«Class of 2016

Jacob Fenton

Jacob Fenton ('16)

Former editorial engineer, Sunlight Foundation, Washington, D.C.

Jacob Fenton has long been interested in applying weird new technologies to the gritty challenges that investigative journalists face. But doing so requires considerable skepticism: University research funded by deep-pocketed corporations is often a poor fit in newsrooms. Or is it? Snazzy new Silicon Valley technology is now trickling down into some unexpected places: to academics in the humanities and social sciences; and even to law enforcement. While writing code aimed at helping journalists deal with ugly document dumps, Fenton also took classes in computer science and politics, remote sensing and geophysics and kicking the tires on some of the niftier projects to have come out of Stanford’s research community.

Journalism Challenge

Selecting text area to capture

Making sense of document disasters

Building free and open-source tools to capture structured data from repetitive scanned-in forms

Posts by Jacob

Matadero Trail

How a data expert deals with tech brain meltdown

Seeing the rise of "machine learning" techniques from the classroom isn't just an amazing insight into possible software futures, it's a window into how other disciplines are exploiting new technologies.

About Jacob

Jacob Fenton is an investigative journalist and software developer who’s worked in media and nonprofits for the last decade. Most recently, he was editorial engineer at The Sunlight Foundation, where he worked extensively on campaign finance, television ad disclosure, and House and Senate expenditure reporting. Before that he worked as director of computer-assisted reporting at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, a nonprofit at American University devoted to long-form investigative projects executed in partnership with established news organizations. Fenton graduated from Reed College in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in physics.

Information on this page is from the fellowship year.