The ways we consume and create media and content continue to evolve at a rapid pace. The Demystifying Media seminar series explores the impact of these changes across the communications landscape and finds new ways to navigate forward.

Each term, we will bring several experts—media practitioners, academics, and researchers—working on the cutting edge of these global changes to campus to discuss the impact of the 21st-century media revolution with students, faculty, and staff.

If you have a topic you’d like us to explore or a speaker to recommend for this series, please contact Damian Radcliffe, Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism, University of Oregon, at

Winter 2018 Speakers

James T. Hamilton, Hearst Professor of Communication, Stanford University

Demystifying Investigative Reporting’s Future: Stories by, through, and about algorithms

Thursday, January 18, 4–5 p.m., 141 Allen Hall

Changes in media markets have put local investigative reporting particularly at risk. But new combinations of data and algorithms may make it easier for journalists to discover and tell the stories that hold institutions accountable. Based on his book Democracy’s Detectives: The Economics of Investigative Journalism,  Professor Hamilton explores how the future of accountability reporting will involve stories by, through, and about algorithms.

Dr. James Hamilton is the Hearst Professor of Communication, Director, of the Journalism Program and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Communication at Stanford University. Prior to joining the Stanford faculty, Hamilton taught at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, where he directed the De Witt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy.

He earned a BA in Economics and Government (summa cum laude) and PhD in Economics from Harvard University.

Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune and a 2017 SOJC Journalist in Residence 

Demystifying: Documenting Chicago’s Persistent Gun Violence

Thursday, February 1, 4–5 p.m., 141 Allen Hall

2017 Pulitzer Prize winning photographer E. Jason Wambsgans is a staff photographer at the Chicago Tribune, where he has spent the last 15 years covering stories that have taken him from the vanishing rainforests of Madagascar to the war in Afghanistan, and the last 5 years intensively documenting the problem of Chicago’s gun violence.  Wambsgans studied fine art and cinema at Central Michigan University. Throughout a career of wide-ranging assignments, his editors have counted on his ability to inventively meet challenges, whether aesthetic, technical or conceptual, while gracefully conveying the human experience.

Wambsgans won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Feature Photography, for what the judges observed was “a superb portrayal of a 10-year-old boy and his mother striving to put the boy’s life back together after he survived a shooting in Chicago.”

This talk explores his work in Chicago covering this important topic.

John Capouya, Associate Professor of journalism and writing at the University of Tampa

Black Music Mattered: Demystifying Segregation, Integration and the Sounds of Soul

Thursday, February 8, 4–5 p.m., 141 Allen Hall

Professor Capouya specializes in teaching journalism and other forms of nonfiction writing. He is a former reporter and editor at The New York Times, Newsweek, New York Newsday and Smart Money magazines.

His latest book Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band. chronicles the soul music scene over the past 50 years, and this talk will discuss the evolution of rhythm and blues music in black communities and on the ”chitlin’ circuit” in the era of segregation; the vital role soul played in the civil rights movement; and how artists like Sam & Dave, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke crossed over the racial divide into the mainstream, changing American culture.

The presentation includes vintage images and some of this classic music.

Fall 2017 Speakers

Troy Campbell, Assistant Professor, University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business

Why People “Fly from Facts”

J412: Fact or Fiction? Thursday, November 2, 12–1 p.m., 141 Allen Hall

Troy Campbell is a design psychologist, which means he uses psychology to design better experiences, communications, and education. He is an expert in consumer behavior, marketing social psychology, political psychology, and scientific communication. Campbell’s research uses psychology to understand what makes people happy, how social movements can be effective, the power of advertising, what makes a good experience (such as a music festival), and consumerism.

His talk will explore how—and why—people get away from facts that contradict their beliefs, and how to design communications and a society that leads us all back to truth.

