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
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Alex Curry (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Media Engagement. His research interests include political communication and civic engagement, and he is particularly interested in how sports tie people to their community and to each other. From 2005 to 2010, he served as a writer for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he’s not working, Alex enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife and kids.

  • Emily Van Duyn

    Emily Van Duyn
    Graduate Research Assistant

    Emily Van Duyn (M.Ed., Southern Methodist University) is a doctoral student in communication studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research explores the intersection of digital media, political discourse, and community. In her work at the center, she focuses on how news media can engage diverse audiences and encourage political discussion and community engagement. Her doctoral research focuses on the reasons why people don’t express their political opinions in public and where they may go to express those opinions in secret.

  • 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, University of Texas at Austin, 2014) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida. He also serves as a Faculty Research Associate with the Center for Media Engagement. He specializes in political communication, media content and effects, and quantitative research methods. Josh’s research is focused on how emerging communication technologies influence established agents in American political life, including news organizations and the presidency. Before joining USF, Josh served on the faculty at Purdue University, worked in public relations at the state and federal level, and worked for a member of legislative leadership in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as well as a U.S. senator.

  • 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.