Who Are We

Founders

Rich Gordon, co-founder, is associate professor and director of digital innovation at the Medill School of Journalism, where he launched the school’s graduate program in new media journalism. He has spent most of his career exploring the areas where journalism and technology intersect. As a reporter and editor, he was an early adopter of technological tools to analyze data for journalistic purposes. At The Miami Herald, he was among the first generation of journalists to lead online publishing efforts at newspapers. At Medill, he has developed courses through which students have explored digital content and communities and developed new forms of storytelling taking advantage of interactive media. He has also served as director of new communities for the Northwestern Media Management Center, where he researched the impact of online communities on journalism and publishing. In 2007, Rich won a Knight News Challenge grant allowing Medill to offer full scholarships for journalism master’s degrees to people with computer programming experience.

Burt Herman, co-founder, is a journalist and entrepreneur exploring the intersection of journalism and technology from his base in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University from 2008-9, where he researched entrepreneurship, innovation and design at the university’s Institute for Design and Graduate School of Business. Before Stanford, Burt roamed the globe for a dozen years as a bureau chief and correspondent for The Associated Press and has written stories from Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia and the Middle East along with the U.S. He covered the war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, and later moved to Central Asia where he founded a new AP bureau in charge of the five former Soviet republics in the region. His latest overseas posting was Korea bureau chief, where he supervised coverage of North Korea and implemented creative uses of technology to help report on the isolated regime.

Aron Pilhofer, co-founder, is editor of Interactive News Technologies at The New York Times, overseeing a news-focused team of journalist/developers who build dynamic, data-driven applications to enhance The Times’ reporting online. He also is co-founder of DocumentCloud, Knight Foundation-funded organization designed to improve journalism by making original source documents easy to find, share, read and collaborate on. He joined The Times in 2005 as a projects editor on the paper’s newly expanded computer-assisted reporting team, where he specialized in stories related to money, politics and influence for the politics desk and Washington bureau. Prior to that, Pilhofer was database editor at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, where he began an ongoing project in 2002 to track a new form of political non-profit organization. The Center’s reporting was among the first to highlight the hole in campaign finance regulations that allows these groups to pump hundreds of millions into elections. Earlier, Pilhofer was on the national training staff of Investigative Reporters and Editors and worked for a number of years as a statehouse and projects reporter for Gannett newspapers in New Jersey and Delaware.

Key leaders

Ben BalterBen Balter, chief technology officer, is a J.D./M.B.A. candidate at the George Washington University, a new media fanatic passionate about the power of digital communications, and an information junkie who loves learning new things.  For the past year he has served as a New Media Fellow in the Federal Communications Commission’s Office of the Managing Director where he helped oversee the relaunch of the agency’s multi-platform web presence. Prior to grad. school he was a fellow with the political communications firm Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications, and has served both in Speaker Pelosi’s Press Office, and in the GW Hatchet’s newsroom. When not working or in class, he enjoys tackling otherwise-impossible challenges to sharing information using nothing more than WordPress, duct tape, and occasionally a pack of bubblegum. An aspiring attorney, a coder, and an all around geek, Ben brings his life-long passion for technology’s ability to shape how we interact with one another to the Hacks/Hackers world. 

Beth Davidz, visual and design czar, is a journalist, designer and developer with more than ten years of experience in media at organizations including AOL and the Associated Press.  Her specialization is data-driven interactives. From election maps with live results to in-depth stories with interactive graphics and video, she’s covered a wide-array of topics working alongside reporters, editors and other journalists in the newsroom. Her interactive work at the AP’s Washington DC bureau has won a Malofiej, a Webby, and awards from the White House News Photographers Association and the Associated Press Managing Editors. Currently she’s a senior developer at AOL in New York and active in the Online News Association as a conference organizer. Beth received a Masters’ from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. As part of the program, she worked at MarketWatch.com, the International Herald Tribune and was a fellow for the Carnegie-Knight’s News 21 program.  Before that, she worked at AOL in Ohio for five years as a designer and graduated from The Ohio State University with a triple major in journalism, anthropology and French. You can find her on Twitter @bethdavidz.

Jennifer 8. Lee is an author and a journalist focused on the evolv­ing infra­struc­ture of news and information, specifically thinking about the business models. She started her journalism career at The New York Times at age 24 and worked for nine years. NPR has called her a “conceptual scoop artist” for her feature stories. She also authored The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, a book on how Chinese food is all-American, which was featured on The Colbert Report and TED.com. She has made dumplings with Martha Steward and on the Today Show during the Beijing Olympics. She has played a lead role with the Knight News Challenge, News Foo, and the SXSW news events. She serves on the advisory board for the Nieman Foundation, the board of the Center for Public Integrity, the Young Lions Committee of the New York Public Library, and the executive committee of the Asian American Writers Workshop. She is also co-producer of a documentary-in-progress called The Search for General Tso with the folks at Wicked Delicate. She majored in applied math and economics at Harvard, which makes her very comfortable with geeks. In her spare time she is optimistically writing a movie script on the Secret Court of 1920. She loves startups and startup founders.

Chrys Wu, organizer, is a journalist and user engagement strategist who began her career as a motorcycle-riding, magazine-editing Web pioneer. She now works with businesses interested in deepening their connection to their audiences through research, community-building strategy and user-centric design. Her early work online gave rise to some of the Web’s first hand-crafted home pages and databases. Since then, she has launched sites and projects for LATimes.com, NYTimes.com, KCRW.com and WNYC.org, among others. Her community-building strategy work crosses online, mobile and real-world boundaries and helps people with common interests be more connected. She was honored to be a judge for the 2009-2010 Knight News Challenge and an outreach consultant for the 2010-2011 Knight News Challenge. In addition to news and technology, Chrys’s passions include architectural photography, cultural philanthropy, food, fencing (the sport, not the crime) and fashion. She’s active on Twitter @MacDiva and shares bookmarks on Pinboard. (Old school, but we like that about her.)

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