Columbia University’s Journalism After Snowden initiative expands with new funding

Press Release

June 10, 2014


Knight Foundation joins Tow Foundation as a sponsor for the initiative headed by Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism

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"Tow Center program defends journalism from the threat of mass surveillance " by Jennifer Henrichsen and Taylor Owen on Knight Blog 

NEW YORK – June 10, 2014 – The Journalism After Snowden initiative, a project of The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, will expand to further explore the role of journalism in the age of surveillance, thanks to new funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Journalism After Snowden will contribute high-quality conversations and research to the national debate around state surveillance and freedom of expression through a yearlong series of events, research projects and articles that will be published in coordination with the Columbia Journalism Review.

Generous funding from The Tow Foundation established the initiative earlier in the academic year. The initiative officially kicked off in January with a high-level panel of prominent journalists and First Amendment scholars who tackled digital privacy, state surveillance and the First Amendment rights of journalists.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will provide $150,000 in funding to expand the initiative. The move reflects Knight Foundation’s broader efforts to ensure access to information and to promote journalistic excellence.

“Journalists have been forced to revaluate their roles, duties and how they communicate in a post-Snowden world. We owe it to them to take a hard look at the changes in the field, so that we can help ensure that press freedom continues to be a bedrock of democracy,” said Michael Maness, vice president for journalism and media innovation at Knight Foundation.

“I am thrilled that the Tow Center has the opportunity to conduct a deep dive exploration on how journalism is changing amidst a climate of rising data insecurity, state surveillance and de-institutionalization of the craft,” said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. “We are truly at a historic crossroads in the field of journalism and it’s essential to journalists everywhere that we have this critical conversation.”

The next Journalism After Snowden event will take place on June 18, when award-winning journalists and leading technologists will gather in San Francisco to develop concrete recommendations that address many of the problems facing journalists and the field of journalism in today’s surveillance state including— rising pressure between media organizations and governments, public privacy concerns, protecting digital information and legal rights. Following the discussions, journalist Glenn Greenwald will speak at Nourse Theater to discuss the state of journalism and his recent reporting on surveillance and national security issues as part of a follow-on event, jointly sponsored with Haymarket Books. Tickets are available at

Recommendations from the afternoon discussions will inform chapters of a book to be published next year. The book will seek to be the authoritative volume on the role of journalism after the Snowden revelations. Some of the notable contributors include former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, legal expert David Schulz and best-selling author Julia Angwin.

Beginning in September, the Tow Center will co-host a lecture series with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, which will explore the implications of state surveillance on free and open communications and the practice of journalism.

Journalism After Snowden will also partner with the Pew Research Center to conduct a survey of investigative journalists and their digital security practices. Additional research will evaluate how newsrooms and journalism institutions are discussing and implementing digital security practices and curricula. The research findings and recommendations will be presented during a daylong conference in Washington, D.C., in December.

Funding to the Journalism After Snowden project forms one part of Knight Foundation’s support to the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. In April 2004 Knight Foundation invested $1 million in the Tow Center to advance research into best practices in digital news.

About the Tow Center for Digital Journalism

Established in early 2010, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism explores the ways in which technology is changing journalism, its practice and its consumption—particularly as consumers of news seek ways to judge the reliability, standards and credibility of information. The Center provides journalists with the skills and the knowledge to lead the future of digital journalism and serves as a research and development center for the profession as a whole.

Operating as an institute within Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, the Tow Center is poised to take advantage of a unique combination of factors to foster the development of digital journalism. Its New York location affords access to cutting-edge technologists, a strong culture of journalism and multiple journalism and communications schools, with outstanding universities attached to them. The Tow Center is where technology and journalism meet, and where education and practice meet.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit


Sabina Lee, Public Affairs Officer, Columbia University, 212-854-5579, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]