Nikki Usher

Nikki Usher
Associate Professor of Media and Public Affairs
MPA 428
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

Future of Journalism. Social Media. Journalism and New Media. Newsrooms and Digital Change. New Business Models for News. Citizen Journalism. Media Effects and Persuasion. Field and Ethnographic Research.

Nikki Usher’s research and teaching interests focus on the transforming world of digital media, from journalism to big data to information and communication technologies (ICTs). Her background in media theory and effects, sociology, and communication has given her an appreciation of the wide-range of possibilities for discussing and analyzing today’s media environment—from the changing nature of politics and social media  to open government to hacking to the challenges and opportunities facing today’s news landscape.

Her primary area of research focuses on how journalism is adapting to change. For much of this research, she has traveled to newsrooms across the world and the U.S. to learn about how journalists do their work and the decisions facing these news organizations in difficult times. From her initial research at The New York Times, which has now led to a book, to research at Al Jazeera, The Guardian, the BBC, the AP, NPR, The Washington Post, and the list continues. She is considered an influential voice in the future of news conversation, and has been asked to weigh in on annual news round ups for the past few years on topics such as social media to the rise of niche news. She primarily uses field research, ethnographic methods, and other qualitative work to discern patterns about news production.

She has focused on issues facing today’s traditional newsrooms from business models to social media use and user generated content to Web metrics to Web production and the challenges that come with the 24-7 production in the digital age. Her more recent research has focused on the intersection between journalism and the rise of hackers, programmers, open government, and information communication technologies in news. This has led her out of traditional newsrooms to untraditional spaces, from working with tech organizations like Mozilla to visiting with groups focused on transparency in government data. This work, along with a co-author, has led to a number of papers and book project. This research has involved international work that has taken Dr. Usher from Istanbul to Doha to London, among other destinations.

Dr. Usher teaches classes in media theory, social media, and journalism studies. Her background in media theory gives her the ability to lead students and other interested groups to focus on how to create strategic communication plans while understanding how these campaigns actually work. Her social media focus builds on skills, the latest technology, and the underlying theories about the Web. Her journalism studies classes bring real classroom experience into the newsroom.

She speaks widely to audiences outside the classroom. As a former practicing journalist, she continues to write and blog whenever possible for Nieman Journalism Lab.


Ph.D., The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, 2011
M.A., The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, 2009
A.B., Harvard University, 2003   



Interactive Journalism: Hackers, Data, and Code. (2016). University of Illinois Press

Making News at The New York Times. (2014). University of Michigan Press

Journal Articles

"Crowd-Funded Journalism: The Case of Spot.Us." Nikki Usher and Lian Jian. (2014). Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 19, Issue 2, pp. 155-170.
"Open source and Journalism: Toward New Frameworks for Imagining News Innovation." Nikki Usher and Seth Lewis. (2013). Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 35, Issue 5, pp. 602-619.
For a full list of publications, visit

Classes Taught

SMPA 2101, Journalism: Theory & Practice
SMPA 3194, Social Media
SMPA 6202, Theory Mediated Communication