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Are you on the j-list? The leading innovators in journalism and media in 2010

July 22nd, 2010 | 14 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

Updated 05/08/2010

Recent industry lists ranking the great and good in journalism and the media fell a bit short of the mark for Journalism.co.uk. Where were the online innovators? Where were the journalists on the ground outside of the executives’ offices?

So we’ve compiled our own rundown listing those people we think are helping to build the future of journalism and the news media.

Some important points to note:

  • There are no rankings to this list – those included are from such varied areas of work it seemed pointless;
  • We will have missed some people out – let us know in the comments below or with the hashtag #jlist who you are working with that should be included;
  • We’ve listed groups as well as individuals – with individuals we hope you’ll see them as representing a wider team of people, who have worked together on something great;
  • And it’s not limited to 50 or 100 – we’ll see where it takes us…

So here’s the first batch. There’s a Twitter list of those included so far at this link and more will be added in the coming weeks.

Click on the ‘more’ link after these five to to see the full list.

Tomáš Bella

Tomáš Bella was editor-in-chief and deputy director of Sme.sk, the Slovak republic’s most popular news site. He was author of the first European newspaper-owned blogportal (blog.sme.sk, 2004) and the first digg-like service (vybrali.sme.sk, 2006). In April 2010 he co-founded Prague-based new media consultancy NextBig.cz and is working on a payment system to allow the access to all the premium content of major newspapers and TV stations with one payment.

Paul Steiger

While ProPublica’s not-for-profit, foundation-funded model may be something commercial news organisations can never share, its investment in and triumphing of investigative and data journalism cannot be overlooked. The way in which it involves a network of readers in its research and actively encourages other sites to “steal” its stories shows a new way of thinking about journalism’s watchdog role. Image courtesy of the Knight Foundation on Flickr.

Chris Taggart

Paul Bradshaw’s description of his fellow j-lister: “Chris has been working so hard on open data in 2010 I expect steam to pour from the soles of his shoes every time I see him. His ambition to free up local government data is laudable and, until recently, unfashionable. And he deserves all the support and recognition he gets.”

Ian Hislop/Private Eye

Not much to look at on the web perhaps, but the Eye’s successful mixture of satire, humour and heavyweight investigations has seen its circulation rise. It blaized a trail during the Carter-Ruck and Trafigura gagging ordeal and has even lent it’s support to j-list fellow the Hackney Citizen to protect press freedom from international to hyperlocal levels. Image courtesy of Nikki Montefiore on Flickr.

Brian Boyer

Amidst the talk of what journalists can learn from programmers and what coding skills, if any, journalists need, Brian Boyer was making the move the other way from programming to a programmer-journalist. His university and personal projects in this field have been innovative and have got him noticed by many a news organisation – not least the Chicago Tribune, where he now works as a news applications editor. He blogs at Hacker Journalist.

Ushahidi

Originally built to map reports from citizens of post-election violence in Kenya, Ushahidi’s development of interactive, collaborative and open source mapping technology has been adopted by aid agencies and news organisations alike. It’s a new means of storytelling and a project that’s likely to develop more tools for journalists in the future.

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Coders meet journalists; journalists meet coders

April 28th, 2010 | 7 Comments | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism, Training

Do journalists need to learn to code? Probably not, but those who can are likely to find themselves quickly snapped up by news organisations with interactive and data teams.

I have no grand hopes of learning to code properly, but I would like to feel a little more comfortable with the language and learn more about the ways programmers work and how it could help journalism.

That was one reason I went along to last night’s Ruby in the Pub informal meetup (tagged #RITP or #rubyinthepub on Twitter), initiated by journalists Joanna Geary and James Ball (even though James himself got stuck at work and missed the event).

The other reason was to meet brave souls playing in the programming-journalism no-man’s land. I think there are exciting things to come out of the programmer-journalist relationship. We’re already seeing that in projects led by mySociety and OpenlyLocal, in collaboration with bloggers and other media.

The US, of course, is streets ahead, with news organisations employing designated journalist-programmers. ProPublica, the non-profit investigative organisation, employs application developers and editors, integrated into the news team, as does the Chicago Tribune (for example). The New York Times has a dedicated interactive team – the head of which, Aron Pilhofer, came along to last night’s meet-up (he recently wrote about this new breed of ‘hacker-journalists’ at this link).

Over here, we’re seeing moves in the right direction (the Scott Trust now has a bursary for students who want to learn software development) and of course news organisations do employ developers, designers and programmers, but we’ve got some catching up to do in terms of integrating and prioritising programming skills.

[For some examples of interactives, visualisations and data-driven journalism follow this link]

So…what is Ruby? Ruby on Rails is a open source web application framework, using the Ruby language. Only a minority of programmers use it (you can see a comparison of frameworks at this Wikipedia link), but it was the consensus language agreed for the meet-up.

Developer Dave Goodchild (@buddhamagnet) was restricted by the lack of wifi, but nonetheless he did a grand job in educating us Ruby ignoramuses the very basics.

If you do decide to download RoR to have a proper play, Dave recommends building a blog – the format of which is easy to understand for a journalist – and following this online tutorial on the Ruby on Rails blog.

