Knight News Innovation Lab Seeks Executive Director

    by Rich Gordon
    March 7, 2011

    The Knight News Innovation Laboratory at Northwestern University, whose mission is to “accelerate media innovation” in the Chicago region and beyond, is seeking an executive director.

    The lab, supported by a four-year, $4.2 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is part of the Medill-McCormick Center for Innovation in Technology, Media and Journalism. When the grant was announced last month, Eric Newton, vice president of Knight’s journalism programs, described it as a “pioneering partnership between a school of journalism and a school of engineering.”


    The executive director will oversee the Lab’s operations and staff — which will include at least three full-time software developers and a marketing/outreach coordinator — and will work closely with Northwestern faculty and students. He or she will report to the Center’s management committee, which consists of me and Owen Youngman from the Medill School of Journalism, and Kristian Hammond and Larry Birnbaum of the electrical engineering and computer science department of the McCormick School of Engineering.


    This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to help drive media innovation in local communities, who understands media technologies and has a track record of successfully managing interdisciplinary teams and projects.

    The Knight Lab will partner with media organizations in the Chicago area to test, deploy and refine technologies that can be valuable to local publishers — from large commercial media companies to nonprofit organizations that serve niche audiences. A top priority in the Lab’s earliest work will be to evaluate open-source software already developed through the Knight News Challenge and other grantees from Knight Foundation’s $100 million media innovation initiative.

    The Knight Lab will review the News Challenge software and identify projects with the greatest value for local publishers and media users. It will adapt, improve and develop the technology to better meet audience and market needs, working with partners to deploy it and measure results. The lab will also work on technologies originally developed at Northwestern and elsewhere.

    Those interested in the job can apply through Northwestern’s jobs portal at http://www.northwestern.edu/hr/jobs.

    UPDATE: The Northwestern University job-application system is unavailable until March 14 due to a system upgrade.  The full job description is provided below.

    If you wish to apply for the job (as of March 14 or later), browse to http://www.northwestern.edu/hr/jobs and:

    • Click on “Academic/Administrative Jobs.”
    • Select “An external applicant”
    • Enter “Knight Lab” in the search box.

    Executive Director, Knight News Innovation Lab

    March, 2011

    The newly founded Knight News Innovation Lab at Northwestern University is seeking an Executive Director. The Lab is a program of the Medill-McCormick Center for Innovation in Technology, Media, and Journalism.

    This person will direct the activities of the Knight News Innovation Lab; directly manage the Lab’s business development activities; indirectly manage its software development activities; and serve as a single point of contact between the lab and its principal funder (the Knight Foundation) and its partners (principally media organizations operating in the Chicago news ecosystem). The executive director will work with faculty to plan strategy and resource allocation for the Lab, manage its budget, and directly supervise a director of software engineering; a marketing/research director; and an administrative assistant.

    This is a term position ending 2/28/2015.

    Principal accountabilities:

    • Help to shape the vision and strategies of the Lab through appropriate policy setting, communications, management initiatives, and other actions, working in collaboration with the Management Committee of the Center for Innovation in Technology, Media and Journalism; lead and participate in the development and implementation of Lab projects and programs.

    • Lead the development of a culture of innovation, experimentation and research that will establish the Lab, Northwestern University, and the Chicago region as leaders in developing and deploying technologies that engage media consumers and meet their needs for local news and information.

    • Communicate the status and results of the Lab’s efforts to relevant audiences, including but not limited to funders; partners; University faculty, staff, and students; the news media; and the journalism and technology communities.

    • Engage and include Northwestern faculty and students in the efforts of the Lab in ways that support the Lab’s initiatives, the faculty’s research interests, students’ educational goals and career opportunities, and the schools’ pedagogical and curricular goals.

    • Work with students, faculty and administrators to foster the growth of interdisciplinary collaborations at Northwestern and beyond.

    • Build relationships with publishers, news organizations and journalists that ensure ongoing input into projects being considered developed by the Lab.

    • Make regular presentations of potential Lab initiatives to the members of its advisory board, making recommendations as to their pursuit based on regular consultation with the Management Committee.

    • Appear regularly in public to raise the profile of the Lab and advance its goals, particularly in regards to its business development and fundraising efforts

    • Manage the $1 million-plus annual budget of the Lab, authorizing expenditures necessary to achieve its objectives in ways that are consistent with the broad scope of the position and appropriate University policy.

    • Direct, hire, supervise, motivate, develop and evaluate the staff assigned to the Lab. Establish and approve schedules; direct workload and workflow, or delegate such tasks as appropriate (e.g. to the director of software engineering); approve time off; track whereabouts; log vacation reports; manage discipline problems in conjunction with Human Resources staff; conduct performance reviews and prepare the annual salary plan.

    • Coordinate the efforts of participating University faculty in a way that advances and achieves the Lab’s goals, helping to match faculty members with appropriate projects and research and allocating the resources necessary for successful research and project completion.

    • Supervise both the Lab’s overall project schedule and the schedules of active and planned projects, ensuring their timely completion within agreed-upon budgetary parameters and, importantly, their subsequent adoption by participating partner organizations.

    • Hire independent contractors to provide consulting services as required to fulfill the needs of the Lab.

    Minimum Qualifications:

    M.B.A. or equivalent experience in managing multi-functional organizations, preferably in the media sector, with an emphasis on business development and partnership development and an entrepreneurial focus.

    • Experience in working with professionals in marketing, technology, editorial content, and business systems.

    Minimum Competencies:

    • Excellent leader, manager, supervisor and administrator who functions at peak levels in a team environment.

    • Proven track record in working with multiple stakeholders in a way that balances their interests and priorities.

    • Proven track record of managing complex interdisciplinary projects with technology components to successful completion, ideally within a media enterprise.

    Tagged: knight foundation knight news innovation laboratory medill school northwestern

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