Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at American University, has led pioneering initiatives in civic journalism, interactive and participatory journalism, innovations in journalism and citizen media ventures.
J-Lab rewards novel ideas through the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism. It funds citizen media start-ups through its New Voices project and the McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneur initiative. It produces Web tutorials at J-Learning.org and it tracks community news startups and foundation funding of journalism through its Knight Citizen News Network.
She previously directed the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, a $14 million initiative that funded more than 120 pilot news projects. She is a former Business Editor and a Pulitzer Prize winner for The Inquirer, where she helped write a series that won freedom for a man wrongly convicted of five murders. The stories led to the civil rights convictions of six Philadelphia homicide detectives and won the 1978 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service. Also while covering federal courts, she broke the Philadelphia Abscam story about the FBI sting operation that used agents posing as Arab sheiks. She was sentenced to jail for six months for refusing to reveal her sources; the sentence was stayed on appeal.
Currently, she serves as a speaker, trainer, author, consultant and web publisher on digital storytelling models and the future of journalism. J-Lab is a center of American University’s School of Communication.