Students pose for a photo. They are wearing purple shirts with the Northwestern Medill logo on them and sitting with the Willie the Wildcat mascot.

Our Future

Headshot of Charles Whitaker.
Charles Whitaker

As Medill moves into its second century, we are not content to rest on our laurels. We open this next chapter of the Medill story with an eye toward burnishing our already strong reputation as one of the world’s preeminent schools of journalism and integrated marketing communications.

Our curriculum will continue to be augmented with a host of real-world experiences that provide our students with myriad opportunities to apply their skills in professional settings. We will not only be an innovative training ground for aspiring storytellers and marketers, however.

We also will be a guiding force in the creation and implementation of new ventures that help transform the worlds of marketing, media and strategic communications as we plow deeper into the 21st century.  Our faculty will remain engaged as practitioners and scholars, undertaking path-breaking work that sheds new light on the human condition and moves the industries we serve forward.

Among the key initiatives that will play an important part of our future is research that focuses on the sustainability of media, as well as data-driven storytelling and decision-making. We will experiment with machine learning and artificial intelligence and become a standard-bearer in diversity, equity and inclusion. Medill’s future is as bright and limitless as our imaginations. We look forward to the exciting new endeavors that lay before us.

Charles Whitaker (BSJ80, MSJ81)
Dean and Professor

Faculty Perspectives on Our Future

"To stay safe in a pandemic, broadcast news has had to improvise—doing interviews via Zoom and on-camera work with smartphones. These newsgathering tools will not go away post-pandemic, but will be part of a revised tool kit, letting reporters be more nimble and reach out to more diverse sources/voices."
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Craig Duff
"Big data generated in digital brand environments will be used to generate customer insights, automate the creation of personalized and targeted messages, assess and measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and provide the information needed to make better-informed strategic decisions."
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Edward Malthouse
Erastus Otis Haven Professor and Research Director of Spiegel Research Center
"Having the chance to empower the next generation of investigative journalists is a true privilege. Accountability reporting is essential to our democracy, and in working with students at Medill, I am certain the future is in good hands."
Debbie Cenziper
Associate Professor and Director of Investigative Reporting
"News media has been reckoning with what it means to be 'objective,' which has too often actually meant being subjectively for the status quo. It's meant not interrogating power or confronting racism or homophobia. We are creating journalism that always interrogates power, in the service of finding truth."
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Steven Thrasher
Assistant Professor and Daniel H. Renberg Chair
"In the past century, each prevailing media technology represented a singular narrative form: oral, written, visual and/or video. In the next century, digital technology will allow all of these forms to co-exist without one dominating the other. Our scholarship will focus on transmedia storytelling to engage with audiences."
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Judy Franks
Assistant Professor
"Public policy reporting will be crucial to explaining the profound issues facing the U.S. but also faces the challenge of restoring public confidence in Washington journalists. Students will learn skills for deep, accurate reporting while harnessing technology and social platforms to ensure access to accurate information."
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Ellen Shearer
William F. Thomas Professor; Co-Director, National Security Journalism Initiative; Washington Bureau Chief
"Data will help editors understand what stories engage subscribers and how subscriber engagement indicates subscriber retention. Editors will use this data to shape decisions about what news to present to subscribers. Medill will lead the way in researching new models of subscriber engagement to support the sustainability of news."
Headshot of Jonathan Copulsky.
Jonathan Copulsky
Senior Lecturer and Executive Director of Medill Spiegel Research Center
"At Medill, amplifying diverse voices in learning, teaching and research is more than an agenda. It’s a responsibility. In the years to come, I look forward to Medill leading the long overdue shift toward more inclusive scholarship on audiences and data in the fields of communications, marketing and journalism."
Danielle Robinson Bell (BSJ99)
Assistant Professor
"Local news is the oxygen of our democratic society. That won't change. How local stories are told and delivered will change dramatically. Medill will continue to be a national leader in new forms of storytelling through journalistic innovation and understanding local news audiences' needs through data-driven research."
Headshot of Tim Franklin.
Tim Franklin
Senior Associate Dean, Professor and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News
"The eCommerce space will continue rapid growth and evolution over the next five to 10 years. The definition of 'retail' will undergo a transformation as more companies embrace social commerce, and traditional distribution systems will be disrupted by brands positioning themselves closer to the consumer through direct subscription programs."
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Chris Cahill
"Data science methods like statistical modeling are increasingly visible and sometimes criticized in reporting on topics like COVID-19 and elections. The media must take a more intentional and effective approach to communicating uncertainty in these times. My data journalism courses treat acknowledging and expressing uncertainty as critical skills."
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Jessica Hullman
Associate Professor
"The pandemic has shown that news consumption habits are susceptible to macro shifts in society. Going forward, news organizations will need to increase their understanding of their audiences in order to adapt to these shifts and find new opportunities for growth."
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Stephanie Edgerly
Associate Professor and Director of Research
"Automation, powered by artificial intelligence, will drive productivity gains as critical to newsrooms as was the introduction of desktop computers and mobile phones. The Knight Lab will continue to lead this evolving industry, exploring new ways to use automation and inventing new techniques that advance journalism and storytelling."
Headshot of Jeremy Gilbert.
Jeremy Gilbert
Knight Professor in Digital Media Strategy