Joe Spurr

Strategist • Developer • Journalist

Recent News

About

I've spent 15+ years as a journalist, developer, and strategist working to rejuvenate the concept of the public square. I often advocate for the use of emerging technology as a means to inform the average person and evolve mediums.

As a producer for San Diego's NPR station, I cultivated the first organized use of social media by a news organization during a disaster response scenario. Here's my interview at the time during the 2007 San Diego wildfires. Our team's efforts resulted in an Associated Press Mark Twain Award, national meta coverage, and case studies by Google and Stanford University.

In a hybrid developer role at the station, I reported on-location from the 2008 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, investigated a surge of Tijuana drug cartel murders using custom interactive map layers, and piloted a front and backend website relaunch that resulted in a five-fold increase in average monthly uniques/pageviews.

Later, as the director of an experimental pilot program funded by the Knight Foundation, I worked to modernize access to local justice systems. Other than providing the public with daily livestreams from a real courtroom, the project amounted to a test run for modern transparency standards, surfacing new media and legal issues such as finding the balance between the public's right to know and the defendant's rights to a fair trial. Our work incidentally resulted in a precedent-setting state supreme court victory for first amendment press rights.

Following that, as a senior producer at Boston NPR's station, I led a multimedia project designed to deeply investigate the worst criminal justice scandal in Massachusetts history. Bruce Mohl from Commonwealth Magazine called it "great story-telling and smart journalism." ProPublica reporter and Polk-winning journalist A.C. Thompson lauded the effort as "tremendous" and described our iterative approach as a new model for covering developing news.

I've since pivoted further towards platform development, including stints studying UX Design at General Assembly and helping Boston University build a search app to make government data/documents more easily discoverable (using Scrapy, Tesseract, Postgres, Django, and Elasticsearch).

My current work focuses on a variety of API products as a senior consultant for a SaaS startup in Austin, TX, where I live with my beautiful family. I am always open to chat about interesting projects.

Background

I started coding as a blogger who became very curious how it all worked. My father is a software architect and my mother is a community organizer and former nurse. Our shared DNA could explain how my deeper satisfactions usually involve human connection or solving puzzles.

On the content side, my fundamental background is print reporting and editing. I cut my teeth reporting local news for The Boston Globe, where I wrote dozens of stories, conducted published interviews with Ralph Nader and Howard Zinn during the ramp-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, and assisted with Pulitzer-winning coverage of Catholic Church sexual abuse.

I later had stints as a professional photographer, videographer, and radio producer, including experience covering the Boston Marathon bombings, producing for Morning Edition, and operating camera for a crowd-funded, feature-length documentary.

I graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism, double-minoring in sociology and philosophy.

Thoughts

Nothing compares to a well-executed narrative, but I also agree with Clay Johnson that programmers are the new scribes. Structured journalism provides invaluable context over time, and we should all be tilling this soil. Stock and flow both matter (i.e. show your work).

I think it's important to remember that language has limits, gratitude is key, and we're here to help each other.

Very small teams can do very big things.

Blog

I show some of my photos, occasionally post code, collect quotes, et cetera over here.

Photography

Check out some of my photography.

Résumé

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