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Senior Software Engineer

  • Requisition no: 513696
  • Work type: Full Time
  • Location: Morningside
  • School/Department: Graduate School of Journalism
  • Grade: Grade 15
  • Categories: Information Technology, Research (Lab and Non-Lab), Administrative Support

Position Summary

The David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation was founded in 2012 and is a joint effort between Stanford’s School of Engineering and Columbia Journalism School (CJS). Each year, the Brown Institute awards close to $1M in grants and fellowships to foster new tools and modes of expression, and to create stories that escape the bounds of page and screen. We are committed to radical experimentation with the potential to define new priorities and practices for both engineering and journalism.


In that spirit, the Brown Institute at CJS is overseeing a newly-funded Local News Lab. The Local News Lab is applying Machine Learning (ML) to journalism, and specifically to promoting sustainable businesses by creating new reader revenue strategies.


Our team has over two decades of combined experience working in media, helping attune us to the ethical sensitivities in journalism. An Advisory Board of roughly a dozen representatives from both large and small newsrooms ensures we have input from a range of perspectives, as we move from experimentation to prototyping and production. Finally, we have a Partnerships Lead who is dedicated to the task of nurturing our newsroom relationships, so we can engage in ongoing dialogue and avoid an extractive, parachuting approach to our work.


As the first of a number of anticipated projects, we are developing an open-source smart paywall that deploys ML to go beyond one-size-fits-all solutions to audience engagement. We explicitly extend the idea of a paywall to include a variety of actions that a publisher can take to engage their readers and encourage subscription or donation. Currently, our team is exploring three avenues of data science work — paywalling likely subscribers, selecting premium content, and personalizing reader recommendations. The end goal of this work is to deploy equitable and explainable models that help local newsrooms sustain their businesses. All code will be Open Source and there will be options for easy deployment via APIs and custom machine instances.


  • Oversee the daily operation of and overall planning for the project team, consisting of Software and Machine Learning developers, a Designer, a Partnership Lead, and graduate students in the computational or data sciences. Work with the Brown Institute Director, the Advisory Board, and the team’s Partnership Lead to specify the functionality of the overall paywall system, and assess the range of IT infrastructures in newsrooms on top of which the product needs to function.


    Create the project’s formal specifications, and set technical milestones, together with the full

    development team. Assign specific tasks to the project’s development team, supervise individual developers, and explicitly track team progress.


    Identify collaboration opportunities with possibly existing development efforts in the same paywall “space” — the goal of this project is to add to an ecosystem, not duplicate effort.


    This is an externally funded position, contingent on performance and the continued availability of funding.

Minimum Qualifications

  • Education: Bachelor’s Degree required. Advanced degree preferred.

    Experience: 7+ years experience managing complex software projects and knowledge of basic product design strategies. Basic knowledge of machine learning and modern experimentation strategies like A/B testing and multi-arm bandits. Familiarity with applications of ML and their integration into larger software systems.

Preferred Qualifications

  • While experience in product design and implementation is important, familiarity with the news industry is desirable but not required. Experience with software for newsrooms is desirable but not required.

Other Requirements

  • Experience supervising a small team of developers, assigning tasks and tracking progress.

    Experience overseeing complex software development projects, and be familiar with basic design processes to elicit product requirements from a user community.

Equal Opportunity Employer / Disability / Veteran

Columbia University is committed to the hiring of qualified local residents.

Applications open: Eastern Daylight Time
Applications close: Eastern Daylight Time

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