The Knight News Innovation Laboratory at Northwestern University is seeking a director of software engineering and several developers interested in working on software that improves the quality, accessibility or distribution of local news and information.

The Knight Lab, supported by a four-year, $4.2 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is a joint program of the journalism and engineering schools at Northwestern. It will develop, deploy and test software that fulfills the Lab’s mission of “accelerating media innovation” in the Chicago region.

The Knight Lab will partner with media organizations ranging from large commercial media companies to non-profit organizations that serve niche audiences. The Lab will explore projects that:

  • enable journalists to do a better job of reporting;
  • help news/information consumers find content that is relevant or important to them;
  • improve the way news and information is presented, organized or visualized;
  • build audience engagement with local news and information.

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“Our software engineering team will be working on diverse, exciting projects that get used by real people in the Chicago area,” said Michael A. Silver, the Lab’s executive director. “It’s a great opportunity for developers who are interested in working on software that has an impact and improves the way people find and use news and information.”

Silver is a former newspaper and television journalist who spent more than 25 years at the Tribune Co. in various executive positions related to the development, marketing and management of interactive information services. He started work as the Lab’s first executive director in July.

Looking for a ‘Player-Coach’

For the software engineering director position, the ideal candidate is a “player-coach” who has up-to-date software development skills as well as project-management experience, strong leadership skills, and familiarity with online publishing and social media. The Lab expects to work with a variety of programming languages (such as Python, PHP and SQL), frameworks (Django or Ruby on Rails), and platforms (PCs, tablets and mobile devices). At least one member of the development team should have expertise in front-end web and mobile design.

A top priority in the Lab’s earliest work will be to evaluate open-source software already developed through the Knight News Challenge and other grantees from Knight Foundation’s $100 million media innovation initiative. The Knight Lab will review the News Challenge software and identify projects with the greatest value for local publishers and media users. It will adapt, improve and develop the technology to better meet audience and market needs. The lab will also work on technologies originally developed at Northwestern and elsewhere.

The Knight Lab is part of the Medill-McCormick Center for Innovation in Technology, Media and Journalism. It is overseen by a management committee consisting of me and Owen Youngman from the Medill School, and Kristian Hammond and Larry Birnbaum of the electrical engineering and computer science department of the McCormick School of Engineering.

A more complete description of the jobs can be found below. If you are interested in any of the positions, email a cover letter and resume to knightlab@northwestern.edu.

JOB OPPORTUNITY: Director of Software Engineering

The Knight News Innovation Lab is now staffing up to help accelerate innovation in digital publishing in the Chicago area.  The Lab works with the University’s journalism and engineering schools to help local publishers create new opportunities to connect with online audiences.

The job of the software engineering director is vital to the success of the Lab in understanding the needs of publishers of all sizes in Chicagoland—from neighborhood bloggers to large media companies—and developing software that will meet those needs.  The director will manage a small team based at Northwestern’s Evanston campus, reporting to the Lab’s executive director and frequently interacting with journalists, software developers, faculty and students.

The ideal candidate has experience in managing a software development function, outstanding leadership skills and familiarity with online journalism and social media—as well as the desire to be part of a start-up team with the goal of making a big impact on publishing in Chicagoland and beyond.

Job Summary

The person in this position will direct the technical operations of the Knight News Innovation Laboratory at Northwestern University; oversee the development of software for use by the Lab and its partners and play a major role in building relationships with Chicago area software developers who will contribute to, and benefit from the work of the Lab.    

Principal Accountabilities

  • Lead a team of software engineer/developers that designs, develops, implements, tests and deploys and improves software for the creation, distribution, and consumption of news, including
    • contextual search technologies to retrieve information from databases, web sites, and social media
    • graphical visualizations to display quantitative and geospatial information to journalists and end-users
    •  hyper-local community-based information gathering and sharing tools for journalists, publishers and end-users
    • applications designed specifically to enhance information delivery on mobile devices such as phones and tablets
  • Project manage all software development, coordinating of all aspects of the development process leading to a release to Lab partners and other end-users with the levels of quality control and support appropriate for each project on a schedule determined with the executive director
  • Assemble and inspire a team dedicated to innovation, excellence and responsiveness to partner needs.  Hire, supervise and evaluate the performance of staff software engineer/developers and contractors familiar with the tools and technologies necessary to accomplish the Lab’s software projects, and make recommendations to the executive director on relevant personnel matters. 
  • Work closely with the executive director and members of the management committee to maximize the value of the Lab’s presence at Northwestern, including its faculty, students, expertise and intellectual property.  Responsible for adhering to University and Knight Foundation rules governing the use of resources.
  • Work along with the executive director and manager/digital communities to act as the operational leadership team of the Lab, recommending projects and process improvements that will enhance the Lab’s performance and effectiveness
  • Develop an understanding of the local, national and international news-oriented software community, and establish contacts and relationships that will help the Lab develop and maintain a leadership position in the field and create programs that enhance the technology capabilities of the broad community of web sites in the Chicago region.