It was a brief introduction and the properly keen will have to do their homework to learn properly, but it’s good to hear developers explaining how they use it – and showing how quickly something can be built.

The evening was also a meeting of cultures; as journalists explained their various work brick walls and developers explained the differences between various coding languages and platforms.

Most useful for me was hearing about the projects developers are implementing in their respective organisations and the tools they are using.

Whether or not very much Ruby knowledge was gleaned by the hacks in one evening, I have great hopes for the conversation between programmers and journalists. It could result in some very innovative applications and stories that will help British journalists catch up with our US counterparts and break new ground.

If you would like to know more about interactives and data-driven journalism, check out the agenda for news:rewired – the nouveau niche (25-06-10) where these topics will be addressed. Buy your ticket (£80 + VAT) at this link. Speakers include OpenlyLocal’s Chris Taggart; the OnlineJournalismBlog’s Paul Bradshaw; and Ollie Williams from BBC Sport.

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Live webcast from NYC: crowdsourcing and journalism

February 5th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Events

Via paidContent, we see that a live conference from the New York Times building is being webcast right now (not sure for how much longer), with a stellar line-up: Brian Stelter, media reporter & Media Decoder blogger, the New York Times (moderator) with Aron Pilhofer, editor, interactive news technology, the New York Times; Andy Carvin, senior social media strategist, National Public Radio; Amanda Michel, editor, distributed reporting, ProPublica; Jay Rosen, professor, New York University; and Joaquin Alvarado, senior VP, digital innovation, American Public Media.

Live Webcast Happening Now: Crowdsourcing For Journalists, at NYT Building | paidContent.

Watch live streaming video from smw_newyork at livestream.com
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Observer.com: NYTimes’ interactive team hires first woman

Journalism.co.uk noticed the absence of women in the New York Times’ interactive technology team during a visit to its offices earlier this year.

But now comes news that it has brought a female programmer on board, Jacqui Maher. ‘This is the 10-person team’s first and (so far) only female hire,’ writes Gillian Reagan for the New York Observer.

“Software and web development is a male-dominated field at The Times and everywhere else, editor Aron Pilhofer told The Observer. “It is a serious issue,” he said.

“Mr. Pilhofer sent out a memo about the new arrival. “Brian [Hamman, assistant editor,] and I were looking for someone who is a top-flight programmer; is a stickler for testing, usability and documentation; can think creatively about ways to extend our technology; can train others and act as a sort of ‘evangelist’ to the newsroom; and, of course, brings creativity and new ideas,” he wrote. “It’s a thick job description, and we never thought we’d find one person who embodies those traits – until we met Jacqui.”

Full post at this link…

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Knight News Challenge winner DocumentCloud releases ‘CloudCrowd’ system

DocumentCloud, the New York Times and ProPublica-backed project, has released its first open-source code since its launch.

The project, which won funding from the 2009 Knight News Challenge, was created to make documents and data useable for anyone. It will include software, a website and a set of open standards to make original source documents easy to find, share, read and collaborate on. From its site:

“Users will be able to search for documents by date, topic, person, location, etc. and will be able to do ‘document dives’, collaboratively examining large sets of documents. Organisations will be able to do all this while keeping the documents -and readers – on their own sites. Think of it as a card catalogue for primary source documents.”

DocumentCloud is not a collection of documents; rather software to support documents hosted elsewhere, two of the team – Eric Umansky, senior editor at ProPublica and Aron Pilhofer, the New York Times newsroom interactive technologies editor – explained to Journalism.co.uk in June.

The new system announced this week – CloudCrowd – will work as ‘a heavy-duty system for document processing’, in particular for importing large documents for use with DocumentCloud, the project’s lead programmer Jeremy Ashkenas said.

“Our PDFs need to have their text extracted, their images scaled and converted, and their entities extracted for later cataloguing,” he explained, adding more detail about the process, which is called ‘parallel processing’ on its site.

“All of these things are computationally expensive, keeping your laptop hot and busy for minutes, especially when the documents run into the hundreds or thousands of pages.”

The parallel processing system, named CloudCrowd, will power DocumentCloud’s document import, a process described in detail on its site by the project’s lead programmer Jeremy Ashkenas.

Ashkenas encouraged other users with ‘batch-processing needs’  who need to process large number of documents to try the system. It fits into the project’s community ethos; the aim is to invite participation and feedback ‘from scaffold to deploy’.

CloudCrowd links:

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USTREAM.TV: Aron Pilhofer on the NYTimes’ databases and graphics

February 24th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

In an interview with Cindy Royal, associate professor at Texas State University, New York Times’ newsroom interactive technologies editor Aron Pilhofer discusses the Times’ graphics and data teams and being part of, what he describes as, one of the most collaborative newsrooms he’s worked in.

Video clips at Ustream

Full story at this link…

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Ulken.com: Exploring data at the New York Times

January 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

As part of his newsroom tour, Eric Ulken visits the New York Times to discuss data, programmer-journalists and newsroom organisation with the Times’ Aron Pilhofer. Full story…

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