Skip to main content
Rich Gordon

Rich Gordon

Professor and Director of Digital Innovation

Rich Gordon is a professor and director of digital innovation. At Medill, he launched the school’s graduate program in new media journalism and is the leader of the Media Innovation and Content Strategy Specialization. He has spent most of his career exploring the areas where journalism and technology intersect. Prof. Gordon was an early adopter of desktop analytical tools (spreadsheets and databases) 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 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, he is director of new communities for the Northwestern Media Management Center, where he is responsible for a research initiative focusing on the impact of online communities, including social networks, on journalism and publishing.

Journalism Career

Gordon majored in history at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also studied computer programming and served as managing editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian, the university’s independent student newspaper. He began his professional career at the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, where he served as reporter, bureau chief and assistant state editor. At the Times-Dispatch and later at The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, he began using computers to analyze data such as property assessments, regional demographics and patterns in criminal justice. In the journalism field, this kind of work has been called “precision journalism” and “computer-assisted reporting.”

At the Post, he served as assistant city editor and projects editor before moving to The Miami Herald. He served there as weekend editor and newsroom technology coordinator, continuing to develop and oversee precision journalism projects. During the 1990s, he 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 Prof. Gordon its first new media director. He hired the team that launched an array of Web sites for The Herald, in English and Spanish. He ran the Herald’s Web publishing team for four years before coming to Medill as chair of the new media program.

Medill Accomplishments

At Medill, Gordon has directed or co-directed more than a dozen of Medill’s “innovation project” classes in which students develop new products or experiment with new technologies relevant to journalism. Projects led by Prof. Gordon have led directly to the launch of four new products, including a Web site and weekly magazine for young adults in suburban Chicago, an innovative Web site 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, he 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, he was multimedia advisor for all four schools involved (Medill, Columbia, UC-Berkeley and the University of Southern California).

In 2007, he 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 Web site demonstrating new approaches to building online conversations around local news.

Rich Gordon also teaches in Medill’s Social Media Marketing Massive Open Online Course through Coursera.

Areas of Research

  • Wrote “The Definitions and Meanings of Convergence,” a chapter in Digital Journalism: Emerging Media and the Changing Horizons of Journalism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). It was republished with the publisher’s permission in the Online Journalism Review.
  • Wrote “The Online Community Cookbook," a guide for newspapers on successfully creating, nurturing and expanding interpersonal communities on the World Wide Web.
  •  Served as editor and project manager for “Online Advertising Networks: Disruption – and Opportunity – for Media Businesses," a Media Management Center report released in early 2009.

Authored Works

  • A series of case studies in online audience development at newspaper Web sites.
  • “Build a network, not a destination," published on the Readership Institute Web site, 2007.
  • “Data as journalism, journalism as data,” published on the Readership Institute Web site, 2007.
  • “Online Opportunities Make Journalism’s Future Bright, Despite Gloomy Feelings,” article for the Online Journalism Review, 2006.
  • “Can newspapers be saved?” critique of the Newspaper Next initiative, published on the Readership Institute Web site, 2006.
  • “Identifying the Online Audience,” downloadable spreadsheet tool distributed through the Newspaper Association of America to enable newspaper Web site managers interested in comparing their site’s performance to its peers. (July 2004, updated in 2005)
  • “How Transistor Radios and Web (and Newspapers and Hi-Fi Radio) are Alike,” article written for The Cole Papers, a newsletter for the publishing industry. (June 2005)
  • “Sizing Up Online Audience Measurement Services,” package of three articles for the NAA Web site probing issues involved in online audience measurement. (February 2005)
  • Contributions to “E-Media Tidbits” Weblog, Readership Institute “Get Smart About Your Readers” blog, PBS Idealab blog.

Awards And Honors

Prof. Gordon has served as a consultant, researcher and writer for the organizations including Newspaper Association of America, Pulitzer Newspapers, Paddock Publications and Grainger Corp. He speaks regularly to professional and industry groups, such as American Business Media, the Online News Association, the U.S. State Department, Reed Business Information, Inland Press Association, the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, the National Investor Relations Institute and the Norwegian Press Institute. He directs seminars in new media strategy for mid-career media executives in programs run by the Northwestern University Media Management Center and the Inter-American Press Association.