About Us

With local journalism in crisis, Northwestern University has assembled a team of experts in digital innovation, audience understanding and business strategy. The goal: reinvent the relationship between news organizations and audiences to elevate enterprises that empower citizens.

The Problem

Changing business models and shrinking coverage

  • Local news coverage across America is shrinking.

    Without robust local news, citizens will not have the information they need for their everyday lives about their community’s government institutions, schools, businesses and neighbors.

  • The business model that has supported local news reporting in cities across the United States has been greatly disrupted.

    Steep revenue losses have led to cuts that hinder local news outlets’ ability to provide information about local government, civic institutions, businesses, schools and residents. Northwestern and Medill are uniquely positioned for this project because of our nationally recognized, leading-edge data mining, research and development expertise.

The crisis in journalism has turned into a crisis of democracy... The reporter shortage means residents don’t have the information to make decisions for their families or to hold institutions accountable.

Steve Waldman, President, Report for America

The People

The Local News Initiative is led by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Medill, a leader in education since 1921, is conducting groundbreaking research and training a new generation of multimedia journalists and marketing professionals to thrive in an increasingly challenging atmosphere.

Tim Franklin

Senior Associate Dean

Franklin is in charge of the Local News Initiative. Before joining Medill, he was President of The Poynter Institute, a leading international school for journalists and a media think tank. After high-ranking jobs at the Chicago Tribune, he was the top editor of three other metro newspapers, the Indianapolis Star, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun. He also was Washington Managing Editor for Bloomberg News.

Owen Youngman

Professor and Knight Chair in Digital Media Strategy

Youngman, a former Senior Vice President for Strategy and Development at the Chicago Tribune, is a pioneer in news website development, having created chicagotribune.com. He also directed the launch of RedEye, the Tribune’s daily for young urban commuters. In addition, Youngman was Associate Managing Editor/Financial News and Managing Editor/Features in a 37-year career at the Tribune.

Beth Bennett

Associate Dean of Journalism, Assistant Professor

Bennett is an award-winning producer and reporter with more than 15 years of experience in broadcast television news and video production. Before joining Northwestern’s full-time faculty in 2006, Bennett was an on-air reporter for television stations in Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wis., and Traverse City, Mich.

Stephanie Edgerly

Associate Professor

Edgerly specializes in audience insight, conducting research into how features of new media alter the way people consume news and how new media affects political engagement. She is a Faculty Associate at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research.

Rachel Davis Mersey

Executive Director, Media Leadership Center

Mersey is an associate professor at Medill and a fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. Now working on her third book, Mersey is the author of an influential 2010 book assessing the future of local news, Can Journalism Be Saved? Rediscovering America’s Appetite for News.

Aubrey Baron

Adjunct Professor, Research Assistant

Baron's journalism experience ranges from covering the New York Stock Exchange to writing about politics on Capitol Hill. Her work has been published by The Atlantic, USA Today, Bloomberg News and MarketWatch. She's spent most of her career in Chicago TV news. Baron teaches multimedia journalism at Medill and is a freelance writer.

Spiegel Research Center

Medill’s Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center, a leader in consumer and audience-based research on customer engagement that drives financial outcomes, will analyze anonymous data about reader’s engagement and subscription behaviors for the project’s three Learning Labs.

Tom Collinger

Executive Director

Collinger, former Associate Dean and Medill IMC Department Chair, is also an associate professor and an expert in integrated marketing communications; direct, database and e-commerce marketing management; customer loyalty; customer relationship management; and channel integration. Collinger also is president of The TC Group, a marketing strategy firm.

Ed Malthouse

Research Director

Malthouse is the Erastus Otis Haven Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications at Medill. He also has an appointment in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences' Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences. Malthouse is an expert in applied statistics, market research and media marketing.

Morana Fuduric


Fuduric is a research affiliate at Spiegel and assistant professor in the marketing department, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, Croatia. She earned her Ph.D. in communication sciences at Universita della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, Switzerland. Her research interests include advertising, digital media and marketing strategy.