Sara Wachter-Boettcher, BA ’05, Rare Union

Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Toxic Tech  

J201: Media and Society, Monday, November 13, 8:30–9:30 a.m., 156 Straub Hall

Sara Wachter-Boettcher is a content strategy and user experience expert who has worked on the web since she graduated from the SOJC (Magazine, 2005). As the principal of Rare Union, she’s led projects and facilitated workshops for Fortune 100 corporations, education and research institutions, and startups. Her new book, Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech, looks at the way technologists often embed a narrow worldview into the products they build, providing a revealing look at how tech industry bias and blind spots get baked into digital products—and harm us all.

In this talk she will explore some of the key themes from her book, and the impact of technology on society and consumers.

Alan Abbey, MS ’77, Shalom Hartman Institute

Israeli Media and Threats to Israeli Press Freedoms

J100: Media Professions, Thursday, November 16, 2–3 p.m., 150 Columbia Hall

Alan D. Abbey is director of media at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, which he joined in 2008 after a 30-year career in journalism in the United States and Israel. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the SOJC. He founded Ynetnews and was executive vice president at the Jerusalem Post. He is also an adjunct professor of Journalism at National University of San Diego and ethics lecturer for the Getty School of Citizen Journalism in the Middle East and North Africa. He was a leader of the Online News Association’s digital ethics team, which created the “Build Your Own” Ethics Code course and website, and he chaired the Hartman Institute-American Jewish Press Association Ethics Project. He is the author of Journey of Hope: The Story of Ilan Ramon, Israel’s First Astronaut.  A native of Brooklyn, New York, Abbey lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.

Israeli journalists are among the most aggressive, intense, politicized, opinionated, and competitive media professionals anywhere. They differ from American media in significant ways. This talk will look at this landscape and threats to press freedoms in Israel, as well as the media’s responses to these challenges.

Spring 2017 Speakers

Stacy-Marie Ishmael

Stacy-Marie Ishmael, Knight Fellow, Former Managing Editor for Mobile, BuzzFeed News

The “Flattening” of News and Its Consequences for Trust (Or, How Designers and Developers Have Made It Harder to Tell Real from Fake)

Wednesday, May 3, 4:30–5:30 p.m., Allen 141

Stacy-Marie Ishmael is a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University. She will be spending the 2016–17 academic year researching the challenges newsrooms face in adapting to the rise of the mobile-only audience. Prior to this fellowship, she was the managing editor of mobile news for BuzzFeed News, running the BuzzFeed News app and morning newsletter, and overseeing a team of news editors in New York, Los Angeles, and London.

Before joining BuzzFeed News, she was the vice president of communities at the Financial Times, where she led a team responsible for growing engagement and deepening the publication’s relationship with its global audiences. Her previous roles at the FT included FT Alphaville New York bureau chief and co-founder and editor of FT Tilt, an online-only emerging markets news service. Ishmael was born and raised in Trinidad, in the Caribbean, and received her undergraduate degree in international relations from the London School of Economics.

Ishmael will also be a 2017 SOJC Journalist in Residence. She will be on campus, meeting with students and faculty Tuesday, May 2, through Thursday, May 4 (lunchtime).

CW Anderson

C. W. Anderson, Associate Professor of Media and Culture, College of Staten Island, City University of New York 

Where Data Journalism Comes From

Monday, May 15, 67 p.m., 141 Allen Hall

C. W. Anderson is an associate professor at the College of Staten Island (CUNY) and incoming professor of media and communication at the University of Leeds.

He is the author of Rebuilding the News: Metropolitan Journalism in the Digital Age and Journalism: What Everyone Needs to Know (co-authored with former Washington Post Executive Editor Len Downie and sociologist Michael Schudson), which has been described as “an accessible, sweeping survey of the past, present, and future of journalism.”

Anderson is currently at work on a book tentatively titled Apostles of Certainty: Data Journalism and the Politics of Truth (Oxford), which examines the relationship between material evidence, computational processes, and notions of “context” from 1910 until the present. He is currently starting a project that he calls  The Dark Publics project to explore “opaque algorithms, political lies, emotions, narratives, self-delusional stories, and aesthetically interpreted facts.”

Anderson is on campus Monday, May 15, through Tuesday, May 16, and then in Portland until May 17.

