Data Editor Matt Kiefer awarded Knight journalism fellowship

As a JSK fellow, Kiefer will spend 10 months at Stanford University developing technology for investigative journalism that helps protect civil and human rights.

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Matt Kiefer, Data Editor

Matt Kiefer, data editor of The Chicago Reporter, will join the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship program at Stanford University this fall to spend the 2020 academic year exploring technology applications in the area of open records laws to monitor civil and human rights.

His work aims to support the Freedom of Information efforts of local investigative newsrooms and create solutions to challenges facing modern journalism.

JSK fellows work both independently and collaboratively on what the university describes as “the most urgent problems facing journalism” today, including: challenging misinformation and disinformation; holding the powerful accountable; eradicating news deserts and strengthening local news; and fighting bias, intolerance and injustice.

“The members of our next class bring deep experience in journalism from around the world. Many of them have explored the creative edges of civic engagement, data science, technology and storytelling,” JSK Director Dawn Garcia said in a statement announcing the fellowship class of 2020, which includes 19 journalists. “They are a complementary mix of people with inventive ideas who will make terrific additions to Stanford and the JSK family.”

“I’ve spent a big part of my career applying technology and public records laws to shine a light on institutional injustices,” Kiefer said. The Chicago Reporter depends on public records to investigate issues ranging from police misconduct to consumer fraud to wage theft enforcement. “Modern investigative journalism is complicated by barriers between journalists and the records they need to report important stories. It’s time we blow up those barriers and change the game in favor of public access. I’m grateful to the JSK program at Stanford for this opportunity. And I look forward to bringing new skills and perspectives back home to Chicago.”

“Matt has been the linchpin of our most important work over the past several years,” said Chicago Reporter Editor and Publisher Fernando Díaz, “but despite his long career in journalism, he’s just getting started. We are thrilled that he will be heading to Stanford to deepen his skills and methods.”

Kiefer has worked at the Reporter since 2016, contributing to projects including Settling for Misconduct, a database of police misconduct lawsuits settled by the Chicago Police Department that was recognized with an innovation award from Investigative Reporters & Editors. He recently helped develop Chi.Vote, a collaborative voter guide to the 2019 Chicago municipal elections. He’s also the creator of FOIAMail, an open-source framework to automate and manage large-scale Freedom of Information Act requests, and spoke about FOIA automation at the IRE Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference in March. He graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a minor in education.