Charles Berret

Assistant Professor
University of British Columbia
School of Journalism
6388 Crescent Road
Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z3


2011-18 Columbia University, New York, US.
Ph.D. in Communications.
Dissertation: “The Cultural Contradictions of Cryptography.”
Advisor: Michael Schudson.
2009-10 Northwestern University, Evanston, US.
M.S. in Journalism.
2003-07 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, US.
B.A. in Philosophy.
High Honors, Phi Beta Kappa Society.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

2017 “Walter Benjamin and the Question of Print in Media History.” Journal of Communication Inquiry (41:4). (Peer-Reviewed Article.) .
2014 “A Brief Introduction to Impact – The Meme Font.” (co-written with Kate Brideau) Journal of Visual Culture (13:3). (Peer-Reviewed Article.) .

Reports and Chapters

2016 Guide to SecureDrop: An Emerging Platform for Secure and Anonymous Communication in Newsrooms. Report published by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. .
2016 Teaching Data and Computational Journalism. (co-written with Cheryl Phillips.) Report published by Columbia Journalism School and the Knight Foundation. .
2014 “Sensors and Sensibilia: A Historical Survey.” Chapter in Sensor Journalism, edited by Fergus Pitt. Published by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. .

Conference Papers

2017 “Collecting Randomness for the Vernam System: The Cryptographic Use of Noise at Bell Labs.” Society for the History of Technology (SHOT).
2016 “Teaching Data and Computational Journalism: Lessons from a Nationwide Study of Journalism Education.” (with Cheryl Phillips) Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).
2016 “On the Bubble: An Internet Scale Investigation into Location-Based Algorithmic Filtering of Political Content.” (with Rebecca Weiss) International Communication Association (ICA).
2015 “Understanding SecureDrop: Information Security and Emerging Journalistic Platforms.” Society for Social Studies of Science (4S).
2013 “The Quantitative Turn in the History of Technology.” (with Kevin Gotkin) Society for the History of Technology (SHOT).
2012 “The Techniques and Aesthetics of Phototypesetting.” Society for the History of Technology (SHOT).

Invited Talks, Panels, and Guest Lectures

2017 “Whistleblowing in the Digital Newsroom: How Wikileaks and Edward Snowden Prepared Journalists for the Age of Trump.”
– Public lecture to begin my term as writer-in-residence in the English department of Yeshiva University.
2017 “Scraping Text and Analyzing Social Media.”
– Two guest lectures (with Alexandre Goncalves) in the core class for investigative journalism students at Columbia.
2016 “Data, Computation, and Journalism: Skills to Innovate in a Changing Media Landscape.”
– Colloquium talk at the Hariri Institute for Computational Science & Engineering, Boston University.
2016 “Understanding SecureDrop: An Emerging Tool for Secure Digital Whistleblowing.”
– Report launch at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia.
2014 “Mesh Nets, Journalism, and the Umbrella Protest in Hong Kong.”
– Part of the “Journalism After Snowden” series at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia.
2012 “Media Analysis and Social Pedagogy.”
– Keynote panel (with Madiha Tahir, Jonah Bossewitch, and Travis Mushett) at the Technology and Education Symposium, American University in Cairo.

Journalism and Book Reviews

2017 “Newsrooms are Making Leaking Easier – and More Secure Than Ever.”
Columbia Journalism Review. March 1, 2017.
2016 “A Crucial Skill That Most J-Schools Aren’t Teaching.” (with Cheryl Phillips)
Columbia Journalism Review. April 1, 2016.
2010 “Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting.”
Reviewed in TriQuarterly.
2010 “How to Wreck a Nice Beach: Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop.”
Reviewed in TriQuarterly. .
2010 “No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4.33.”
Reviewed in TriQuarterly.
2010 “All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics in a Secular Age.”
Reviewed in The Literary Review (54:3).
2010 “J.M Coetzee and Ethics.”
Reviewed in The Literary Review (54:1).


2015 Research Grant ($30,000) – Tow Center for Digital Journalism
– Project: One-year study of how journalists had begun to use encrypted communication tools for newsgathering, with particular emphasis on the whistleblowing platform SecureDrop. Research methods combined in-depth interviews with original data scraped from the web.
2014 Magic Grant ($120,000) – Brown Institute for Media Innovation.
– Project: SearchLight, a tool to help investigative journalists report on algorithmic bias in search engines. Initially written in Ruby, then ported to Python. Available as free/open-source software.

Fellowships, Scholarships, and Awards

2017-18 Writer-in-Residence, Yeshiva University, English Department.
2016-18 Fellow, Brown Institute for Media Innovation.
2015-16 Research Fellow, Tow Center for Digital Journalism.
2011-14 Doctoral Fellow, Columbia University.
2007 Phi Beta Kappa, University of Michigan.
2004-07 James B. Angell Scholar, University of Michigan.

