This fall, the West Virginia University Reed College of Media will add two new media innovators to its roster of experts to help launch a new reporting project focused on the region’s water quality issues.

John Keefe, senior editor for data news at public radio station WNYC in New York, and Dave Mistich, digital editor and coordinator for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, will work with faculty and students on a water quality reporting project using new sensor technology.

Keefe and Mistich are the College’s newest Innovators-in-Residence, a program that was recently expanded with the help of $200,000 in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The additional funding will allow the College to expand its existing Innovator-in-Residence program over the next two years, embedding innovators from both national and regional organizations. These Innovators-in-Residence are partnered with college faculty to co-teach experimental courses, exposing students to emerging technology and creating new practices for the industry.

This fall, Keefe and Mistich will partner with Teaching Assistant Professor Emily Corio and Associate Professor John Temple to launch “Stream Lab,” a community reporting project focused on water quality. Students enrolled in the experimental journalism class will conduct research using sensors to increase public engagement around contaminated water issues in West Virginia.

Led by Corio and Temple, the multidisciplinary team also will include investigative and environmental reporters from West Virginia media and faculty from the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

Sensors will be placed in public waterways in Morgantown and other areas around the state. Students and community members will be able to access readings of real-time water quality parameters and enter additional data and personal observations through a mobile app.

Keefe, a pioneer in sensor reporting best known for his groundbreaking sensor project Cicada Tracker, says this experiment is new and exciting territory.

“For this project, we will be using inexpensive, water-sensing devices that didn’t even exist a few months ago,” said Keefe. “I’m excited to work with WVU students, staff and partners to explore what’s possible, to see what stories we can find and to share our success – and our failures – with the wider journalism and public-science communities.”

The project will be financed through a $35,000 micro-grant from the Online News Association (ONA). ONA announced earlier this year that “Stream Lab” won its competitive Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, which encourages journalism programs to experiment with new ways of providing news and information and to seed collaborative news experiments in living labs – their communities.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Mistich says that, given recent evolutions in the media industry and in his own newsroom, projects like “Stream Lab” can prepare students to be leaders in media innovation.

“At West Virginia Public Broadcasting, we’ve put an increasing emphasis on digital news. From live blogging to data visualizations to aggregating breaking news through social media, we’ve seen how much experimentation and innovation can capture an audience and keep them coming back,” said Mistich. “It’s an exciting time to be a news professional and an even more exciting time to help the next generation of students who are bound to take the field to a whole new frontier.”

Associate Professor Dana Coester, who is the creative director for the College’s Media Innovation Center and directs the Innovator-in-Residence program, says collaborating with industry professionals gives students a unique learning experience.

“What I love most about our Innovator-in-Residence program is it gives our faculty, students and friends in the industry an opportunity to experiment and problem solve together around shared passions,” said Coester. “It’s serious work – media that matters – but it’s also fun. There is a wonderful energy and camaraderie that comes out of this unique kind of classroom.”

John Keefe leads WNYC’s data news team, which infuses the station’s journalism with data reporting, investigations, visualizations and interactives. Keefe previously led WNYC’s news operation and is an adjunct instructor in the Journalism + Design program at The New School, an adviser to and part of a small hardware-hacking group called Team Blinky. He blogs at and tweets at @jkeefe.

As West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s first digital editor and coordinator, Mistich oversees news coverage online and works with the news staff in developing new and unique ways of telling stories on the Web. He is an award-winning reporter and has contributed to National Public Radio newscasts and newsmagazine programs including “All Things Considered.” He tweets at @davemistich.

Keefe and Mistich are the College’s third and fourth Innovators-In-Residence. The College developed program in 2014 to bring to campus top media professionals who are leading experimental change in their newsrooms and has hosted Sarah Slobin, senior graphics editor at The Wall Street Journal, and Derek Willis, New York Times interactive developer and data journalist, for two previous projects.



CONTACT: Kimberly Walker, WVU Reed College of Media

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