The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
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A new local news app developed by San Diego State University students recently hit the iTunes store. The surrounding community - both on and off campus - can use the mobile app to view, post and share local news and events.
Named after the San Diego State mascot, AzteCast emerged from a contest where schools had to develop an app using code or a platform developed by Knight News Challenge winners. Amy Schmitz Weiss, assistant professor of journalism, chose to use the technology of 2009 winner Ushahidi, which crowdsources, visualizes and maps information.
The San Diego project began with a desire for partnership. Schmitz Weiss said she had always wanted the journalism and media studies and computer science departments to work together. The contest criteria gave a reason to collaborate with computer science professor Joseph Lewis, who co-taught the mobile technology course.
She connected her students with Ushahidi and hosted video conference calls with the Kenyan-based entrepreneurs. Schmitz Weiss also sought mentorship from the 2011 Knight News Challenge winner PANDA Project , which helps news organizations use better public information by cleaning up and analyzing data. PANDA developer Brian Boyer, now of NPR, also visited the campus in April to help students with app design.
“[Boyer] was a powerful influence to students who had all of these ideas, but did not know where to begin. What we learned is that an app should do one thing really well—‘do it great, make it simple,’ that was his advice to us,” Schmitz Weiss said.
As one of the first in ten winners of the contest that aimed to inject more innovation into journalism education, Schmitz Weiss says the grant challenge has increased the potential for working across majors, and has already helped one student secure a job.
“A lot of the skills I gained from the class are skills I use at work now,” says Mia Myklebust, a 2012 San Diego State graduate who helped to develop AzteCast. Myklebust, 22, was hired as a social marketing coordinator at CollegeMapper, a startup based in Seattle.
“I feel lucky that we were proactive about education in digital and mobile technology,” she said. “Everything is digital. Educators and students need to be aware of that.”
AzteCast received nearly $8,000 for winning the contest, launched by Knight Foundation and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The association will announce the next round of winners Aug. 9 at its gathering in Chicago. This conference will celebrate 100 years of AEJMC commitment to journalism and mass media education.
Schmitz Weiss said she plans to continue pushing for the journalism and computer science departments to work together.
“I am planning to continue this in upcoming classes in our program and find ways to implement some workshops outside of the classroom as well to make sure our students have the opportunity,” Schmitz Weiss said. “This is a big part of the future of journalism.”
By Jenna Buehler, communications assistant at Knight Foundation
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