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Medill, Google partner to support under-resourced news investigations

$2 million will help reporters working on stories for local and underrepresented communities

Medill and Google News Initiative logos.
$2 million will help reporters working on stories for local and underrepresented communities.

EVANSTON, ILL. -- Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications today announced a $2 million partnership with the Google News Initiative (GNI). The Data-Driven Reporting Project will bolster the school’s efforts to advance local news and investigative journalism. The project, which Medill will lead, will award funds to investigative journalists working for local news outlets and outlets serving underrepresented communities across the U.S. and Canada.

“Local journalism is critical to the strength and health of our democracy, but sometimes journalists from smaller news outlets, or freelance writers, don’t have access to the technology and resources to help uncover the information their readers, listeners or viewers need to make informed decisions,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “The Google News Initiative’s support for Medill’s Data-Driven Reporting Project will help address this gap. We are deeply grateful to Google for this partnership.”

The Data-Driven Reporting Project will award $2 million to journalists working on document-based investigative projects. The GNI’s investment will also help cover expenses related to these projects including acquisition, storage and processing of documents, staffing and training costs, travel or equipment.

"Google is dedicated to supporting quality journalism to help ensure communities get access to the essential news they need. We're proud to partner with Medill and the Knight Lab to support investigative journalism through the Data-Driven Reporting Project. We look forward to the impact this project will bring to those underserved and underrepresented by local news," said Megan H. Chan, News Ecosystem lead at Google.

Medill will provide specialized training, expertise and resources to award recipients, who will be selected by a panel of Medill faculty, journalists and technologists.  

“We want to empower the next generation of investigative reporters by democratizing the tools and technologies needed to tell meaningful stories based on large data sets,” said Jeremy Gilbert, Medill professor and Knight Chair in Digital Media Strategy. “It is our aim to build stronger communities among journalists who are working on similar stories. We also want to grow the data commons for the entire community by asking award recipients to add the data they use to publicly accessible repositories, so that other news outlets may explore it.”

The Data-Driven Reporting Project builds on Medill’s commitments to investigative journalism, local news and the intersection of technology and journalism. The Knight Lab, where the project will be housed, is a community for journalists, technologists and designers who work together to develop new reporting tools.

Supporting journalists all over the world and creating tools to help them do their work more efficiently, regardless of their organization’s size, is an essential part of the Google News Initiative. Last year, the GNI launched Journalist Studio, a suite of Google tools to help journalists.

In addition to a long history of collaboration with Medill, Google has partnerships with Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, McCormick School of Engineering and others across the University.

Applications for the Data-Driven Reporting Project will be available in late 2021.