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 Medill 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 and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News

Franklin is in charge of the Medill 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.

Medill Spiegel Research Center

The Medill Spiegel Research Center, a leader in consumer and audience-based research on customer engagement that drives financial outcomes, has analyzed anonymous data about reader engagement and subscription behaviors for more than 20 news outlets and has developed the pioneering Medill Subscriber Engagement Index.

Jonathan Copulsky

Executive Director

Copulsky has taught courses in marketing technology and the marketing of new products in Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program since 2015. He also serves as Program Director for the Kellogg School’s Executive Education program in Business Marketing Strategy. Copulsky previously worked as a senior marketing executive at CCH Inc. and Deloitte. He is currently working on a book on digital disruption to be published by MIT Press in 2021.

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.

Khadija Ali Vakeel


Vakeel, who works with Spiegel researchers, is an assistant professor at DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business in the Department of Management & Entrepreneurship. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Spiegel and has earned her Ph.D. in Information Systems Management. Her research interests include online retailing, social media, and service failure.

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.

Himan Abdollahpouri

Post-doctoral Fellow

Before becoming a post-doc at Spiegel, Abdollahpouri obtained his Ph.D. in information Science at the University of Colorado Boulder with a concentration on machine learning and recommender systems. His work on popularity bias in recommendation and multi-stakeholder recommender systems has appeared in top conferences such as ACM RecSys, UMAP, CIKM and journals such as UMUAI. He previously worked at Pandora Media and Spotify Research as a data science intern.

Su Jung Kim


Kim, who works with Spiegel researchers, is an assistant professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include audience measurement, cross-platform media usage, electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM), and user engagement via social and mobile media. She earned her Ph.D. from the School of Communication at Northwestern and was a post-doctoral research associate at Spiegel.

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

Penny Abernathy

Visiting Professor

Abernathy is teaching and doing research at the Medill School after serving as Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina from 2008 to 2020. A former executive with The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, she is nationally known for her “news deserts” research.

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.

Craig Duff


Duff is an Emmy award winner who leads Medill’s graduate journalism Video and Broadcast Specialization. He is the former director of multimedia at TIME.com, was a video journalist at The New York Times and worked as an executive producer at CNN. Duff previously taught at Columbia University and Princeton University.

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 eight books on history and photography.

Grace Miserocchi


Miserocchi is a Medill graduate student specializing in media innovation and content strategy. She is a fellow for Medill's Metro Media Lab and has worked as a news designer for several publications at Tribune Publishing and Gannett.

Hannah Farrow


Farrow, a Medill master’s graduate with a focus on magazine writing, is a 2020 Postgraduate Reporting Fellow at the Pulitzer Center. She interned at the Tampa Bay Times and freelances for several publications.

Melody Hoffman Guernsey


Guernsey is a Medill graduate student in the video and broadcast specialization. She worked as an Associate Producer at Big Ten Network and prior to that was a Senior Writer at JET Magazine.

Past Contributors

Tom Collinger

Retired Spiegel Executive Director

Collinger is a former Associate Dean, Medill IMC Department Chair and Associate Professor. He is 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.

Owen Youngman

Retired 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.

Rachel Davis Mersey

Former Executive Director, Medill’s Media Leadership Center

Mersey, now a University of Texas professor, is a former associate professor at Medill and fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. She 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.

Morana Fuduric


Fuduric is a former 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

Former Post-doctoral Fellow

Before Kamyab was a post-doctoral fellow at Spiegel, she 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.

Jeannette Hinkle


Hinkle, a reporter at the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass., is a Medill master’s graduate. While at Medill, she wrote for the Medill Local News Initiative, highlighting challenges and opportunities in today's local news ecosystem.

Susan Zukrow

Project Manager

Zukrow was the Medill Local News Initiative’s project manager until her death in April 2020. A former Director of Business and Product Development at the Chicago Tribune, Zukrow was a principal at the Bascom Hill Group LLC management consulting firm.

Our Media Partners

When the Medill Local News Initiative launched in early 2018, our first “Learning Lab” media partners were the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Indianapolis Star. Now we’ve worked with more than 20 media outlets on data analysis and best practices. The outlets are part of such chains as Gannett, Hearst, Tribune Publishing, Advance Local and WEHCO Media. We are also partnering with McClatchy and Mather Economics on the Medill Subscriber Engagement Index.

Advance Local Logo
Gannett Logo
Hearst Logo
Mather Economics Logo
McClatchy Logo
Tribune Publishing Logo
WEHCO Media Logo


The research and development work of the Medill Local News Initiative is being supported by approximately $1.3 million in grants and gifts. Three foundations are backing the local news project: the Lilly Endowment, the McCormick Foundation and The Indianapolis Foundation. The Medill Local News Initiative has received a Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge award to support the creation of the Medill Subscriber Engagement Index, a new tool being created with the Medill Spiegel Research Center. Several individuals have generously provided significant gifts to support the local news initiative. They include John M. 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.