Knight Center year in review: In 2019, 30,000 students in our online courses, ISOJ’s 20th anniversary & much more

Over the past year, the Knight Center has served thousands of journalists from around the world through a mix of online courses, events, publications, and news coverage.

In 2019, we reached more than 30,000 students from 160 countries through our pioneering distance learning program; we brought together 450 journalists from 43 countries during the 20th anniversary of our International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ); and we published nearly 900 stories about press freedom and violence against journalists in Latin America, as well as stories about media innovations and collaborations throughout the region.

As we approach the end of the year, we invite you to look back at the Knight Center’s activities in 2019 and look ahead to what we have planned for 2020.


In 2019, the Knight Center offered 12 online courses that reached nearly 31,000 students from more than 160 different countries. Since launching our massive online courses in 2012, we’ve reached more than 195,000 students from 200 countries and territories.

Our 2019 courses, which were offered in English, Spanish and Portuguese, focused on topics such as product management, news algorithms, machine learning, audience engagement, and navigating misinformation. They were taught by 25 experts, including Chalkbeat’s Becca Aaronson, the University of Miami’s Alberto Cairo, Quartz’s John Keefe, First Draft News’ Claire Wardle, Google News Initiative’s Simon Rogers, and Alvaro Justen from Brazil’s School of Data.

Promotional banner for Knight Center MOOC offered in English, Spanish and Portuguese (Filipa Rodrigues)

Many journalists have reached out to us over the past year to say that the Knight Center’s courses have influenced them and their work. In some cases, the courses have prompted change in newsrooms. An editor from Science News, for instance, took our product management course with six of his colleagues and said it inspired them to begin having weekly product thinking meetings. “We’ve already started work as a product team together, trying to nail down strategies & vision," he told us shortly after the course ended.

Many of our courses were the result of collaborations with other organizations. In the spring, for instance, we worked with the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to offer a Spanish-language course for judges and other justice system operators in Latin America. The course helped 2,113 judges and other justice system operators reinforce their knowledge about the international legal framework that govern freedom of expression, access to public information, and the protection of journalists.

In the fall, we offered our most ambitious course to date: our first-ever trilingual course, “Data Journalism and Visualization with Free Tools,” in association with Google News Initiative. The course was offered in English, Spanish, and Portuguese simultaneously and attracted nearly 13,000 students from 160 countries. In the coming months, we’ll be adding the materials from this course to the Knight Center’s library of self-directed courses. You can see our growing library -- which features videos, readings and other materials from our courses -- here.

We have several new courses lined up for 2020, focused on topics such as investigative journalism in the digital age, creating effective and engaging newsletters, and the ethics of data journalism.


The Knight Center celebrated the 20th anniversary of its International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ) in April, attracting 450 participants from 43 countries. Many more followed the symposium from afar via our expansive online coverage, including live video streaming on YouTube.

The symposium, which has been held annually at the University of Texas at Austin since 1999, bridges the gap among professional journalists, media executives, digital news innovators and academic researchers in the U.S. and abroad. In bringing together such a diverse array of attendees and speakers, we provide journalists from around the world with an opportunity to engage in dialogue, explore collaborations, and share insights about the latest developments in online journalism.

For its 20th anniversary, ISOJ attracted a diverse group of 80 speakers from 13 countries. Of the speakers, 51% were women and 26% were women of color. Here’s a snapshot of some of the speakers who joined us:

● Henry Blodget, co-founder, CEO, and editorial director, Insider, Inc

● Selymar Colón, vice president and editor in chief, digital news, Univision

● Clay Eltzroth, product manager, Bloomberg

● Lisa Gibbs, director of news partnerships, Associated Press

● Tony Haile, CEO, Scroll

● Ling Jiang, senior data scientist, Washington Post

● Steve Lickteig, executive producer, podcasts and audio, NBC News and MSNBC

● Patricia Campos Mello, reporter and columnist, Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil

● Cinthia Membreño, director of digital strategy, Confidencial, Nicaragua

● Ryan Nave, editor-in-chief, Mississippi Today

● Katie Sanders, managing editor, PolitiFact

● John Thornton, venture capitalist, co-founder of Texas Tribune and the American Journalism Project

● Millie Tran, deputy off-platform editor, New York Times

● Emily Withrow, director, Quartz Bots Studio

 Blanka Zöldi, journalist, Direkt36, Hungary

You can see a full list of our speakers here and can visit our ISOJ archive to watch videos and read transcripts from every ISOJ talk dating back to 1999.

Our 2019 speakers shared their experience and expertise on topics such as rebuilding trust in media; automation and the future of fact-checking, subscriptions and memberships, covering an online president, and sustaining local journalism in online markets. All of their talks had simultaneous interpretation into Spanish, allowing for greater participation from Spanish-speaking attendees.

