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Michael Silver to head Knight News Innovation Lab

First-of-its-kind lab brings together journalists, technology experts for improved news

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July 5, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold
Michael Silver

Michael Silver

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Michael A. Silver, a former newspaper and television journalist with more than 25 years of experience in interactive information services, will head Northwestern University’s Knight News Innovation Laboratory. The first-of-its-kind lab brings together journalists and computer scientists to improve the news and information people use to understand their communities and run their lives. 

A joint initiative of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the new Knight News Innovation Lab seeks to accelerate local media innovation. 

“The Knight Lab presents a unique opportunity to foster innovation through technologies with appeal to traditional news providers as well as the many new voices that are shaping the way we keep up with news today,” said Silver, former executive director of The Newspaper Consortium. The consortium is comprised of 32 newspaper companies working with Yahoo! and Monster to advance their technology, advertising and distribution services.

Silver, who will serve as executive director of the Knight News Innovation Lab effective July 25, said he looks forward to working with newspapers, broadcasters and a booming community of independent online publishers to develop new ideas for reporting, analyzing and disseminating news.

As vice president at Tribune Media Services, Silver led the expansion into online content and services and, before that, identified Quantum Computer Services as an investment vehicle. That move brought the Tribune into the emerging online information sector. Its 10 percent purchase of Quantum (later America Online) was among the most lucrative venture investments made by a news company and provided a framework for Tribune’s groundbreaking work on AOL and on the World Wide Web.

“Mike’s depth of experience in digital technologies, publishing, news and media is exactly what we need to move the Knight Lab forward,“ said Kristian J. Hammond, director of the Medill-McCormick Center for Innovation in Technology, Media and Journalism. “With him at the helm we are set to transform a set of exciting possibilities into a brilliant reality.”

“It’s no longer enough to just produce great content in the digital space,” added John S. and James L. Knight Foundation vice president for journalism and media innovation Michael Maness. “We hope this program will fuse the best thinking of journalism and technology to drive new levels of engagement in media innovation.”

The Medill-McCormick Center -- created in 2009 as a driver for the development of innovative ideas, media technologies, people and products -- is home to the Knight News Innovation Lab. The lab already has begun to partner with Chicago-area media organizations to help them create and package content, engage audiences and improve their capacity to finance a better flow of local news and information.

The Knight Lab is supported by a four-year, $4.2 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.