Sean Mussenden

Digital Director: Capital News Service; Co-Editor American Journalism Review; Lecturer in Digital media, data visualization, computational journalism

301-405-2530 3210 Knight (Studio C)

Sean Mussenden, a former Washington correspondent, oversees two experiential, hands-on journalism training programs at the Merrill College that are integral to the college’s “teaching hospital” model of professional instruction: Capital News Service and American Journalism Review. He also teaches traditional courses incorporating data visualization, programming, web development, web design, data analysis, social media and computational journalism.

Capital News Service
He is digital director of Capital News Service, a 25-year-old student powered news organization that covers the state of Maryland from bureaus in Annapolis, Washington and two in College Park. Under the direction of Mussenden and three other faculty members, students produce professional-quality stories for a wire service that serves 50 news organizations in Maryland, a destination website ( and a nightly public affairs news TV show.

Students working under his direction have won dozens of regional and national journalism awards for in-depth investigative packages, longform feature stories, data-driven reporting projects, innovative data visualizations and interactive graphics.

American Journalism Review
He is co-editor (with Prof. Leslie Walker) of American Journalism Review, one of the nation’s leading voices on the media industry, a hybrid of professional and student reporting. In 2013, he, Walker, news editor Lisa Rossi and web developer Sean Henderson transformed AJR — then a print magazine that broadly covered traditional industry news — to a student-centered, digital-only publication focused on media innovation in an era of tremendous change.

Other Teaching
At Merrill, he also teaches digital journalism courses incorporating data analysis, computational journalism techniques, data visualization, programming, web development and web design.

As a private consultant and journalism educator, he has helped train journalists and news organizations around the world (from Boston to Ukraine to Pakistan) to find stories in data; to use data visualization to tell stories; and to use social media effectively.

Professional Experience and Education
He began his journalism career at the Merrill College. Before graduating in 2000, he worked as an intern at The (Annapolis) Capital, as an intern for American Journalism Review and as a student reporter in the Capital News Service Annapolis bureau.

From 2000-2005, he worked as a statehouse reporter, business desk reporter, Florida-roving general assignment reporter and Washington correspondent for the Orlando Sentinel. His stories for the Orlando Sentinel regularly appeared in the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun. Before joining the Merrill College in 2009, he was a senior multimedia Washington correspondent and Web producer/editor for Media General News Service, a newswire serving 1 million readers in the U.S. Southeast.

He has a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Maryland (Philip Merrill College of Journalism, 2000) and a bachelor’s degree in history and public policy from St. Mary’s College of Maryland (1999). He was awarded a Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellowship (2006) and a Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Fellowship (2014). He has completed post-graduate coursework in web usability, web design, information architecture, data visualization and media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland (Merrill College and College of Information Studies/iSchool) and the USDA Graduate School.

Selected Stories Produced by Students Under His Direction

Sea Level Rise in Maryland: What’s at Risk (2013)
Synopsis: Sea levels are rising worldwide, but they are rising two to three times faster in the Chesapeake Bay. A new analysis by Capital News Service finds that nearly a million Maryland residents live in neighborhoods that could be affected. Some of the state’s most iconic places — Fells Point in Baltimore, Harriet Tubman’s birthplace, and Fort McHenry, home of the national anthem — are at risk. With an interactive map that allows users to see how rising seas could affect their neighborhoods.

Students: CNS Staff

Co-editors: Deb Nelson, Sandra Banisky and Bethany Swain.

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards:

Best Use of Multimedia, National Finalist
Best Use of Multimedia, Region 2 Winner
Online News Reporting, Region 2 Finalist
The Other Redskins (2013)
Synopsis: The Washington, D.C., NFL team is not the only one facing questions about using the name Redskins. High schools across the country are debating whether to continue using the controversial mascot. A three-month Capital News Service investigation found the NFL team was using incorrect information about use of the name by high schools in an attempt to justify its continued use of a name many consider a racist anachronism.

Students: Kelyn Soong, Sean Henderson, Angela Wong

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards:

Online Sports Reporting, National Finalist
Online Sports Reporting, Region 2 Winner
Online News Reporting, Region 2 Winner
Online In-Depth Reporting, Region 2 Winner

Other Awards: College Longreads Pick of the Week (July 2013)
Baltimore’s Forgotten Champions: an Oral History (2014)
Synopsis: In the middle of a snowy March night in 1984, the Baltimore Colts decamped for Indianapolis, leaving behind a betrayed fanbase. The NFL returned to the city 12 years later with the Baltimore Ravens, a franchise that has won two Super Bowls over the last two decades. In between, the city had another championship team. A team that brought professional football back to a city stung by the loss of the Colts. A team that paved the way for the Ravens. A team few in Baltimore remember vividly. The Baltimore Stallions were born from nothing, captured the hearts of a football-starved city, became the only American team to win the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup and one of the most successful expansion franchises in sports history. They left town as an afterthought.
All of this happened within two years. Largely forgotten, the Stallions’ tale is one of the strangest in professional football history.

