods and courses, the Tow Center seeks to convene debate around the issues facing digital journalism. Our mission is to help individual journalists, news organizations and areas of relevant media policymaking with their thinking and practice in this area.

“Digital journalism has a vital role in a world of information overload and explanation drought by striking a new relationship between data and narrative. The Tow Center seeks to cultivate the skilled practitioners needed to mine data and text, but who can also think journalistically in relating this information through words, pictures and graphics. Digital journalism needs to include the citizen and witness as a participant, and not just a recipient. But these new complexities demand professional intervention and standards. As an institution, the Tow Center seeks to be a leader in these areas.

“In addition to developing resources for students both students of the Journalism School and the community at large, the Tow Center is involved in producing new research related to the practice of digital journalism.”

Columbia Journalism plaque

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...