Mizzou Engineering alumnus breaks down data for The Associated Press

Justin Myers BJ, BS EE ’11

Justin Myers graduated from Mizzou in 2011 with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and journalism. His role as Data Editor for The Associated Press seems to be a perfect marriage of his skills.

“People ask these really broad questions about how the world works or what’s going on, and we have to help make sense of it all,” Myers said. “We have to eat that elephant one bite at a time, as the saying goes.”

Myers was promoted to the managerial role in February 2021 after working on the same team as a data journalist and news automation editor since 2015. His current role has him overseeing data reporters and data projects. With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing data to the forefront of the news cycle, Myers’ education from Mizzou has helped him to tackle this important role.

Open to Opportunity

A Nixa, Missouri, native, Myers chose to study electrical engineering and journalism with the idea of being a science reporter. After getting a taste of reporting — and the schedule that comes with it — at the School of Journalism’s community newspaper, the Columbia Missourian, Myers shifted his interests to publication and editorial roles. He held several of these roles with MU’s college newspaper The Maneater and the Columbia Missourian while at Mizzou.

Myers also took part in student organizations such as the Formula SAE Team within Mizzou Engineering. He even learned to knit and crochet at the Women’s Center, the latter of which he continues to do to this day.

“Don’t be too quick to rule things out,” Myers offers as advice to students. “One of the real strengths of being at a large research institution with a lot of different disciplines is that you can see and do so many things. Take advantage of those opportunities while you can.”

Myers participated in undergraduate research in both of his programs. At Mizzou Engineering, he worked in the Micro-nano Devices and Systems (MIDAS) lab with Jae Kwon, a professor in electrical engineering and computer science. At the School of Journalism, he worked in the PRIME Lab, which used equipment to measure people’s psychophysiological responses to messages, such as news coverage and PSAs, in real time.

After graduation, Myers developed interactive web and mobile news applications for PBS NewsHour. He then worked as a news interactives producer for The Chronicle of Higher Education before beginning his career with The Associated Press.

Numbers in the News

As Data Editor, Myers manages his team to break down data into pieces that are easier for the public to swallow. In the past year, a lot of this work has revolved around the pandemic and data has become increasingly important for readers to understand.

“As the pandemic was really ramping up, we would get these really big questions, and we had to help make sense of the information put out by the government,” Myers said. “Not just for people who are reading, but for the people on our staff, because everybody became a health reporter for a while.”

In order to help his team unravel the intricacies of data projects, he uses skills he learned from Mizzou Engineering.

“The engineering background has been helpful in giving me ways to approach problems,” Myers said. “It gives me ways to decompose problems and break them down until we get chunks that are small enough to reason about.”

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