Winter 2017 Speakers

Nikki Usher

Nikki Usher, George Washington University

Hackers, Data and Code in the Age of Trump

Thursday, February 23, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Diamond Lake Room, EMU

What does Trump’s election mean for data journalism? Nikki Usher will discuss her new book, Interactive Journalism: Hackers, Data, and Code, and look ahead to what’s next for interactive journalism across the world.

The news industry has hailed interactive journalists as its saviors and claimed them as resident authorities of quantification and digital skills the newsroom. But data isn’t as objective as we like to think. Given its significant influence on public opinion, how we present data and statistics is critical, as it can be particularly damaging when done poorly. Thinking about the promises and perils of interactive journalism has never been more important. This talk aspires to be a starting point for this conversation at the SOJC.

Sarah Vieweg

Sarah Vieweg

Sex, Surveillance, and Shopping: How the Arabian Gulf Uses Social Media

Friday, March 3, 10:30–11:30 a.m., 141 Allen Hall

Sarah Vieweg is a social scientist whose research is at the intersection of human-computer interaction, computer-mediated communication, and computer-supported cooperative work. She researches how citizens of Arab Gulf countries perceive, use, and re-interpret social media, with an eye toward defining design principles that consider non-Western cultural values. She also looks at how advertisers throughout the world turn to social media for advertising and marketing, and how diverse marketplace activities translate to digital environments.

Vieweg holds a BA in economics and French from the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, an M.A in linguistics from the University of Colorado Boulder, and a Ph.D. in technology, media, and society from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Prior to her position at Facebook, she was a scientist at the Qatar Computing Research Institute and a project manager at Oblong Industries.

Christopher Ali, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia

The Future of Local Newspapers

Friday, March 10, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Allen Hall 141

Christopher Ali’s research interests focus on communication policy and regulation, critical political economy, critical geography, comparative media systems, localism, and local news.

Ali has published in numerous journals, including Communication Theory, Media Culture & Society, and International Journal of Communication. His forthcoming book, Media Localism: The Policies of Place (University of Illinois Press, 2017), addresses the difficulties of defining and regulating local media in the 21st century in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada and the implications these difficulties have for the long-term viability of local news.

Ali has worked for the Federal Communications Commission, submitted research for the Swiss Office of Communication, and consulted with the South Korean Committee on the Impact of Media Concentration. He holds a Ph.D. from Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania; an M.A. in media Studies from Concordia University, Canada; and a B.A. in film and media studies and sociology from the University of Alberta.

Fall 2016 Speakers

Katherine Their

Kathryn Thier, SOJC Instructor

How to Recreate Your Newsroom for the Digital Age

Wednesday, October 26, 2016, 12–1 p.m., 307 Allen Hall 

How do publications embrace digital in both their working practices and their business models?  We hear from global and local editors about the impact of digital disruption on their newsroom culture and business models.

Matthew Powers

Matthew Powers, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, University of Washington

How NGOs blur the line between PR, Journalism and Advocacy

Friday, November 11, 2016, 12–1 p.m., 221 Allen Hall

Non-governmental organizations have long sought publicity to boost their organizational profiles and achieve advocacy aims. In recent years, NGOs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam have hired reporters and photojournalists to accompany research missions; utilizing corporate public relations techniques to boost brand awareness, and by experimenting with digital tools to pursue advocacy goals. This talk overviews these developments, explains their causes, and discusses their implications for journalism, advocacy and the public sphere; highlighting a larger blurring of the lines dividing journalism, public relations and advocacy in the contemporary media landscape.

Powers’s research has been published in Journal of Communication, International Journal of Press/Politics, and Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism, among others. He holds a PhD in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University.

Regina Lawrence

Regina Lawrence, Executive Director, Agora Journalism Center and George S. Turnbull Portland Center, UO School of Journalism and Communication

The 2016 Presidential Election

Monday, November 14, 2016, 2-3 p.m., EMU Diamond Lake Room

Whatever the outcome, the 2016 presidential election will have major repercussions for the future of the media and communications. This session will provide the SOJC with a unique opportunity to reflect on the impact of the 2016 race and its implications for our teaching and research.

