hero image
Ryan Thornburg, M.A. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Ryan Thornburg, M.A. Ryan Thornburg, M.A.

Director, M.A. Program & Reese Feits Distinguished Professor, School of Media and Journalism | UNC-Chapel Hill


Director, M.A. Program
Reese Felts Distinguished Professor



Ryan Thornburg, M.A. Publication Ryan Thornburg, M.A. Publication Ryan Thornburg, M.A. Publication



loading image


Ryan Thornburg — Data-Driven Journalism — Tar Heel Talks




Ryan Thornburg has a special interest in online journalism and the future of journalism. He came to the school in July 2007.

Before coming to UNC, he spent his career in the newsroom, focusing on online journalism. Most recently, he was the managing editor of USNews.com, the online arm of U.S. News & World Report. He also served as a managing editor for Congressional Quarterly’s website, cq.com, and the national/international editor for the Washington Post’s website, washingtonpost.com.

His work in online media contributed to several professional awards, including seven EPPY awards for his work with washingtonpost.com. The EPPY Awards competition honors Internet sites affiliated with the media industry. Thornburg and his staff also have been finalists for competitions by the Online News Association.

He also has worked professionally as a producer for washingtonpost.com, managing election data, writing articles and producing breaking news. He has served as a classroom guest speaker, journalism panelist and participant for numerous media organizations.

Industry Expertise (8)

Education/Learning Print Media Research Writing and Editing Public Relations and Communications Media - Broadcast Media - Online Public Policy

Areas of Expertise (5)

Mass Communication Economics and Behaviour Media Organizations Journalism News and Broadcasting

Accomplishments (1)

Visiting Lecturer (professional)

2013 - Present

Visiting lecturer in digital media, DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University.

Education (2)

George Washington University: M.A., Political Management 2001

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: B.A., Journalism and Political Science 1997

Affiliations (1)

  • Reese Felts Steering Committee

Media Appearances (5)

Innovation and sustainability in community journalism focus of new $4 million UNC-Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism initiative

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill News  online


The research center will further allow the school to build upon its work developing new digital tools and products that can help reporters and editors be more effective and nimble in the newsroom. John Clark, executive director of the university’s Reese News Lab will lead this effort, along with professors Steven King and Ryan Thornburg. Clark, King and Thornburg have all previously been awarded Knight Foundation support for projects focused on the transformation of news in the digital age...

view more

The shady side of the sun

Daily Tar Heel  online


Journalism professor Ryan Thornburg said UNC deserves credit for the website. He said other than the University of Iowa, he hasn’t seen any other public university use a similar site.

“It’s the best effort of transparency I’ve seen at any university,” he said. “Is it as good as it should be? No, not at all.”...

view more

Need to Write 5 Million Stories a Week? Robot Reporters to the Rescue

Mashable  online


UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication Asst. Professor Ryan Thornburg agrees. “The trend in automation should free up the best writers and best reporters to add the how and why context that still needs to be done by humans,” Thornburg told me in an email...

view more

Carolina gets social

UNC News  online


It was a traditional assignment in Joe Bob Hester’s copywriting class.

When students arrived for the first class of the semester, Hester said that only three would be allowed to stay. Each student had to persuade him, in 25 words or less, on why he or she should be on that list.

“Right off the bat, this taught you three things: why you wanted to be here, who your audience was, and how to be persuasive,” says Hester, associate professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

view more

UNC journalism professor to help Duke's student newspaper's digital transition

UNC News  online


The UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication continues its tradition as a world-class resource for digital media innovation today as Duke University taps associate professor Ryan Thornburg for a key role in its student newspaper’s transition to a digital first news product.

Thornburg will be a Visiting Lecturer in Digital Media at the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at the Sanford School of Public Policy. He will continue teaching at UNC during the 9-month appointment and use the experience at The Chronicle student newspaper to further his research and publishing agenda.

view more

Articles (3)

The gap between online journalism education and practice: The twin surveys Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


This US national survey of online journalism professionals and instructors examines and compares their perceptions of skills, concepts, and duties. It offers updated insights into the changes taking place in online journalism classrooms and newsrooms, and uncovers the discordance between online journalism education and practice. The results show that online journalism education is tied to traditional journalism in many ways, but is not merely a more technologically focused version of traditional journalism. Future ...

view more

Producing Online News: digital skills, stronger stories CQ Press


Building on a foundation of news stories, Producing Online News shows students how to use the right tools to get the right information to the right people at the right time. The goal is to become a full-fledged online news producer and transform stories into a complete news experience for an ever more demanding audience. Ryan Thornburg, a journalism trainer who has managed the websites of top news organizations, hones the skills students need to produce stories using multimedia, interactivity and on-demand delivery-online ...

view more

Digital Donors: How campaigns are using the Internet to raise money The George Washington University


view more