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 Stanford University is uniquely positioned to help journalists hold democratic institutions accountable and improve the flow of reliable information to the public. Those are core goals of the new Stanford Journalism and Democracy Initiative.

The Journalism and Democracy Initiative (JDI) was founded in 2018 by leaders of Stanford University’s Journalism Program, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships and Brown Institute for Media Innovation. The JDI’s mission is to foster collaborative work which advances public affairs reporting, fights against misinformation, and engages citizens on journalism’s role in a democratic society.

Other core goals:

  • To help journalists hold democratic institutions and powerful individuals accountable, particularly through better use of data and algorithms.
  • To fight against misinformation that is undermining trust in journalism.
  • To collaborate with other Stanford programs and academic departments to work on journalism challenges involving reporting, storytelling, and the distribution and consumption of news.

Stanford Journalism Program – Journalists and researchers are leading projects to lower the costs of accountability reporting through better use of data and algorithms. The first major initiative is “Big Local News,” led by computational journalist Cheryl Phillips, which collects, processes and shares governmental data that are hard to obtain and difficult to analyze; partners with local and national newsrooms on investigative projects across a range of topics; and makes it easy to teach best practices for finding stories within the data.

John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships – The JSK Impact Partnerships, an initiative of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford, leverages JSK’s connections and alumni network to accelerate progress in the journalism industry and improve the quality of news and information reaching the public. It operates in parallel with the JSK Journalism Fellowships, which each year brings diverse leaders to Stanford to work on the most urgent problems in journalism. Partners include Big Local News, which JSK supported with funding to train local journalists on how to access and use data about their communities to tell compelling investigative stories;

Brown Institute for Media Innovation – Established in 2012, the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute is a collaboration between Columbia University and Stanford University, designed to encourage and support new endeavors in media innovation. At Stanford the primary focus is on media technology, led by  Computer Science Professor Maneesh Agrawala. Among the institute’s work, Agrawala and a team of researchers are using artificial intelligence-based image, audio and transcript processing techniques to analyze data from nearly a decade of 24/7 broadcasts by CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. Their aim is to help explain why some stories get told more than others, who tells these stories, and what perspectives are included or left out.


Founders of the Stanford Journalism and Democracy Initiative would like to thank John and Laura Arnold for their generous gift in support of the Big Local News Project.