Aaron Pillhoffer wearing a plaid shirt on a white background
Graeme Robertson

Aron Pilhofer, one of the world's most respected experts in the use of digital tools for journalism, is joining the faculty of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University.

Pilhofer, Executive Editor of Digital for The Guardian and a former editor of digital strategy at The New York Times, will take a newly established endowed professorship, the James B. Steele Chair in Journalism Innovation. The chair is being funded in part by a $2 million grant from the Wyncote Foundation of Philadelphia.

"This is a profoundly important hire for our university and for the Philadelphia region," said SMC Dean David Boardman. "Getting Aron here is the equivalent of having the number-one pick in the NBA draft. He will be a game-changer for our students and for journalism in our community."

In his current position, Pilhofer oversees visual and data journalism and analytics for The Guardian, which is widely regarded as a global leader in digital media. Additionally, he has been serving as interim Chief Digital Officer, heading up the organization's product, engineering, data and analytics teams.

Previously, Pilhofer was Associate Managing Editor for Digital Strategy and Editor of Interactive News at The New York Times. He was responsible for helping develop and execute the newsroom's approach to technology, new product, analytics, interactives and social media.

Dean Boardman said Pilhofer will both teach Temple students and will work with local media companies on innovations designed to help further public-interest journalism in the region.

Pilhofer's position was created through the grant from the Wyncote Foundation, which has made various investments in journalism innovation. David Haas, one of the Foundation's directors, said he is gratified to be able to help bring a pioneer of Pilhofer's caliber to Temple.

"This chair, with Aron Pilhofer as its first appointment, signals that the future of journalism and its critical role in democracy will have a dynamic platform in Philadelphia at Temple University," Haas said. "We expect great synergies within the rich journalism ecosystem emerging in our region, and are excited by the depth of experience and energy that Aron will bring."

Boardman said the grant reflects a longstanding commitment by Haas to support the development of journalism and journalism education in the digital age.

"David Haas and Wyncote understand the important role universities must play in the advancement of public-service journalism," said Boardman, who before joining Temple in 2013 was the top editor of The Seattle Times. "We at Temple University are enormously grateful for this gift."

At Wyncote's request, the endowed professorship is named for a longtime investigative reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Time and Vanity Fair magazines, James B. Steele. Steele was one of the first journalists to use computer databases in investigative reporting. With his reporting partner, Donald Barlett, Steele won two Pulitzer Prizes. He continues to work as an investigative reporter and author in Philadelphia.

Pilhofer will join Temple's faculty in October.

"I'm really excited to be joining an institution as dynamic and forward-thinking as Temple University," Pilhofer said. "The chance to inspire and educate a new generation of journalists was too good to pass up and the fact that this position is associated with one of my heroes, Jim Steele, is the icing on the cake."

Prior to The New York Times, Pilhofer was database editor at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington. He also was on the national training staff of Investigative Reporters and Editors and worked for a number of years as a statehouse and projects reporter for Gannett newspapers in New Jersey and Delaware.

He also co-founded two news-related startups: DocumentCloud.org and Hacks & Hackers. Launched in 2009, DocumentCloud.org improves journalism by making source documents easier to find, search, analyze and share online. DocumentCloud.org now contains close to 2.5 million documents and is used by more than 1,500 newsrooms worldwide. Hacks & Hackers, also created in 2009, is an informal organization that brings journalists and technologists together. The group now has dozens of chapters and tens of thousands of members worldwide.