Workshop participants share ideas at the Center for Media Engagement’s News Tools Workshop.

In February 2016, the Center for Media Engagement hosted its third news engagement workshop, the first to focus on news tools. The 12 digital news leaders who participated represented a variety of newsrooms: Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Daily Beast, WNYC/New York Public Radio, Houston Chronicle, KXAN (Austin NBC affiliate), Media General, GateHouse Media,, The Texas Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, and the Knight Lab at Northwestern University. During the two-day workshop, participants shared their ideas and experiences with using tools to improve engagement.

When discussing how to define a “news tool,” workshop participants came up with a short list:

  • Tools must be re-usable
  • Tools must meet a need of the news organization or the audience
  • Tools must allow for interactivity
  • Engagement tools target a news audience; production tools are used within the newsroom

With that definition of “tools” in mind, participants shared experiences and new ideas for using existing tools, as well as brainstormed an array of tools that could be used to address pressing social issues. In this report, we outline the topics that were discussed during the workshop, including:

  • What makes a tool successful? What makes a tool unsuccessful?
  • What issues are ripe for tool creation?
  • What tools could be created to combat political polarization?
  • How could news organizations get Millennials more involved in the news?


  • Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud

    Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud

    Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is the founding and current Director of the Center for Media Engagement and Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Her book, Niche News: The Politics of News Choice, received the Outstanding Book Award from the International Communication Association, and inspired the early development of the Center. Her research examines the use and effects of political news content.

  • Alexis Alizor

    Alexis Alizor
    Research Assistant

    Alexis Alizor (MA, University of California Davis) received her master’s in Sociology with an emphasis in virtual methodologies, gender, and identity. Particularly, her graduate research project focused on using virtual ethnography to understand how gender race and identity play out in online communities. She is also interested in civic and community engagement in online spaces. Prior to working with the Center for Media Engagement, she worked as an assistant instructor at the University of California Davis and as a market research associate.

  • Alex Curry

    Alex Curry
    Research Associate

    Alex Curry (MA, Brigham Young University) is a doctoral student in communication studies and an assistant instructor at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include political communication and civic engagement, and he is particularly interested in how politicians use their own personal involvement with sports as a way to connect with voters. From 2005 to 2010, he served as a writer for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he’s not studying, Alex enjoys hiking with his wife and four children.

  • Emily Van Duyn

    Emily Van Duyn
    Research Associate

    Emily Van Duyn (M.Ed., Southern Methodist University) is a doctoral student in communication studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Some of her research interests include the interaction of online news with deliberative democracy and the influence of media framing on constructions of gender and race. Prior to her doctoral work, she received a master’s in Education specializing in multicultural literacy.

  • Shannon McGregor

    Shannon McGregor
    Faculty Research Associate

    Shannon C. McGregor (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. Her research interests center on political communication, digital media, gender and public opinion. Shannon is especially interested in the ways in which emerging media behaviors create a more intimate and affective political landscape.

  • Joshua Scacco

    Joshua Scacco
    Faculty Research Associate

    Joshua M. Scacco (PhD, The University of Texas at Austin) is an Assistant Professor of Media Theory & Politics in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. He also serves as a Research Associate for the Center for Media Engagement (CME). He is interested broadly in the communicative role elites and organizations, including political leaders, journalists, and news outlets, play in American political life.

  • Katie Steiner

    Katie Steiner
    Communications and Program Coordinator

    Katie Steiner is the Communications and Program Coordinator for the Center for Media Engagement. Since joining the team in 2014, Katie has handled all communications and outreach for the project, including overseeing report releases, planning CME-sponsored events and promoting the project to the journalism industry. She previously worked as a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Bakersfield Californian and the Daily Nebraskan. She has also worked in corporate communications and public relations. A Nebraska native, Katie has a bachelor’s degree in News/Editorial and English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a master’s degree in Journalism – Public Relations from Kent State University.