Courses Taught

2018 “Data Visualization.” UBC School of Journalism.
2018 “Journalism Ethics and Leadership.” UBC School of Journalism.
2018 “Integrated Journalism.” UBC School of Journalism.
2018 Topics in Journalism: The Digital Newsroom.
Yeshiva College, Department of English.

Workshops and Instructional Sessions

2017 “Scraping Data From the Web: Free Resources For Storytellers.”
– Workshop for “Storytelling with Data” at Boston University.
2016 “Brown Institute Base Camp.”
– Workshop to help interdisciplinary teams of journalists from Columbia and engineers from Stanford develop ideas for media innovation projects.
2016 “Teaching Algorithmic Transparency.”
– AEJMC preconference workshop.
2016 “Sensors for Journalism.”
– Assisted Mark Hansen and Tom Igoe (one of the inventors of the Arduino platform) with two workshops at Columbia Journalism School on physical computing as a reporting method.
2014 “Encryption for Journalists.”
– Guest lecture with Kate Fink at Pace University.

Graduate Teaching Assistance

2014 “Journalistic Algorithms.” Columbia University.
Instructors: Dr. Chris Wiggins and Jonathan Soma.
2014 “Foundations of Computing.” Columbia University.
Instructors: Dr. Dennis Tenen and Jonathan Soma.
2014 “Journalistic Computation.” Columbia University.
Instructor: Dr. Mark Hansen.
2013 “History of Journalism.” Columbia University.
Instructors: Dr. Andie Tucher and Dr. Richard R. John.
2013 “Journalism and the Law.” Columbia University.
Instructor: John Zucker.
2012 “Business of Journalism.” Columbia University.
Instructors: Dr. Adam Klein and Martin Nisenholtz.

Research Assistance

2014 Dr. Michael Schudson (Columbia Journalism).
– Assisted with archival research for the book The Rise of the Right to Know, a history of the transparency ideal in the United States.
2013 Dr. Matthew L. Jones (Columbia History).
– Assisted with research on the origin of the methodological assumptions underlying data science and the concurrent rise of mass surveillance in the United States.
2012 C.W. Anderson (CUNY), Emily Bell (Columbia), and Clay Shirky (NYU).
– Coordinated research and assisted with interviews for Post-Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present, a study by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Academic Service

2017 Schoolwide Self-Study – Columbia Journalism School.
– I was the primary author of a 130-page report assessing the state of the Journalism School for an official report to the Provost of Columbia University.
2017 Conference Planner – “Sneakercon” at the Brown Institute.
– I was one of the principle organizers of the first Sneakercon, a forum to reexamine offline networks (also known as “sneakernets”) that serve as local, decentralized alternatives to the internet.
2015-16 Curriculum Development – M.S. degree in Data Journalism, Columbia.
– I wrote the curriculum, syllabi, and the official proposal for a new, graduate-level program focused on finding and telling stories using data, computation, and emerging technologies.
2014 System Administrator – Lede Program, Columbia.
– Using AWS and SaltStack, I provisioned and maintained twenty virtual servers, one for each student in the “Lede,” a postbaccalaureate program in data science and computational reporting methods.
2012-13 Colloquium Coordinator – Columbia Communications Program.
– Arranged visits from nineteen speakers over the course of three semesters covering a range of topics in the historical, sociological, and critical study of media, journalism, and communications.

Professional Memberships

  • Society for the History of Technology (SHOT).

  • Society for Social Studies of Science (4S).

  • International Communication Association (ICA).

Technical Skills

Code Python, Bash, R, JavaScript. Working knowledge of Ruby, PHP, Java, Processing, C, C++ and creative libraries like D3, Cinder, and OpenFrameworks.
Markup HTML, CSS, XML, Markdown, Pandoc, LaTeX.
Dev Git, Docker, Vagrant.
SysAdmin GNU/Linux/Unix OS, Apache, Nginx, SSL, Ansible, SaltStack.
Database SQL, Postgres, Mongo.
CMS WordPress, Omeka, Jekyll.
Hardware Physical computing, sensors, basic electrical prototyping, modular synthesis.

Journalism, Writing, and Editing Experience

2017– Contributing Writer, Google Fonts and Google Design, New York, US.
2016– Contributing Writer, Columbia Journalism Review, New York, US.
2010-11 Book Review Editor, TriQuarterly literary journal, Chicago, US.
2007-08 Assistant Editor, Egypt Today magazine, Cairo, Egypt.


  • English (Native)

  • German (Advanced Written, Basic Spoken)

  • French (Basic Written)

  • Arabic (Basic Spoken)


Available on request.

Last Updated: September 25, 2018.