ProPublica investigative journalist Julia Angwin and data scientist Jeff Larson are leaving the company to start a newsroom built around investigating technology and algorithms, the two announced this week.
After almost a decade, I’m leaving @ProPublica to start a new thing with @JuliaAngwin. I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done, and in awe of the great work @ProPublica does.— Jeff Larson (@thejefflarson) April 9, 2018
We plan to scale up our investigations into technology and algorithms. Wish us luck y’all!
Some personal news: today is my last day at ProPublica. I’ve loved my time here, but I’m starting a crazy adventure. I want to see if I can scale up my style of tech-driven investigations by building a newsroom around it. /1— Julia Angwin (@JuliaAngwin) April 9, 2018
If ever there was a time when journalists needed to work harder to analyze the impacts of technology on society, this is it. So @thejefflarson and I are going to give it a try. /2— Julia Angwin (@JuliaAngwin) April 9, 2018
As Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress this week about Facebook’s failure to protect user data, the timing of this new venture seems particularly good — but, Angwin told me, it’s been a long time coming. She was at The Wall Street Journal for 13 years, and in 2010 she built an investigative team there that paired programmers and journalists and produced a three-year series called “What They Know,” looking at the rise of the surveillance economy. Her book Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance was published in 2014.
“I’ve long wanted to build a newsroom around this concept of pairing technical experts with journalists,” Angwin told me in an email. “So that is what this newsroom will be about.” Her cofounder, Jeff Larson, has been at ProPublica for over 10 years as a web developer and data scientist and has been on the programming side of much of the work Angwin’s done there.
The new venture, which will be a nonprofit funded by donations and philanthropy, will be based in New York City, with a presence in the Bay Area. “We will cover the impact of technology on society,” Angwin told me. “That includes covering the big platform companies, but also the tech that is used in other aspects of life — hopefully through investigations like the ones we did of the racial bias in software used in criminal justice and the algorithms that generate unjustifiably higher car insurance prices in minority neighborhoods. We also plan to build tools, similar to the Facebook Political Ad Collector that we built at ProPublica, that allow the public to understand technological issues.”
Angwin and Larson hope to start hiring in the fall, with a launch in early 2019. "We hope to build a substantial newsroom that aims to publish daily,” Angwin said.