The 2015 Computation+Journalism Symposium

For the second year in a row, the Brown Institute has played host to the Computation+Journalism Symposium – two full days of talks and panels exploring collaborations between journalism and the computational sciences. Our first keynote was by Lada Adamic,  head of the Product Science group in Facebook’s Data Science Team. Her topic — Is Facebook a political echo chamber? Lada discussed some of the work covered in her paper in Science earlier this year.

The first panel of the day was on news commenting, moderation and community systems, a lively discussion between theorists and practitioners. The Niemanlab Blog picked up on remarks from the New York Times community editor Bassey Etim, who said The Times treats “comments as content.” From here we had papers exploring computational approaches to “media bias” in various forms. From gender discrimination by audiences of online news to the ways the media, writ large, cover international events. This was followed by a session on “computable content,” studying the way we can augment standard publication to help provide contenxt to news stories, break stories into atomic units that can be reassembled, and personalize news stories.

The day ended with a panel of journalists tackling large, complex data sets — From the complexity of scale to advanced modeling techniques, these journalists are making use of data in ways that was simply not imaginable even a few years ago. The panel included Janet Roberts from Reuters, Tom McGinty from the WSJ, and  Olga Pierce from ProPublica. In the evening, we held a reception and demo session to let particpants audition the technology they heard about during the day.

The second day started with a session on data journalism education — from techniques for teaching computation to the technical infrastructure required, and a survey of the current state of data education in J-Schools. We also had a panel organized by Suman Deb Roy from betaworks on algorithms and ranking, an excellent discussion between academics and practitioners. The day closed with an amazing talk by Chris Wiggins, the Chief Data Scientist at the New York Times — an excellent exploration of how “engineering” spans the divide between news organizations’ “church and state.”

The two-day symposium was recorded and you can catch up here: Day 1Day 2. You can also find the papers here. One final note — there was so much Twitter activity around our hashtag that we actually trended in New York! Ha!

Thank you to everyone who participated, to everyone who attended and to Yahoo! who sponsored the event. The next symposium will take place at Stanford University. See you next year!