Sarah Cohen, New Knight Computational Journalism Prof at Duke

New Professor Will Focus on 'Computational Journalism'

SarahCohen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and expert oncomputer-assisted investigative journalism, has been named to theKnight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


SarahCohen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and expert oncomputer-assisted investigative journalism, has been named to theKnight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy atDuke University.

Cohen,database editor at The Washington Post since 1999, will lead acomputational journalism initiative spearheaded by Duke?s DeWittWallace Center for Media and Democracy (DWC). The center is focusingits scholarship and teaching on exploring new models for newsorganizations in the Internet age. DWC is a program of the SanfordInstitute of Public Policy, which is slated to become Duke?s 10thschool on July 1.

?Watchdogjournalism is increasingly at risk in the media marketplace,? said DWCDirector James T. Hamilton. ?We hope that the Knight Chair will helpsustain investigative reporting through the emerging field ofcomputational journalism. This holds the promise of combiningtraditional public records and database work with new methods and toolsadapted from other disciplines to help renew watchdog coverage. SarahCohen is the ideal person to fill this chair.?

Inaddition to teaching undergraduate courses, Cohen will help lead thedevelopment of open-source reporting tools that will help lower thecosts to journalists of discovering and researching stories, Hamiltonsaid.

Cohen shared the PulitzerPrize for Investigative Reporting in 2002 for The Post series, ?TheDistrict?s Lost Children,? which uncovered failures by child welfareagencies that contributed to dozens of children?s deaths. In 2007, shewas a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for her role in?Harvesting Cash,? a series of more than 20 articles that spotlightedabuses of the U.S. farm subsidy system.

Shealso shared the 2009 Goldsmith Award for Investigative Reporting for aseries about landlords driving tenants out of rent-controlled housingand then redeveloping the properties. She has taught journalism coursesat the University of Maryland and is the author of ?Numbers in theNewsroom: Using Math and Statistics in News.?

?I?mthrilled to contribute to Duke?s ambitious effort to preserve andexpand investigative journalism,? Cohen said. ?Reducing the cost anddifficulty of accountability reporting is a crucial element of thatmission.?

Before joining ThePost, Cohen conducted more than 100 sessions as training director forInvestigative Reporters and Editors, a nonprofit dedicated to improvingthe quality of investigative reporting through training and sharingnewsgathering techniques. She also was a reporter at the St. PetersburgTimes and The Tampa Tribune. She earned her undergraduate degree ineconomics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and wasan economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics before earning hermaster?s degree in journalism at the University of Maryland in 1992.

Cohenis the second Post journalist tapped in the last two weeks to join theDeWitt Wallace Center. Philip Bennett, former Post managing editor,also will teach at Duke beginning in the fall of 2009.

EricNewton, vice president of Knight Foundation?s journalism program, said,?We need a constant stream of new, powerful digital tools to help usknow what we need to know in the 21st century to run our communitiesand our lives. We?re delighted that a brilliant journalist and anextraordinary university are going to take on the task of creatingthem.?

The Knight Chair at Dukewas established in 1990 by a gift from Knight Foundation. WashingtonPost columnist William Raspberry held the post from 1995 until hisretirement in June 2008. Knight Foundation has established two dozenendowed chairs in journalism at top universities nationwide to teachinnovative classes, create experimental projects and new programs andhelp lead journalism excellence in the digital age.

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