Minimum Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
  • At least three years experience in leading a team of software developers (and/or other members of a digital publishing operation) and/or extensive experience as a developer of publishing-related software

Preferred Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in computer science or a related field
  • Experience in serving as a “player-coach” on a software development team
  • Experience in working with journalists or other content creators or in a marketing-oriented environment

Minimum Competencies

  • Programming experience with one or more of the following languages: Python, PHP, Perl, Java, and SQL and/or NoSQL (e.g., MongoDB)
  • Web server development experience, in PHP, Java, or .Net, or similar

Preferred Competencies

  • User interface development skills with HTML, including HTML5, and CSS
  • User interface and back-end development skills with iPhone and/or Android apps, and SMS-based applications
  • Able to set up and use one or more web frameworks, such as Django, CakePHP, or Ruby on Rails
  • Able to set up and use a modern source control repository, such as git or SVN
  • Able to set up and use task tracking software such as PivotalTracker
  • Able to effective apply appropriate Agile practices from XP and Scrum, such as test-driven development, time-boxed iterations, and continuous deployment
  • Able to develop and implement simple effective user testing strategies
  • Able to tune and optimize database for performance and transactional robustness
  • Able to implement secured web and mobile applications

JOB OPPORTUNITY: Software Engineer/Developer

The Knight News Innovation Lab is now staffing up help to the accelerate innovation in digital publishing in the Chicago area.  Funded by the Knight Foundation, the Lab works with the University’s journalism and engineering schools to help local publishers create new opportunities to connect with online audiences.

Our software engineer/developers will work as part of a small team based at Northwestern’s Evanston campus, frequently interacting with journalists, faculty, students and other software developers at the Lab and at our media partners.

The ideal candidate has strong technical expertise, good interpersonal skills and familiarity with online journalism and social media—as well as the desire to be part of a start-up team with the goal of making a big impact on publishing in Chicagoland and beyond.

Job Summary  

The person in this position will create innovative software for deployment on news and information sites that partner with the Knight News Innovation Laboratory at Northwestern University.

Principal Accountabilities

  • Develops software for the creation, distribution, and consumption of news, including:
    • contextual search technologies to retrieve information from databases, web sites, and social media
    • graphical visualizations to display quantitative and geospatial information to journalists and end-users
    • hyper-local community-based information gathering and sharing tools for journalists, publishers and end-users
    • applications designed specifically to enhance information delivery on mobile devices such as phones and tablets
  • Contributes to the design of Lab software
  • Tests Lab software prior to release
  • Works with partner sites to deploy Lab software

Minimum Qualification:

Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience

Preferred Qualification:

Master’s degree in computer science or a related field

Minimum Competencies: (Skills, knowledge, and abilities.)

  • Programming experience with one or more of the following languages: Python, PHP, Perl, Java, and SQL and/or NoSQL (e.g., MongoDB)
  • Web server development experience, in PHP, Java, or .Net, or similar

Preferred Competencies: (Skills, knowledge, and abilities)

  • User interface development skills with HTML, including HTML5, and CSS
  • User interface and back-end development skills with iPhone and/or Android apps, and SMS-based applications
  • Able to set up and use one or more web frameworks, such as Django, CakePHP, or Ruby on Rails
  • Able to set up and use a modern source control repository, such as git or SVN
  • Able to set up and use a continuous integration server, such as Jenkins/Hudson or CruiseControl
  • Able to set up and use task tracking software such as PivotalTracker
  • Able to effective apply appropriate Agile practices from XP and Scrum, such as test-driven development, time-boxed iterations, and continuous deployment
  • Able to develop and implement simple effective user testing strategies
  • Able to tune and optimize database for performance and transactional robustness
  • Able to implement secured web and mobile applications