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Knight Foundation Grants $3.89M to Build Open Source Platform for Engaging with Readers

knight2-262x193Yesterday, the Knight-Mozilla Open News initiative announced that it will lead a collaboration among Mozilla, the New York Times, and the Washington Post to create a new platform. With $3.89 million in funding, they’ll work together on a platform that will allow readers and users to upload pictures, videos, and other media for news outlets to use. From the release:

This open-source community platform will allow news organizations to connect with audiences beyond the comments section, deepening opportunities for engagement. Through the platform, readers will be able to submit pictures, links and other media; track discussions; and manage their contributions and online identities. Publishers will then be able to collect and use this content for other forms of storytelling and to spark ongoing discussions by providing readers with targeted content and notifications.

It’s sort of an unusual partnership, but it could turn out to be very fruitful. Instead of shying away from the internet, the projects seems to capture the essence of all things digital and all things journo: it’s open sourced so other outlets can use it, allows for management of data and verification, and treats readers as equal partners in news gathering. If that’s not what the digital publishing industry needs right now, I don’t know what is. The platform will also have a new sort of commenting system where users can highlighting system for journalists to better interact with readers. Instead of banning comments, they plan to make them more useful. Dan Sinker, the head of the Knight-Mozilla Open News Initiative writes on his blog:

Finally, this is a project that has the opportunity not only to improve community engagement in journalism, but to strengthen the web itself. Technologies likeBackbone.jsD3, and Django have all been forged and tested in the demanding environment of the newsroom, and then gone on to transform the way people build on the web. We don’t know that there’s a Backbone lurking inside this project, but we’re sure as hell going to find out.

Here’s to seeing what happens.

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National Journal Launches Document Library

nj logoNeed some background research for a complicated energy policy story? Or a good idea for your niche publication to demonstrate its value for readers?

Take a tip from the National Journal, which launched a the Document Library this week — free and unlimited to members and subscribers, free and limited for non-members — full of docs, white papers, reports, and more. From the release:

The new National Journal Document Library is a growing collection of research reports, testimonies, white papers, and press releases updated in near real-time from the websites of hundreds of sources that include global government agencies, think tanks, trade associations, and academic and corporate institutions.

As mentioned, member and subscribers can access the Library directly here. Non-members can access a limited version of the Library thru the policy verticals:  Energy, Healthcare, Tech and Defense. It’s not obvious — you have to scroll down the homepage of the section and you’ll see it next to the Twitter feed.

The library is interesting to me not just because it’s another resource, but because it’s another example of a publication making it clear that journalism isn’t just about reporting, it’s about researching. We all knew that, but it’s starting to be important to make that a key component of the business model. This is what First Look Media’s targeted ‘digital magazines’ are about, and in the same vein of what Ezra Klein is talking about with Project X – being not just about reporting the news but serving as a resource for the public. It’s about getting to the root of ‘journalism as public service.’

No better, or simpler, way to inform and educate than taking advantage of technology and making it free, to boot.

 

Solutions Journalism Network Wins Knight Foundation’s News Challenge Grant

SJNThe Knight Foundation announced the winners of their News Challenge this week at the Clinton Health Matters conference in La Quinta, California.

Seven projects won a total of $2.2 million dollars to carry their project through and also receive “human centered design training” at the Luma Institute this month. Each News Challenge has focused on a different theme, and this year it was health.

Michael Maness, VP of Journalism and Media Innovation, says the theme of health came about after analyzing the results of previous challenges and projects: Read more

Improve Your Data Journalism Skills, For Free

In today’s journalism environment, data is abundant, but journalists skilled at collecting, interpreting and maximizing it are not as plentiful. These are real skills that can improve your reporting today and improve your job prospects in the future.

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to do your journalism job better (which probably should just be a standing resolution anyway), here’s a great free way reporters, editors and designers can improve their data journalism skills.

From European Journalism Centre, the people who brought us the Data Journalism Handbook, comes this five-week online course starting early in 2014: Doing Journalism With Data: First Steps and Skills

Among the topics to be covered by some industry experts: Read more

FOIA Machine Helps Journalists File Information Requests

We all know what a headache it is to file Freedom of Information Act requests to governing bodies. Wired calls this tedious practice that reporters endure “government hell.”

The whole process is a time-suck: crafting the request letter in such a way that it will be read and actually considered, figuring out where in the bureaucracy to send the document in the first place and finally, waiting on a response – which will more than likely be a big fat “no,” for one reason or another. Or, if it’s a “yes,” it takes months or longer, and by the time you’ve received a response, you’ve moved on with your life.

Some people pay big bucks for any substantial amount of information from government agencies (usually 100 pages or more). Despite its necessary function, FOIA can be a real inconvenience, but the information that can be gleaned from a successful FOIA request is invaluable to reporting and more importantly, operating as a watchdog for those with the most power.

To aid with the method of asking for non-classified docs, specifically for the purpose of accountability reporting, the Center for Investigative Reporting has launched what they call the FOIA Machine, a mechanism for automating and organizing the process of requesting public records.

Read more

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