The 2019 symposium also featured academics who contributed to the research component of ISOJ, which has been in place since 2014. Scholars from around the world submitted papers to a blind review process, and four winners then presented their research at the symposium. Their research, which focused on digital media and democracy in the Americas, was published in the 2019 edition of #ISOJ, the official journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism.

2019 ISOJ 20th Anniversary Reception (Erika Rich-Knight Center)

In the lead-up to ISOJ, we held two other events: A Hackathon, in partnership with the Texas Tribune, and a workshop for female leaders in digital journalism, in partnership with the Knight Foundation and the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF). The Hackathon, which focused on boosting trust in news, attracted 70 journalists, developers, and designers from the local Austin community and 10 countries: Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Lebanon, Mexico, Syria, Tajikistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela. The Knight Foundation-IWMF workshop, meanwhile, attracted about 70 attendees who explored how women can develop strategies for dealing with online harassment.

Additionally, we held our 12th annual Iberian American Colloquium on Digital Journalism, a Spanish-language seminar offered to ISOJ attendees from Latin America, Spain and Portugal. The Colloquium attracted 125 journalists who came together to discuss digital media innovations in the region, freedom of press challenges, and solutions for addressing these challenges.

The Colloquium featured several moving conversations with journalists who are facing press freedom issues across the region, including one with a group of journalists from Nicaragua. During the panel, which took place almost exactly one year since the mass protests in Nicaragua began, journalists (and attendees) were moved to tears when talking about attacks against themselves, colleagues, and their newsrooms. At the end of the panel, Colloquium attendees signed a declaration in which they rejected attacks on the media in Nicaragua and demanded the release of imprisoned journalists. Media outlets such as La Prensa reported on the declaration.

We hope you’ll join us for the 21st annual ISOJ, which will be held April 24-25 at the University of Texas at Austin, and the 13th annual Colloquium, which will be held on April 26. Registration will open in January, and we’ll post related updates on isoj.org.


The Knight Center’s trilingual blog, Journalism in the Americas, published nearly 900 stories in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, throughout the past year. The stories focused on issues related to press freedom in Latin America, as well as the ways in which journalists are taking innovative approaches to reporting and storytelling.

Here’s a look at 10 of our most read headlines from the past year:

Over the past year, we’ve been working on a redesign of Journalism in the Americas, which will become a more robust online news site featuring in-depth, original reported stories about media in Latin America. In the new year, we will launch the newly redesigned site, along with a new Knight Center institutional website and a new Journalism Courses site that will feature digital journalism resources and course offerings.


In 2019, the Knight Center invited several speakers to the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin to talk about their work and share lessons learned. The talks were open to students and the general public and featured the following seven speakers:

  • Alfredo Corchado, Dallas Morning News Mexico correspondent
  • Angela Korchega, Albuquerque Journal border correspondent
  • Nicole Tung, Istanbul-based photojournalist who covers the Middle East
  • John Thornton, venture capitalist founder of The Texas Tribune and The American Journalism Project
  • Danielle Villasana, Istanbul-based photojournalist
  • Brian Winter, editor of Americas Quarterly magazine and former Reuters correspondent in Latin America
  • Michelle Breyer, journalist and entrepreneur, founder of Naturally Curly

In addition to our speaker series, we held an event, “Media and Democracy in Times of Digital Cholera and Polarization in Latin America,” in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin’s Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. The event featured talks with four prominent Latin American journalists:

From L, Gabriela Warkentin, Luz Mely Reyes, Leandro Demori, Pedro X. Molina and Rosental Alves (Teresa Mioli-Knight Center)

Collectively, they shared stories about their work and how they’re navigating challenges related to polarization, censorship and a lack of press freedom in Latin America.


In 2019, we added a new report, “Membership in News & Beyond: What Media Can Learn from Other Member-Driven Movements,” to the Knight Center’s digital library. The 45-page report, which is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, was the result of a collaboration between the Knight Center and the Membership Puzzle Project.

“Membership in News & Beyond: What Media Can Learn from Other Member-Driven Movements

The report, written by Emily Goligoski and Matt Thompson, looks at how organizations outside of media -- such as churches, meditation centers, the Burning Man Festival and more -- are finding creative ways to build, retain, and grow memberships.

The five key takeaways involve focusing on members’ values, connecting members to a bigger purpose, identifying solutions to membership-related problems, providing a range of options for support, and growing at a strategic pace.


We’re grateful for our supporters who help make our work possible, including the Knight Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Google News Initiative, Microsoft, Facebook, UNESCO, Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the ICHR/OAS, and more. We wouldn’t be able to carry out our work if it weren’t for the foundations, media organizations and individuals who support it. If you’d like to show your support, you can make a tax-deductible donation to the Knight Center here.

We’re grateful for the Knight Center community and look forward to serving you in the new year. We hope you’ll register for our courses, follow our blog, read our publications, and join us for ISOJ in April. There is much to look forward to in the year ahead!