Columbia Journalism School Appoints Award-Winning Journalist Giannina Segnini as its First Knight Chair in Data Journalism

November 22, 2017

The Columbia Journalism School today announced award-winning investigative journalist Giannina Segnini as the school’s first Knight Chair in Data Journalism with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  Both the school and the foundation recognize the importance of preparing the next generation of newsroom leaders and are committed to the advancement of data journalism education.

“We are grateful for the Knight Foundation’s foresight about the rising importance of data and computational journalism,” said Steve Coll, dean & Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism.  “They backed our efforts in this field early on and with genuine enthusiasm. Giannina’s appointment to the Knight Chair is the happy result of the foundation’s collaboration and vision.”

A recent study by the journalism school on the state of data journalism education in the United States found gaps in data journalism training across the country. The study, funded by the Knight Foundation, also resulted in the drafting of a model curriculum that became the basis of the Journalism School's new three-semester M.S. in Data Journalism.  Segnini is the Director of the new degree program and as the new Knight Chair she joins a group of only three Knight Chairs in Data Journalism in the United States.

The goal of the Knight Chairs program, which is made up of 26 journalism experts, is to strengthen American journalism education and to ensure there are a large number of highly skilled journalists in the next century.

“It is essential that the next generation of journalists are equipped to take on new community information demands. Giannina will bring a wealth of experience to the role of Knight Chair at Columbia, helping to create lessons in data journalism training for schools across the country,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.

Segnini is a world-renowned data journalist and a public records expert who participated in reporting the Panama Papers investigation, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize last May. Additionally, a project she oversaw in collaboration with Univision that investigated the poor regulation of cruise ships this year was awarded the Ortega y Gasset prize for best multimedia coverage.

"We're witnessing a time of both renewed commitment to the journalistic mission across borders and increased attacks on the press aimed at undermining investigative reporting," said Segnini. "Data journalism is playing an important role in contributing to the first and fighting against the latter. I'm thankful for the Knight Foundation's support in recognizing the importance of data journalism education and honored to be part of the Knight Chair program."

Before joining Columbia, Segnini headed a team of investigative journalists and computer engineers at La Nación, Costa Rica’s leading newspaper. The team focused on gathering, analyzing and visualizing public databases to produce investigative projects. It was her team that processed the data and developed the interactive application for the OffshoreLeaks project that was published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2013.

Her investigations have led to more than 50 criminal cases against politicians, businessmen and public officials, and pursued by law-enforcement in Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, France, Finland and the United States.

Segnini has been an ICIJ active member since 2007 and member of its board of advisers since 2015.  Segnini is also a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Global Investigative Journalism Network, Global Editors Network, and the Instituto de Prensa y Sociedad in Latino America.

She has been awarded the Maria Moors Cabot Award (2014); the Excellence Award from the Fundación Gabriel García Márquez Para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (2013); Spain’s Ortega y Gasset Prize (2005 and 2017); the award for Best Journalistic Investigation of a Corruption Case for Latin America and the Caribbean (2005, 2006 and 2009); Costa Rica’s highest award in journalism, the Pío Víquez Prize (2013); and the Jorge Vargas Gene Award, Costa Rica’s National Journalism Award (2000, 2003 and 2004), among others.

Segnini is member of the jury for the Global Data Journalism Awards, the Gabriel García Márquez Awards and the Best Journalistic Investigation of a Corruption Case for Latin America and the Caribbean Awards.

She has served as a consultant for academic organizations around the world such as Deutsche Welle Akademie and International Academy of Journalism in Germany, the Master’s Program on Data Investigative Journalism and Visualization at El Mundo, Spain, Master de Periodismo in El País, Spain, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Universidad Javeriana in Colombia, Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, the United Nations Development Program, the Organization of American States, the United States Agency for International Development, Freedom House, Inter American Press Association and Grupo de Diarios América. Segnini was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2001-2002 and holds a degree in journalism from the Universidad de Costa Rica.