• Journalism

John P. Wihbey

Associate Professor of Media Innovation and Strategy

John Wihbey is an associate professor in the College of Arts, Media and Design at Northeastern University, where he heads the graduate programs in the School of Journalism and Media Innovation. He is the author of The Social Fact: News and Knowledge in a Networked World (MIT Press, 2019). His research and teaching interests focus on the intersection of news and social media; civic and political knowledge levels in society and the relationship with media consumption and access; data journalism and visualization; misinformation and media literacy; and issues of policy relating to social media platforms. He serves as  Lead Investigator for the Ethics of Content Labeling Project at Northeastern’s Ethics Institute, which is exploring various aspects of social media content moderation.

He has worked in news media, including for The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.) and the NPR show “On Point,” served as an advisor to social media companies, and was an assistant director at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. He has also served as a consultant to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and on the advisory board of Project Information Literacy. 

An affiliate of the Northeastern School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity (CLIC), John co-founded Northeastern’s Co-Laboratory for Data Impact. His writing and research has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, as well as Journalism Practice, New Media & Society, Newspaper Research JournalJournal of the International Symposium on Online JournalismThe International Encyclopedia of Journalism Studies, and Oxford Research Encyclopedias. His research has received awards from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ), and Kantar Information Is Beautiful. 

John is also a faculty affiliate with the Global Resilience Institute and the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks. He has been general co-chair of the Computation + Journalism Symposium in 2020 and 2021. He is a graduate of Bowdoin College (magna cum laude); holds an M.A. from Middlebury College and an M.S. from Columbia University; and is completing a Doctor of Education from Northeastern University, with a dissertation focused on the creation of new research institutions working at the intersection of technology and democracy. 


  • Research support from: Twitter, Inc., Stanton Foundation, Barr Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, Knight Foundation, Facebook, Inc., CAMD's Dean's Office, NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, and Northeastern's Global Resilience Institute.

Courses Taught

  • Telling Your Story with Data
  • Digital Storytelling and Social Media
  • Fundamentals of Digital Journalism
  • Understanding Today's News (honors)
  • Media and Advocacy in Theory and Practice

Research/Publications Highlights

“The Bipartisan Case for Labeling as a Content Moderation Method: Findings from a National Survey” (co-author), Ethics Institute Working Paper, Northeastern University, September 2021

“Informational Quality Labeling on Social Media: In Defense of a Social Epistemology Strategy” (co-author), Yale Journal of Law and Technology, September 2021

Backfire Effects after Correcting Misinformation Are Strongly Associated with Reliability” (co-author), Journal of Experimental Psychology (forthcoming)

“Sizing Up ‘Media Twitter’: Exploring Population Extent, Beats, and Utility of Social Media” (co-author), ICOMTA’21 – The 2021 International Conference on Communication and Applied Technologies, September 2021

“Digital Democracy: Accelerating a New Field of Knowledge,” John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Report, January 2021

“The Emerging Science of Content Labeling: Contextualizing Social Media Content Moderation” (co-author), Ethics Institute Working Paper, Northeastern University, December 2020

“Open Data for Better Research on Social Media Platforms” (co-author), The Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, December 2020

“High School Student Views on the First Amendment: Trends in the 21st Century” (co-author), John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Report, November 2019

“Net Neutrality,” Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2nd Edition, November 2019

•  “Breaking News and Younger Twitter Users: Comparing Self-Reported Motivations to Online Behavior” (co-author), SMSociety ’19 Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Social Media and Society, July 2019

•  “The Local-Mobile Paradox: Missed Innovation Opportunities at Local Newspapers” (co-author), Newspaper Research Journal, May 2019

•  The Social Fact: News and Knowledge in a Networked World, MIT Press, April 2019

“Reinventing Local TV News: Innovative Storytelling Practices to Engage New Audiences” (co-author) Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, February 2019

“Newsroom Textual Analysis and Visualization Tools Built With R Shiny,” (co-author) Computation + Journalism Symposium, February 2019

