Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight-Mozilla OpenNews: Cultivating the community of people behind the code

Oct. 17, 2013, 8:56 a.m., Posted by Marie Gilot


Above: Former Knight-Mozilla fellow Nicola Hughes at the 2012 Mozilla Festival. Photo credit: Paul Clark.

They are a new breed of journalists: Nicola Hughes, a journalist and coder embedded at The Guardian; Manuel Aristarán, a coder and musician working at La Nacion; and Mike Tigas, a Web developer working at ProPublica; Brian Abelson, a statistician, journalist and hacker at the New York Times. Nicola, Manuel, Mike and Brian are Knight-Mozilla Fellows, part of the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews initiative started in 2010 to get multitalented technologists to innovate with the news.

And innovate they did. Manuel and Mike developed Tabula, a PDF data extraction tool; Brian is researching impact metrics for news; and Nicola was hired as a data journalist by the Times of London. In just a few years, they have become part of a global network of open source Web makers helping newsrooms across the country evolve and adopt digital media tools to meet new community information needs.

Today, Knight  Foundation is announcing a $4 million grant to Mozilla not just to seed innovative news products but also to  grow a pool of tech talent to lead change in newsroom culture and create a common space for journalism coders to collaborate. To this end, the OpenNews project will mint another class of fellows, adding five news partners in 2014. It will also promote more ways to connect through hack days and convenings and its new but fast-growing Source website, which allows developers to share code and journalism tools with anyone.

Source’s traffic doubled in its second quarter and teams of newsroom developers, such as those who worked on  the New York Times’ Pulitzer-winning project “Snow Fall,” turn to Source as a venue for helping people to understand their work. Source aims to capture the people and code behind the projects and become a home for the OpenNews community.

The growth of Source is only reflective of the growth of the OpenNews community itself, which is doubling year after year. There are now 250 fellowship applicants for five spots; more than 500 direct contributors, who write articles and code and organize events; and more than 2,000 people who attend events or follow OpenNews online. This is a community that is truly, to paraphrase Mozilla’s Dan Sinker, of the Web, not on the Web.

Marie Gilot, media innovation associate at Knight Foundation

Six news organizations around the world will be hosting five Knight-Mozilla Fellows in 2014. After a global search, OpenNews will announce the new Knight-Mozilla Fellows at the 2013 Mozilla Festival in London Oct 25-27, 2013Visit Source to find out other ways to get involved with the OpenNews community, and stay tuned for 2014 application dates for fellows and newsrooms.