John Wihbey is an assistant professor of journalism and media innovation at Northeastern University, where he serves as graduate programs advisor and as a faculty affiliate with the Global Resilience Institute and the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks. He is a Dean’s Research Fellow in the CAMD Data Storytelling and Exploration Collaborative. His forthcoming book is The Social Fact: News and Knowledge in a Networked World (MIT Press, Winter 2019).
Previously, he was a lecturer at Boston University and an assistant director at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, where he helped found and oversee the Journalist’s Resource project. He has co-led a project investigating patterns of state-level financial disclosure and government transparency issues, and a project examining foundation funding for the nonprofit news sector. Currently, he is working on research relating to the reinvention of local television for the digital age. An advisory board member of Project Information Literacy, he is also co-researcher on a national study of college students’ news consumption habits.
John has published commentaries and articles in media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, USA Today, Pacific Standard, National Geographic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nieman Journalism Lab and Yale Climate Connections. His research has been published in Journalism Practice, Journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. His professional media background includes stints as a reporter for the Star-Ledger (N.J.) and as a producer and digital editor for the NPR-syndicated show “On Point,” from WBUR-Boston.
He taught at The Roxbury Latin School in Boston after college. He is a graduate, magna cum laude, of Bowdoin College; he studied abroad at Lady Margaret Hall College, Oxford University, and holds master’s degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. He lives with his family in Arlington, Mass.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Middlebury College: M.A.
Columbia University: M.S., Journalism
Bowdoin College: A.B.
Media Appearances (5)
How to get science research covered in the press
News @ Northeastern
“In some ways, this study is a warning shot across the bow,” said journalism professor John Wihbey, who co-authored the paper along with computer science professor David Smith. “Should scientists be working harder to make their work comprehensible? Should journalists take a broader view of what research topics are worth reporting? If a computer can predict what we are going to do, maybe we need to rethink our habits of how we determine what is a science story and what isn’t?”...
Foundation funding helps keep journalism alive—but most money goes to a select few nonprofit media outlets
News @ Northeastern
The researchers—including John Wihbey, assistant professor of journalism, Silje Kristiansen, a postdoctoral associate in communication studies, and Aleszu Bajak, a lecturer in journalism—analyzed more than 30,000 journalism and media-related grants totaling nearly $1.8 billion from more than 6,500 foundations between 2010 and 2015.
“In the media discussion circles, ProPublica and the Texas Tribune are the darlings of all of us who are hoping for a brighter future in news,” said Wihbey, who is writing a book on the future of news in a networked world. “What our research shows is that when you really drill down, there’s not that much funding going to local or state news nonprofits.”...
Machines are writing news stories. Does that mean robots will replace reporters?
News @ Northeastern
Not so, says Northeastern assistant professor John Wihbey, who is writing a book on the future of news in a networked world. But journalists are going to have to refine the concept of what is compelling news.
The stories that will rise to the top are the ones that only humans can unearth: stories that are analytical, critical, that synthesize the infinite amount of information available online...
Don't expect 'fake news' to disappear in 2018
News @ Northeastern
John Wihbey, assistant professor of journalism and new media, agreed, saying “the Trump critique is extremely powerful among some segments of the population.” But he also emphasized the need for reporters to get their stories right. “Before they go public,” he said, “they need to make sure their scoops are bullet proof.”...
Study asks whether reporters are influenced by who they follow on Twitter
Columbia Journalism Review
“We know journalists are spending an enormous amount of time on Twitter,” John Wihbey, an assistant professor at Northeastern and one of four authors of the study, tells CJR. “It’s at once a water cooler for journalists, but it’s also an important place where we’re spending a lot of time. We wanted to take individual journalists and say, ‘Is there any correlation between the ideological leaning of the people they follow and their published output?’”...
John Wihbey, Kenneth Joseph, Thalita Dias Coleman and David Lazer
"The present work proposes the use of social media as a tool for better understanding the relationship between a journalists’ social network and the content they produce. Specifically, we ask: what is the relationship between the ideological leaning of a journalist’s social network on Twitter and the news content he or she produces? Using a novel dataset linking over 500,000 news articles produced by 1,000 journalists at 25 different news outlets, we show a modest correlation between the ideologies of who a journalist follows on Twitter and the content he or she produces. This research can provide the basis for greater self-reflection among media members about how they source their stories and how their own practice may be colored by their online networks..."
J Wihbey, TD Coleman, K Joseph, D Lazer
The present work proposes the use of social media as a tool for better understanding the relationship between a journalists' social network and the content they produce. Specifically, we ask: what is the relationship between the ideological leaning of a journalist's social network on Twitter and the news content he or she produces? Using a novel dataset linking over 500,000 news articles produced by 1,000 journalists at 25 different news outlets, we show a modest correlation between the ideologies of who a journalist follows on Twitter and the content he or she produces. This research can provide the basis for greater self-reflection among media members about how they source their stories and how their own practice may be colored by their online networks. For researchers, the findings furnish a novel and important step in better understanding the construction of media stories and the mechanics of how ideology can play a role in shaping public information.
Cities around the world are consuming land at a rate that exceeds population growth, according to the 2016 Atlas of Urban Expansion—a precise analysis of 200 global urban growth boundaries drawn from satellite images, population figures, and other data. Produced through a partnership among the United Nations Programme for Human Settlements, the New York University Urban Expansion Program, and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the study parses the drivers and effects of sprawl and creates the basis for a science of cities. This article examines some of the critical findings of the Atlas of Urban Expansion, such as a general trend of falling density across the world's cities, as well as the identification of a variety of aerial visual signatures of unplanned settlements. Future data collection challenges and implications for land use policy are discussed.
J Penn, J Wihbey
The advent of social media and peer-to-peer technologies offers the possibility of driving the full democratization of news and information, undercutting the agenda-setting of large media outlets and their relative control of news and information flows. We are now about a decade into the era of the social Web. What do the data indicate about changing news flows and access/consumption patterns in the United States? Are we witnessing a paradigm shift yet, or are legacy patterns reasserting themselves?
This paper brings together media industry data and perspective — from NPR, the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal — with a growing body of social science and computational research produced by universities and firms such as Microsoft Research and the Facebook data science team, as well as survey findings from the Pew Research Center. The bulk of the evidence so far complicates any easy narrative, and it very much remains an open question if we can expect a more radically democratized media ecosystem, despite promising early trends and anecdotes. As I review the evidence, I aim to highlight lessons and insights that can help those thinking about and operating in the social media space. This paper also aims to serve as an accessible survey of news media-related topics within social science and social network analysis scholarship.