Postdoc position on a project about the potential for AI in local journalism

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Postdoc position on a project about the potential for AI in local journalism
  • University Graduate

Do you want to help discover how AI technology can boost journalism? Do you want to help organize an international consortium for a long-term interdisciplinary research project? Join our team! The position can be based either at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, LMU Munich, or Leipzig University based on your preference.

FTE: 1

Job description

Journalism is going through challenging times, with the decline of trust in institutional journalism, the competitive pressure of free online news, and the emergence of decentralized gate-keeping through social media and news aggregators. Journalism has adapted to the digital ecosystem, where algorithms and AI direct audience traffic and help determine revenue, with differing degrees of success. Large, national news companies, such as The Guardian and The New York Times, have been able to adapt, and leverage technology to reach a global audience. For local (and regional) news providers it has been much more difficult to remain innovative and sustainable because of the inherently limited local market and a lack of resources. Moreover, many of the innovations powering the modern news ecosystem, such as automatic curation and news algorithms for personalized news delivery, are fuelling concerns about filter bubbles and polarization.

This postdoc position is part of a project to harness the possibilities afforded by AI to help local journalism cope with these challenges, while taking the journalistic norms and values that are central to its role in democratic societies as a central design principle. The project is an interdisciplinary, international cooperation between Professor Neil Thurman (LMU Munich), a renowned expert on the adoption and implications of computational journalism; Professor Helle Sjovaag (U of Stavanger), an expert on journalism and the media industry; Professor Natali Helberger (U of Amsterdam) an expert on media law and value sensitive design; Junior Professor Mario Haim (U of Leipzig), an expert in communication science and computational journalism; Dr Antske Fokkens (VU Amsterdam) an associate professor of computational linguistics; and Dr Wouter van Atteveldt, (VU Amsterdam) an associate professor of communication science and computational communication science.

Together with this team of PIs, the tasks of the postdoc will be to:

  • Help identify the most promising applications of AI in the local journalistic process, in cooperation with a local journalism organization
  • Map the use of AI in journalism, with a focus on local journalism
  • Help preparing a funding application
  • Help preparing a journal publication in a high ranking academic journal


  • A degree and/or PhD in journalism, media studies, human-computer interaction, or other related discipline
  • Strong affinity with the subject matter
  • Some experience with ethnographic and qualitative research methods
  • Preferably: some experience of drafting funding applications
  • Good communication and writing skills
  • Good organization skills
  • Enthusiasm for, and ideally experience of, working in a highly interdisciplinary (computer science, journalism studies, communication science, and law) and international setting
  • Fluency in English, and preferably another European language (German, Dutch, Norwegian)
  • Ability to work independently and yet be a team player
  • Note: the position may involve travelling

Depending on the successful candidate’s preference, the post can be based at: LMU Munich (with Neil Thurman), the University of Amsterdam (with Natali Helberger), the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (with Wouter van Atteveldt), or Leipzig University (with Mario Haim).

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. If employed at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €3,637 (scale 11) and a maximum €4,978 (scale 11), depending on your education and experience.

The initial employment contract will affect a period of 1 year. Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • good paid parental leave scheme

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

Faculty of Social Sciences
The Faculty of Social Sciences examines the major social problems of our time from multiple perspectives. From bullying at school to dealing with illegal immigration, from the rise of populist politicians to creating a self-reliant society. Only at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam you will find all the academic disciplines needed to understand these 'wicked problems': alongside the traditional disciplines such as sociology, anthropology and politics, we also research and teach the new social sciences such as communication science and management & organization science. We do not settle for easy answers in our teaching and research. Our researchers and students are critical thinkers and doers who work together to devise surprising solutions to the problems of today.

Working at the Faculty of Social Sciences means working with colleagues from a range of academic disciplines in an inspiring and personal work and study environment with excellent research facilities. We employ more than 250 staff members, and we are home to around 2,500 students.


Are you interested in this position? Please email us your your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 15 May 2020.

Your application (in English only) should include: a motivation letter (including whether you would want to be based at LMU Munich, the University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam or Leipzig University), your CV with publication list, the names and contact details of two references, copy of degree certificates and transcript of grades. Please also include a link to sole or first authored publication/s and your Master’s or PhD thesis.

Since this position is offered through multiple universities, please do not use the button below to apply. Instead, submit your application as a single PDF document to:

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Wouter van Atteveldt
Position: Project leader
Telephone: +31642740725

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