“Credentialing Issues,” The International Encyclopedia of Journalism Studies, May 2019

“The Social Silos of Journalism: Twitter, News Media, and Partisan Segregation,” (co-author) New Media & Society, October 2018

“Process of Simulating Tree Rings for Immigration in the U.S.,” (co-author) Berlin: IEEE VIS Arts Program Annotated Projects, 2018

“How Students Engage with News,” (co-author) Project Information Literacy Research Institute, October 2018

“Funding the News: Foundations and Nonprofit Media,” (co-author) Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, June 2018

Predicting News Coverage of Scientific Articles,” (co-author) Proceedings of the Twelfth International Conference on Web and Social Media, ICWSM 2018

“State-level Policies for Personal Financial Disclosure: Exploring the Potential for Public Knowledge on Conflict-of-Interest Issues,” (co-author) Law & Policy Division, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference, August 2017

“Collaborative, Open, Mobile: A Thematic Exploration of Best Practices at the Forefront of Digital Journalism,” (co-author) Storybench.org Project, Northeastern University School of Journalism, May 2017

“Knowing the Numbers: Assessing Attitudes among Journalists and Educators about Using and Interpreting Data, Statistics, and Research,” (co-author) #ISOJ — The Official Journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism, April 2017

“Journalists’ Use of Knowledge in an Online World: Examining Reporting Habits, Sourcing Practices and Institutional Norms,” Journalism Practice, November 2016

“Communicating about Climate Change with Journalists and Media Producers,” (co-author) Oxford Research Encyclopedias – Climate Science, January 2016

“The Challenges of Democratizing News and Information: Examining Data on Social Media, Viral Patterns and Digital Influence,” Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, June 2014

“Who Gets a Press Pass? Media Credentialing Practices in the United States,” (co-author) Berkman Center Research Publication, Harvard University, June 2014


Selected media publications:

Reinventing Local TV News Part I: The Case for Video Innovation and Animation,” RTDNA, June 2021. Accompanying research slides for download.

“Content Labeling: ‘Soft’ Interventions and Hard Public Problems,” Yale Law School/Knight Media Forum, December 2020.

“Mobile Matters — and Publishers Must Remember That, Even When Resources Are Limited,” Poynter, June 21, 2019

“How to Save the News Media,” The Atlantic, April 1, 2019

“Prescription for Journalists from Journalists: Less Time Studying Twitter, More Time Studying Math,” The Conversation, May 1, 2019

“It Is Really Hard to Know What is Real,” Nieman Reports, Oct. 16, 2018

• “200 Years of U.S. Immigration Looks Like the Rings of a Tree,” National Geographic, June 28, 2018

“The Syrian Migrant Crisis You’ve Never Heard of—and Why It Matters Today,” Pacific Standard, March 9, 2017

“There Are Huge Holes in How the U.S. States Investigate Politicians’ Conflicts of Interest,” The Washington Post, Jan. 12, 2017

“Why It’s So Hard to See Politicians’ Financial Data,” The New York Times, Oct. 4, 2016

“Big Data’s Impending Struggle to Combat Climate Change,” Pacific Standard, April 23, 2016

“From ‘Facebook Revolution’ to ‘Twitter Jihad’: Five Years on, How We Got from Tunisia and the Arab Spring to Where We are Now,” Pacific Standard, Dec. 17, 2015

“The Looming Battle for Clean Data,” The Boston Globe, Nov. 22, 2015

“Does the Secret to Social Networking Lie in the Remote Jungle?” The Boston Globe, Oct. 4, 2015

“Agricultural Drones May Change the Way We Farm,” The  Boston Globe, Aug. 22, 2015

“At Sea in a Deluge of Data,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 7, 2014

“Rethinking Viral: Why the Digital World is Not as Democratic as We Think,” Pacific Standard, June 9, 2014

“Aaron Swartz and the Cause of Openness,” The Boston Globe, Jan. 8, 2014

Research Interests

  • digital storytelling
  • History of information technologies
  • journalism/media entrepreneurship
  • social media