Knight: News Tech Collaboration

I have about 10 days left to finish my proposal for the Knight News Challenge. My basic idea is to bring together a number of technical people for a short time to make local-type news projects.

Kelly Marks from my class suggested a contest that would give the participants cachet. So maybe it could go like this:

* Ask for $25,000 instead of $15,000

* Hold three events on the same weekend, in Silicon Valley, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Bangalore, India; with $5,000 going toward each of the first two and a few thousand for the last. The money would include a leader for each site.

* Dinners on the Fridays for the techies, local journalists and community residents.

* Prize of $7,500 to the group with best project.

* Discussion to choose projects would start online for at least a week before the events.

Published in: on November 21, 2007 at 7:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Someone else’s Knight proposal — “Includer”

One concern about the shift of news and other information from paper to digital media is the potential to leave some of the public behind.

Andrius Kulikauskas and the Minciu Sodas laboratory is working on this problem with a Knight proposal for a digital “Includer,” or Flash Drive Editor.

It would be “a device for reading and writing text files (such as emails) stored on any USB flash drive. It is optimized for people in Africa with marginal Internet access so that online community might help them reach out locally.”

Published in: on November 16, 2007 at 4:09 pm  Comments (2)  
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Space for the public

Newspapers are, or should be, a metaphorical village plaza, and maybe a village guide.

That is, people generally ought to be able to use the paper (taken as a whole) to find whatever they’re looking for about a given community. If it doesn’t have what you’re looking for, it should still be able to point people in the right direction.

Combine this idea with newsrooms’ growing transparancy and digital connections and opportunities and other trends, and consider making the physical space inviting to the public.

Chris O’Brien of the Next Newsroom project asks about “a space for the public to gather to discuss important community issues.”

David Cohn has suggested “a space for content producers to come and and work on stories in collaboration with their local reporters.” The People’s Channel, a public-access cable TV site, does something loosely like this.

Other possibilities:

* Have a public place for food and drink.

* Offer public wi-fi, digital terminals or both.

* Have a small public library just for community information. Including reference service.

* From the building or within it, display current work other than the print paper. This could take any of a few forms, such as a news ticker with LEDs, or one or more screens of any size showing digital work.

Published in: on November 14, 2007 at 6:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Comparing Web and print numbers

I made a couple of charts (sheets 1 and 2) comparing weekly print and online figures for a handful of large papers.

You can also see similar graphs here.

According to figures from Scarborough and the Audit Bureau of Circulations released this week:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution beats the other papers in the group, with its Web numbers representing 37 percent of its print figures. The AJC is followed closely by the Arizona Republic, at 35 percent.

I did not include the largest papers, such as the NYT and WSJ.

Published in: on November 10, 2007 at 9:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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Knight: Who else?

Item No. 12 in my proposal for a Knight grant asks:

Who else is working in this area? How does your work fit into the larger context of work in this area? (Limit of 2,075 characters, about 325 words — This needs to be trimmed.)

Related efforts are either narrowly focused or much broader than community news projects.

Sprints are a type of short collaboration in software engineering. They are part of a method of agile development, designed to respond quickly to needs and requests of the market.

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Findings: cooperation, and revenue

* At Slate, Tim Harford writes about research on whether newspaper Web sites should be free. The article is based on work by economist Matthew Gentzkow. (The PDF is about 30 pages.)

* From Robin ‘Roblimo’ Miller via Poynter’s online news mailing list, I learned of the Newspapers on Drupal group. Members are listed here. Drupal is an an open-source content management platform.

* At Common Sense Journalism, Doug Fisher suggests the news industry form a cooperative “skunk works” — described by Wikipedia as “a group within an organization given a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, tasked with working on advanced or secret projects.”

Lockheed Martin had the first skunk works by that name, in the 194os in Burbank, Calif., to rapidly develop the XP-80, a new jet fighter. 

The phrase is based on the “skonk works,” or the still, in the “L’il Abner” comic strip by Al Capp.

Findings: checking, thinking, and the language

Mostly via my friend Pam Robinson –

 Who needs editors? David Montgomery, CEO of Mecom, a European newspaper company, sees little use for sub editors (or “copy editors” for us Yanks), now that there are instantaneous options in digital media.

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Knight: in an ideal world

Here’s a draft for question No. 5 of my application in the Knight News Challenge. The question asks: “What potentially bigger thing might happen if everything went perfectly and the stars all aligned?”

Ideally, my project would lead to a continuing stream of more and better news products.  

Small communities would especially benefit. A news presence would become more cost-effective for small communities that don’t now have their own paper. Community newspaper sites would advance further than they would on their own.

 The news industry would cease needless duplication of effort in developing technology. The money saved would be re-invested, especially in newsrooms, of which many have had dramatic cuts in the past several years. 

The news industry would also learn to listen better.  Mass tech collaboration would spur continuing collaboration – by and for the news industry, civic media, and individual geographic communities.

 Success of the initial collaboration would be followed by a structure (new or expansion of something already existing) that would garner broad support and use. 

The structure would be a productive home for those both inside and outside the traditional news industry who want to combine the best values and practices of journalism and open sourcing. Welcome would be extended to a broad variety of stakeholders – members of the traditional news industry, the ad side of the house, the technology community and the public in general.

Published in: on November 6, 2007 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Knight: questions for second stage

I’m taking a few days of vacation to work on my proposal for the Knight News Challenge.

My request is for support for the planning and marketing of a mass tech collaboration — which would focus a relatively large number of mainly technical people for a defined a relatively short time, to make one or more projects that would either be localized or intended to be made localized.

These are the questions I need to answer (No. 1-4 were part of the original entry):

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Published in: on November 5, 2007 at 12:18 am  Comments (1)  
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Exit, Voice and Loyalty

My friend Anna Haynes refers to “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” concerning the her relationship with the Sacramento Bee. (See comment No. 2.)

One way that news sites could enable more voice about both the newspaper and the community covered is to use the unlimited newshole online to publish letters to the editor that won’t fit in the print edition.

Published in: on November 4, 2007 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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