Spring 2016 Speakers

Dennis Dimick

Dennis Dimick, former Executive Editor of Environment, National Geographic, 2016 SOJC Journalist in Residence

Visual Tour of the Earth through the Eye of a Photojournalist

Thursday, April 21, 2016, 2–3:30 p.m., 115 Lawrence Hall

As part of National Geographic’s November 2015 issue on climate change, environment editor and picture editor Dennis Dimick originated this story and edited the photography for “Pulse of the Planet,” which shows how aerial, astronaut, and satellite images reveal an amazing picture of the world we live in, how we are changing it, and what we can learn from these images.

Dimick will take you on a dramatic high-level visual tour of the earth using pictures, animations, and movies he assembled from a variety of sources, he will show a few of his own aerial images, and and he will explain how you can locate and use these same image collections yourself.

Tracie Powell

Tracie Powell, John S. Knight Journalism Fellow, Stanford University and a 2016 Journalist in Residence at the SOJC

Friday, May 6, 2016, 1-2 p.m. in 307 Allen Hall

Tracie Powell is the founder and editor of All Digitocracy, which focuses on technology, media and policy. She is currently a Knight Fellow at Stanford exploring how newsrooms can expand their audiences and connect with increasingly diverse users, such as millennials and people of color.

Tracie writes regularly for the Columbia Journalism Review and has also been published by Poynter, The Washington Post, Newsweek and People magazines.

She holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and clerked for the U.S. Department of Justice, whilst as a young journalist she worked for The Augusta Chronicle, The Austin American-Statesman and In 2006 she earned a journalism and public policy fellowship at The Ohio State University, followed by a fellowship on Capitol Hill, on the House Judiciary Committee.

Yvonne Leow

Yvonne Leow, Senior Snapchat Editor at Vox

Friday, May 20, 2016, 12-1 p.m. in 140 Allen Hall

Yvonne Leow is the Senior Snapchat Editor at Vox. Yvonne and her team has published dozens of stories, ranging from climate change, ISIS to Star Wars, on Snapchat’s Discover channel. Previously, she was a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University where she researched how to deliver news through mobile messaging platforms. Yvonne’s previous roles include being director of video at Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome, and a senior associate at North Base Media, a venture capital firm that invests in digital media startups in emerging markets. She was also the west regional video producer the Associated Press and a video journalist at the Seattle Times.

Vox joined Snapchat Discover on November 23, 2015. Six months in, how is Vox – the explainer-driven publisher – using Snapchat? What lessons have they learned so far? With 6 billion video views a day, Snapchat’s recent growth and expansion has been impressive, especially amongst millennials. So, how does Snapchat support Vox’s audience, content and revenue strategies? And how is using Discover different from harnessing other social platforms?

Claire Wardle

Claire Wardle, Director of Research, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University

Friday, May 27, 2016, 12-1 p.m. in 140 Allen Hall

The past five years have seen the most significant shift in news publishing since the invention of the printing press. Large social media platforms are becoming the principal mechanisms for delivering news to global audiences. What does this new reality mean for the platforms, news organizations and audiences in terms of business models, algorithmic transparency, privacy and ethical frameworks?

Claire Wardle leads the Tow Center’s research exploring the intersection of journalism’s democratic function and the new tools of the digital age. Alongside this, she is the co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub and a member of the World Economic Forum‘s Global Agenda Council on Social Media.

Claire was previously director of News Services for Storyful, senior social media officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and a lecturer at Cardiff University, as well as a consultant and trainer on social media. In 2009, Claire designed the social media training programme for BBC news and helped roll it out across the organisation. She subsequently trained over 3,000 people around the world from different media, NGO, Government and academic bodies.

Winter 2016 Speakers

Nic Newman

Nic Newman, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Friday, January 29, 2016

Nic Newman is a former senior BBC News executive and the lead author of the annual Digital News Report published by the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford. Nic also produces a must read predictions report every year. He was a founding member of the BBC News Website, leading international coverage as World Editor (1997-2001), and later head of product for BBC News.