Yasaman Kamyab Hessary

Post-doctoral Fellow

Kamyab, a post-doctoral fellow at Spiegel, received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her dissertation explores agent-based computational economics models with emphasis on herding behavior.

Yayu Zhou


Zhou is a second-year PhD student in Industrial Engineering and Management Science at Northwestern University. Her research interests are applied statistics and data science.

Knight Lab

The Northwestern Knight Lab, a leader in developing digital storytelling tools and platforms, will use data analysis from the Local News initiative to create new products, tools and approaches to strengthen local news organizations and better serve their audiences.

Zach Wise

Associate Professor

Wise is an Emmy Award winning interactive producer and Associate Professor at Northwestern University. His work at the Las Vegas Sun and The New York Times has been recognized by ONA, NPPA, the Pulitzer Prize, the Peabody Awards , the Emmy awards, and numerous other industry honors. He has created several very popular tools for storytellers and journalists. Over 600k people have used Timeline JS and StoryMap to create stories seen by over a 100 million people each year. Timeline is also available in more than 65 languages and is used by major news organizations all over the world.

Joe Germuska

Chief Nerd

Germuska runs Knight Lab’s technology, professional staff and extracurricular activity. Immediately before joining the lab, he was a founding member of the Chicago Tribune’s News Apps team. He is the founder and project lead of the Census Reporter project, a website designed to make Census data easy for journalists. He also serves on the board of City Bureau, a Chicago-based civic journalism lab. His technology background is balanced by his BA in African History and MS in Product Design and Development Management, both earned from Northwestern.

Other Team Members

Susan Zukrow

Project Manager

A former Director of Business and Product Development at the Chicago Tribune, Zukrow is a principal at the Bascom Hill Group LLC management consulting firm. She works with organizations’ project teams to strengthen audience engagement, implement new products and achieve business goals.

Mark Jacob


A former Metro Editor at the Chicago Tribune and Sunday Editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, Jacob is chronicling the Local News Initiative’s progress for the project’s website. He is the co-author of six books on history and photography.

Jeannette Hinkle


Hinkle, a master's student at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, is assisting the Local News Initiative in highlighting challenges and opportunities in today's local news ecosystem. Before coming to Northwestern, she reported for a set of GateHouse Media-owned newspapers on Boston's North Shore.

Hannah Farrow


Farrow is a journalism student at Medill, with a focus on magazine writing. She interned at the Tampa Bay Times and freelances for several publications.

Learning Lab Partners

While the Local News Initiative will share results widely, we're working closely with the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Indianapolis Star to ground our work in real issues faced by local news organizations. These three Learning Labs are sharing data with us and will benefit from our analysis.


The Tribune, founded in 1847 and long known as a Republican paper, helped get Abraham Lincoln elected president, and its editorial criticizing Richard Nixon was a key milestone in the demise of his presidency.


The Star was founded in 1903 by businessman George F. McCulloch, who hired a balloonist to drop half a million red paper stars over the city as a publicity stunt. A cartoonist in the Star’s early years, Johnny Gruelle, was the creator of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls.


Founded by the de Young family in 1865 and originally called the Daily Dramatic Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle became part of the Hearst chain in 2000. The Chronicle has won six Pulitzer Prizes, including one for famed columnist Herb Caen.


The research and development work of the Northwestern Local News Initiative is being supported by approximately $1 million in grants and gifts. Three foundations are backing the local news project, including the Lilly Endowment, the McCormick Foundation and The Indianapolis Foundation. Several individuals have generously provided significant gifts to support this important initiative. They include: John Mutz, a Medill alumnus, the former Lieutenant Governor of Indiana and President of PSI Energy, the state’s largest utility company; Myrta Pulliam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and philanthropist; and Mark Ferguson, a Medill alumnus and Partner at the Chicago law firm of Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott.