Computation + Journalism Symposium

Data Journalism in an Expanded Field

February 19, 2021

Co-hosted by Northeastern and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation

C+J 2021 — A virtual gathering

From the outset, 2020 looked like it would be a year of data and computation in journalism. Think of the events that were planned — from the 2020 Presidential Election to the decennial census, to the Summer Olympics, to the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Each of these stories had rich possibilities for collaborations between journalism and the computing and data sciences. Tragically, as we know well, an even bigger story dominates the news, COVID-19. As the full force of the pandemic continues to unfold, we see that it is a story also told in data, in models, and in predictions — helping the public make critical decisions about the health of their families and communities.

The Computation+Journalism (C+J) conference is a venue where journalists and researchers meet. It is a setting where news organizations can learn about new methods to source, produce and distribute their journalism, and where researchers in the computational and social sciences learn about important open questions that news organizations are struggling with, from business models to database technologies, to new frameworks for data visualization.

Like most meetings of its kind, C+J has historically been an in-person affair. And the COVID-19 outbreak gives us two choices — cancel the conference or expand it in ways that were previously unthinkable. The program committee has decided on the latter. 


Call for Participation  

C+J 2021 will be a much bigger, more inclusive conference than anything we have attempted before. The fact that people no longer have to travel to make substantial contributions at an event like this lowers the barriers to entry. We will hope to attract both researchers and creators with some curiosity about journalism, as well as news organizations looking to expand their reporting capabilities or experiment with new ways to present stories — from our traditional audience of computing researchers and social scientists, to artists and digital humanities scholars, to historians, geographers and architects… maybe a chef or a theater company to keep things lively?

We will borrow from the organizational structure used by the Joint Statistical Meetings led by the American Statistical Association. People can participate in one of several ways.

  1. Propose a contributed talk with an abstract of at most 250 words. These separate talks will be divided into sessions by the Program Committee.
  2. Propose a contributed session with three or four speakers. Each speaker will provide an abstract of at most 250 words, and the session organizer should submit a similar abstract describing the overall topic of the session.
  3. The Program Committee will organize several invited sessions.
  4. The Program Committee will invite a slate of keynote speakers.

Talks and sessions might cover a tool or methodology that could support new kinds of reporting or storytelling. Perhaps you’re a social scientist with a new way to think about public opinion. Or you are a researcher in the digital humanities with a fresh approach to thinking about collections of texts, who they are about and what they describe. Or you’re a media artist with a new visualization of event-based data, exploring the temporality of how things unfolded. You might consider a session on the the description of a significant collaboration between journalists and some other field, perhaps discussing the backstory to a complicated piece of reporting. Riffing a bit more, what about talks introducing the new hybrid methods of epidemiology and anthropology, to help journalists find and tell better stories about COVID?

New kinds of data, new kinds of analyses, new kinds of narrative  — sessions at C+J 2021 might explore their use in journalism, in helping the public understand complex issues like climate change or COVID or charges of post-election fraud. Truly, the possibilities are endless.

The deadline for submissions has now passed. Thank you to all who have submitted proposals.

Join us!

A number of speakers and sessions had been arranged through our previous Call for Proposals, pre-COVID. These are just the beginning of the program for C+J 2021. By reopening the Call, our goal is to make the symposium for 2021 a big, big tent with lots of opportunities to meet and talk. Success for C+J 2021 will be measured in new published stories, new lines of research, and new cross-professional collaborations. Our goal with this program is to reimagine the ways researchers, creators and journalists work together.

Because C+J 2021 will be virtual, attendance is easy. Drop in for a talk, a panel or the whole day! More information on registration coming soon.

Keynote Speakers

Amanda Cox

Data Editor, The New York Times

Deen Freelon

Associate Professor, UNC Hussman School of Media and Journalism

David Rothschild

Economist, Microsoft Research

Sponsors & Partners

Logo for Northeastern University's Khoury College of Computer Sciences northwestern univ. logologo for NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks

Please contact us if you have questions. Email Matt Carroll at