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Richelle "Rich" Gordon

Richelle "Rich" Gordon


Professor and Director of Digital Innovation

Phone:847-467-5968Office: Fisk 109C

Rich Gordon, professor and director of digital innovation, came out as transgender in 2023. At Medill, she launched the school's graduate program in new media journalism and is the leader of the Media Innovation and Content Strategy Specialization. She has spent most of her career exploring the areas where journalism and technology intersect. Gordon was an early adopter of desktop analytical tools (spreadsheets and databases) to analyze data for journalistic purposes. At The Miami Herald, she was among the first generation of journalists to lead online publishing efforts at newspapers. At Medill, she has developed innovative courses through which students have explored digital content and communities and developed new forms of storytelling that take advantage of the unique capabilities of interactive media. In addition to teaching and writing about digital journalism, she was director of new communities for the Northwestern Media Management Center, where she oversaw a research initiative focusing on the impact of online communities, including social networks, on journalism and publishing. Gordon also was a co-founder of Medill's Knight Lab.

Journalism Career

Gordon majored in history at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also studied computer programming and served as managing editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian, the university’s independent student newspaper. She began her professional career at the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, serving as reporter, bureau chief and assistant state editor. At the Times-Dispatch and later at The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, she began using computers to analyze data such as property assessments, regional demographics and patterns in criminal justice. At the time, this discipline was called “computer-assisted reporting”; today we would call it data journalism.

At the Post, Gordon served as assistant city editor and projects editor before moving to The Miami Herald. She served there as weekend editor and newsroom technology coordinator, continuing to develop and oversee precision journalism projects. During the 1990s, she designed and delivered training in precision journalism tools and techniques on behalf of the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. In 1995, the Herald named Gordon its first new media director. She hired the team that launched an array of websites for The Herald, in English and Spanish. She ran the Herald’s web publishing team for four years before coming to Medill to direct the new media program.

Medill Accomplishments

At Medill, Gordon directed or co-directed more than a dozen of Medill’s “innovation project” classes in which students developed new products or experimented with new technologies relevant to journalism. Projects led by Gordon led directly to the launch of new products, including a website and weekly magazine for young adults in suburban Chicago, an innovative website for teens in Davenport, Iowa, and a hyperlocal website in Holland, Mich. Two of the innovation projects involving his students – in 2004 and a “locative storytelling” class he directed in 2008 – were recognized as “notable entries” in the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism.

Gordon also played a key leadership role in the first two years of News21, a multimedia reporting project financed through a grant from the Carnegie-Knight Journalism Initiative. For the 2006 project, she served as multimedia advisor to the Medill project, which focused on privacy, civil liberties and homeland security. In 2007, when the project focused on faith and religion, she was multimedia advisor for all four schools involved (Medill, Columbia, UC-Berkeley and the University of Southern California).

In 2007, Gordon was one of the first round of winners in the Knight News Challenge grant competition, winning $639,000 (the fifth largest of 20 grants awarded) to allow Medill to offer full scholarships to its master’s program in journalism to people with backgrounds or experience in computer programming. A key feature of the scholarship program was that the winners enroll in one of the innovation project classes. The project class enrolling the first two scholarship winners developed News Mixer, a website demonstrating new approaches to building online conversations around local news.

In 2011, with three other Northwestern faculty members, Gordon co-founded Medill’s Knight Lab, which researches and develops new technologies relevant to journalism and offers courses to undergraduate and graduate students.

Gordon also contributed to Medill’s Social Media Marketing Massive Open Online Course through Coursera.