Originally launched as the Knight News Innovation Laboratory, the Lab is a joint initiative of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. The Lab was founded by four Northwestern faculty members: Kristian Hammond, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at McCormick; Owen Youngman, the Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy at Medill; Larry Birnbaum, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at McCormick; and Rich Gordon, professor and director of digital innovation at Medill.
In 2011, under executive director Michael A. Silver, the Lab’s founding mission was to improve the news and information ecosystem in the Chicago area, focusing particularly on local media partnerships. The Lab’s first major deployment, Congressional Primaries, won an Online Journalism Award in 2012 and helped 16 news organizations around Illinois cover the state’s congressional primaries for thousands of Illinois voters.
In its first two years the Lab launched three stable products, deployed seven systems and built more than 40 prototypes. Notably the Lab’s TimelineJS project (developed with faculty member Zach Wise) has been deployed more than 250,000 times by news organizations around world — from France to Japan and Ghana to Austria. It’s available in 48 languages and has been viewed by more than 31 million readers. The tool helps reporters create beautiful, media rich timelines, but requires minimal technical skill and functions on any website.
Miranda Mulligan joined the team as executive director in July 2012, leading the Lab into a global and design-driven focus. The Lab launched SoundCite, which has been deployed by news organizations around the world, including the Washington Post, Texas Tribune, Education Week, and others. In 2013, we launched a developer version of StoryMapJS (developed with faculty member Zach Wise), that was so popular it was soon followed with an authoring interface in March 2014. The tool helps reporters create interactive maps that correspond to points in a story.
In February 2015, Joe Germuska, previously director of technology, became director of the Lab and is leading expansion of the student fellowship program and improvements on existing popular tools. The Lab has an excellent staff who make software, design technology products, create and manage editorial content, and keep the team moving forward. In addition to the staff, faculty and students invent technology, build projects, design user experiences, report on and write about the intersection of technology and journalism.