Launched in 2011, the Knight News Innovation Lab is a joint initiative of the Medill and McCormick schools at Northwestern, seeking to come up with new innovations in journalism. In July they hired Miranda Mulligan as their new executive director. North by Northwestern sat down with her and talked about recent developments in online journalism and what the Knight Lab has planned going forward.
What is the Knight Lab?
Basically, it’s a group of journalists and technologists working on building software and prototypes around building a smarter, more meaningful web for journalism.
In your Medill bio, you describe yourself as an “Internaut!” What do you mean by that?
I mean it like “astronaut.” If someone has trepidations about entering the online world, you should instead take it as “I’m exploring space, but I’m not afraid.” We’re foraging into digital publishing here, but we’re not afraid that we don’t know the answer. With the Internet, we’re talking about a content delivery system. Digital is just how we’re communicating these days.
What did you think of Newsweek ending its print publication?
This is just the way we do things. When you’re making business decisions, some of them are going to be uncomfortable. This is going to be happening more going forward, but we’re still going to be writing things and printing things on paper. That’s not going away. It may not be our primary form of communication, but it won’t go away.
What do you plan to bring to Knight Lab going forward?
What we’re working on right now is extending our editorial branch. Goal is to use our website to talk about what other people in the field are doing as well. We just hired a student to handle our social media, with goals of increasing our Twitter follow, managing how much we need to be online and looking for stories about the intersection of technology and media. At the end of each week, he’ll be doing a “this week on Twitter” blog post. As in, “if you read nothing else this week, check out these five stories.” We’re also hiring bloggers to produce content similar to the Nieman Lab at Harvard, to pay attention to things like Guardian’s beta website launch today. It will help our community stay on top of the digital publishing world.
How do you think your background will help you as the head of the Knight Lab?
I’ve worked every visual job in a newsroom. I was a print designer, I’ve written for print and I’ve done interactive graphics. As far as the Internet goes, I’ve done it all, and I’ve done it all in newsrooms. So it helps give me a unique perspective. I understand all sides. I love journalism. I always describe myself as a journalist. Well, a designer first, but a journalist second.