Knight Foundation and Mozilla send geeks into newsrooms

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Developers and designers working together on projects at Mozilla Festival.
Image: Mozilla in Europe.

In London last weekend, journalists, software developers, filmmakers, designers and many others spent time discussing ideas and building tools at the 2011 Mozilla Festival at Ravensbourne College. Following the theme of "Media, Freedom and the Web", many attendees developed prototypes around the idea of the future of media including tablet interface prototypes for the Boston Globe, designs for open source software for DJs, and hacks to enable journalists to combine video and original source text together to tell stories in more interactive ways.

Software developer Laurian Gridinoc will go and work inside the BBC newsroom.
Image: Mozilla in Europe.

One important announcement made at the event was details of five new fellowship places sponsored by the Knight Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation that attempt to bring together journalists and open source-minded software geeks. Wikinews spoke to Laurian Gridinoc, who currently works at Talis building software for higher education but will move for a year to the BBC to work in the newsroom. Other fellows will be working for The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, the Boston Globe and Zeit Online.

Gridinoc says the Fellowship intends to "introduce innovation in the newsroom by embedding some developers as fellows". The fellows will collaborate with people within the news organization. They hope to be open about how they are changing the newsroom. Gridinoc says he and the others will "blog about making the news, on how things can be done, and how [open source] tools can be used", and he specifically will work on trying to increase the use of linked data, a practice already embraced by the BBC. "Adaptive documents" were another area of interest for Laurian: having stories where illustrations and examples dynamically adapt to the particular reader.

According to the fellows speaking as part of a panel discussion, many newsrooms reject the use of open source tools even for producing maps, graphs and infographics.

How journalists adapt to the web was a theme throughout the weekend, with sessions teaching journalists to write HTML and write basic scripts in Ruby to scrape websites, discussions on Creative Commons and what "hacker journalism" entails. One group worked on collaboratively produced handbook on "data journalism" while others tested and refined Ushahidi, a crowdsourced news tool that was used during the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile in 2010 and in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011.


Sources

Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
Wikinews
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
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