His 2016 report, which was published earlier this month, highlights the rise of robo-journalists, an ongoing battle between publishers and adblockers, bendy smartphones and the role of social media in the workplace; alongside findings from a survey of 130 senior news executives across 25 countries.

These industry leaders are “worrying about digital revenues in a world increasingly affected by ad-blocking and the rise of distributed content,” Newman says, but “they are also keeping one eye on the future with plans for online video, new immersive storytelling and Virtual Reality.”

Industry priorities for 2016

  1. Investment in video: 79% of digital leaders said they would be investing more in online video – including 360-degree footage, livestreaming vertical video and virtual reality during 2016.
  1. Engagement: 54% of publishers say that deepening online engagement of audiences is a top priority for the year ahead, with 41% favouring greater reach.
  1. Data: More than three-quarters of respondents said it is very important for them to improve their use of data in the newsroom in 2016.

The Future

  1. Netflix: will continue to grow in importance. This year it will invest over $6 billion dollars (£4.1 billion) in content creation and acquisition rights.
  1. Advertising: is driving a huge demand for more online video. Online video will grow 14x in the next five years and account for 70% of mobile traffic, with more native distribution opportunities within platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, continuing to emerge.
  1. Live streaming apps become the new 24hr-news: The report predicts, “all breaking news events will be covered with LIVE video – from multiple angles and in high definition.”

The need for agility and cultural change is also highlighted.

Walls between product, commercial and editorial will continue to be reviewed and/or broken down, as cross-functional teams emerge. Respondents told the Reuters Institute:

The key challenge is… “Breaking down the walls between departments. On one side, the walls between technology, business and editorial. On the other side, the newsroom-internal ones: The walls between video, data, text, infographics, multimedia”
Anita Zielina, Editor-in-Chief New Products, NZZ

New tools such as Slack and HipChat are helping to bring down these walls.

“This tool [Slack] has completely changed how my teams interact with each other, and has had a similar effect in the newsroom – completely through organic adoption rather than any specific concerted effort”

Other important predictions featured in the report include the loss of faith in online advertising due to ad-fraud; the emergence of automated journalism with job losses in the newsroom a likely consequence; the continued rise of messaging apps and moves to speed up the mobile web.

Read more in the full report.

Jennifer Brandel, Founder & CEO ‪at Hearken
Jennifer recently founded a new audience-driven framework and platform enabling journalists to partner with the public throughout the reporting process.

Friday, February 12, 2016, 3:00-4:30 p.m. in 140 Allen Hall with reception following in the Hearth

Supported by the Agora Journalism Center, the gathering place for innovation in communication and civic engagement.

Zach Hyder

Zach Hyder, Partner at Quinn Thomas Public Affairs
How is social media changing public discourse in the Pacific Northwest and is this technology impeding critical thought or great new  pathways for greater civic engagement, corporate and political accountability, and journalistic integrity?

This session will use Quinn Thomas’ recently published research to address complex questions about the role that social media plays in shaping opinions about current events, electoral politics and policy; as well as the role of social media in tackling issues of of diversity and plurality of thought. Download the full report.

Friday, March 4, 2016, 3-4 p.m. in 211 Allen Hall with reception following in the Hearth

Dan Hon

Dan Hon, Principal at Very Little Gravitas

Friday, March 11, 2016, 3-4 p.m. in 211 Allen Hall with reception following in the Hearth

Dan Hon is a former Editorial Director at Code for America, a non-profit startup working to build government that works for the people, by the people in the 21st century and is currently working with the State of California and the Administration for Children, Youth and Families at the federal Health and Human Services agency to build user-centered digital services.

This session will explore how important editorial and content is to achieving Code for America’s mission, as well as digital transformation, strategy and product direction based on his award-winning experience as a creative director at Wieden+Kennedy for brands like Sony, Facebook and Nike, and his work in games and new media startups in London.