The role of research in journalism

By Jake Kreinberg

We spoke with the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University about how research can answer some really important questions for news organizations.

Editor’s note: At a recent conference at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, we spoke with its director, Emily Bell, about the growing role research plays in the relationship between media and technology companies. To hear other perspectives from the conference, click here.

What role does research play in the relationship between media and technology companies?

Emily: Well it’s kind of interesting, because my background is as a journalist. I am not a research academic, but we do research here. We’re no longer dealing with a world of certainties, and when you look at how technology companies interact with higher education institutions, it’s really experimenting with developments, publishing research and asking difficult empirical questions.

Journalism’s never had that relationship with research because it’s never needed it.

We think here at Columbia that now is the time, that actually we could ask some interesting questions about platform technology, about consumer behavior, about human-computer interaction — all of which are actually really important questions for news organizations to understand. And we also recognize that there isn’t yet a really established body of people doing research embedded in news organizations.

It’s great that places like the AP are doing experimental projects, but there’s a role to be played here by organizations who test the technology, build new technologies, ask interesting questions — so that we can put it back into the classroom and so that we can inform the field.

* This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Jake Kreinberg

Jake is the text and multimedia product manager at The Associated Press and the former editor of Insights. He previously covered college sports as a reporter for AP and helped design its multi-year strategic plan. Have feedback about the blog? Contact us at

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