Media Cloud Receives National Science Foundation Grant

Media Cloud Team
June 6, 2024

The Media Cloud team is proud to share that the project has been awarded a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation. It is the first time our project has been awarded NSF funding; support from this prestigious institution and success in its rigorous evaluation process speaks to the value of our online news archive and tooling as a critical piece of digital public infrastructure. Under the leadership of our co-Principal Investigator Rahul Bhargava, this funding from the "Human Networks Data Science Infrastructure" program will support the next iteration of our digital research tools.

From the project’s abstract:   

The news that people read online forms how they understand the world around them. To study the relationships between what news is reported and how that affects human behavior, researchers need an easy way to search through lots of news articles. Media Cloud is a tool that lets scientists, educators, students, and the public search through over 1.5 billion online news stories from around the world. It adds about 500,000 new stories every day to stay timely and relevant. Media Cloud makes it easy to find information without needing to create or seek out large volumes of text. It organizes news sources in different collections by location and topic. This organization helps researchers quickly find the stories that are relevant to the questions they are studying. The activities supported by this award include updating the software and data at the core of Media Cloud and adding new user-friendly features and visualizations to make the tool easier to use. Media Cloud makes it possible for different types of researchers to study patterns in news reporting from around the world in new ways, at broader scales, over the last few years or the last few days.
There are many challenges involved in creating and maintaining such a large database while ensuring it will still be useful for so many different users. This project develops software that quickly collects and stores online news articles by processing them to pull out information like the publication date, language, and just the content of the article. New approaches to that process allow for pulling out more accurate data, handling more stories, and also returning search results faster. Various levels of alert systems notify the software team when some problem occurs with the daily processing of news stories, ensuring that the system is stable and reliable. The web-based search tools showing these results can sometimes be hard to use, with a mix of tables of information, charts and graphs, and downloadable reports. Testing with current and new users guides continuing development of more user-friendly approaches, stabilizing the Media Cloud product and ensuring its long-term usefulness. The award supports not only the development of improved software but also establishing an advisory board of close partners who help guide how Media Cloud can best support the network of people who rely on it.

Thank you to our Media Cloud user community for continuing to support the project through your use, feedback, and contributions. We look forward to updating you as the project spins up and stabilizes and expands our existing online news archive features.