Students: Jonathan Elbaz, Jeremy Granoff, Spencer Israel and Eric Morrow, Angela Wong and Mandy Dominelli.

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards:

Nominated. Awards will be announced in April 2015.

Other Awards: College Longreads Pick of the Week: “How to do oral history the right way” (Feb. 2104)
Uber and the Surge: How Prices for the Popular Ride Sharing Service Spike in D.C.(2014)
Synopsis: Uber has a novel way of deciding how to charge users for rides. The private rideshare service says it uses an algorithm based on classic supply and demand: When demand for cars goes up, prices go up to decrease demand and to encourage more drivers to get on the road, increasing supply. On Saturday nights and early Sunday morning in Adams Morgan, for example, fares surge as people look for a ride home from bars. When surge pricing is in effect, fares in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood cost 1.5, 2 or even 2.5 times the normal price. An analysis of Uber pricing data, which became publicly available in August, reveals a key characteristic of the surge multiplier: While prices can rise very high, they won’t necessarily stay that way for long. CNS journalists were among the first journalists in the nation to use this data to reveal hidden facts about the growing company.

Students: Jenny Hottle and Christine Rice

Co-editor: Nicholas Diakopoulos

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards:

Nominated. Awards will be announced in April 2015.
Maryland Families: Falling Behind(2012)
Synopsis: The recession continues for the state’s working class households. The number of Maryland families who need government help to make ends meet has reached record levels. More than 700,000 people receive food assistance, the most in state history. A record 70,000 people depend on emergency cash assistance. Yet state and federal officials are budgeting less money for the safety net in the coming fiscal year. The move reflects the government’s confidence in the economic recovery.

Students: CNS Staff

Co-editors: Deb Nelson and Sandra Banisky

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards:

Online In-Depth Reporting, National Finalist
Online In-Depth Reporting, Region 2 Winner
Online News Reporting, Region 2 Finalist
Online Feature Reporting, Region 2 Finalist
How Safe Is Your Food?(2011)
Synopsis: Foodborne illness strikes tens of millions of Americans each year — killing thousands — because the nation’s food safety system is dangerously fragmented, underfunded, undercut by politics and overwhelmed by a rising tide of food imports. A News21 investigative partnership between the University of Maryland and the University of Arizona.

Students: News21 Staff

Co-editors: Deb Nelson, Sandra Banisky and Stanton Paddock.

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards:

Online In-Depth Reporting, National Winner
Online Feature Reporting, National Winner
Online In-Depth Reporting, Region 2 Winner
Online Feature Reporting, Region 2 Winner
Online News Reporting, Region 2 Winner
Six surprising things about Maryland Defensive Terps Lineman A.J. Francis (2012)
Synopsis: It’s Mike Francis’ day to play stay-at-home dad. His wife, Carrie Francis, is at work, leaving him to look after their 3-year-old son until he heads off to stock shelves at Walmart. Shots fire. Before Mike can figure out what’s going on, a man bursts through the front door of the family’s Severn home, sprints through the living room and darts out the back. Mike rushes to the front window and sees a man with a pistol walking up his driveway. “Wait, wait, wait!” Mike screams. “He don’t live here! He don’t live here!”

Student: Connor Letourneau

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards:

Sports Writing, National Finalist
Sports Writing, Region 2 Winner
Which Maryland High School is Best? It Depends on How You Define Best. An Interactive Look at High School Rankings. (2014)
Synopsis: Many websites rank high schools in Maryland, using factors like teacher quality and test scores. What they don’t tell you: Minor changes in how those factors are prioritized — or weighted — can lead to big changes in a school’s ranking. CNS reporter Karen Mawdsley gave users the opportunity to learn that firsthand, by developing an innovative schools ranking interface that allowed them to prioritize what they considered important.

Student: Karen Mawdsley

Co-editor: Nicholas Diakopoulos

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards:

Nominated. Awards will be announced in April 2015. | Capital News Service website
Synopsis: The Capital News Service website,, has won several national and regional awards for its coverage of Washington, Annapolis and the state of Maryland. Featuring storytelling in: video, text, audio, photos, slideshows, social media, interactive graphics and more. The website is run by CNS students out of Studio C and overseen by Sean Mussenden, but it is populated with stories by CNS students in every bureau.

Students: CNS Staff

Co-editors: Tom Linthicum, Nicholas Diakopoulos, Karen Denny, Adrianne Flynn, Sue Kopen Katcef, Rafael Lorente, Deb Nelson, Sandra Banisky, Bethany Swain, Chris Harvey, Kevin Blackistone, George Solomon.

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards:

Best Digital-Only Student Publication, National Finalist (2013)
Best Affiliated Web Site, Region 2 Winner (2013)
Best Digital-Only Student Publication, Region 2 Winner (2013)
Best Affiliated Web Site, Region 2 Finalist (2012)