By Justin Ellis
Katy Newton likens it to walking through a coffee shop: You can look around the room and see people reading articles in a newspaper or a magazine — and, within a certain range of politeness, strike up a conversation around the news.
She’s talking about Kon*Fab, a new project funded by the Knight Foundation, which aims in some small way to inject serendipity, conversation, and physical space into news. As designed by Newton and Sean Connelley, the Kon*Fab app would use geolocation and online discussions to unearth stories a reader might not be familiar with.
Along with Kon*Fab, three other projects were announced as part of the Mozilla Festival:
- FOIA Machine: A tool that will help people figure out freedom of information laws and how to properly format information requests.
- Ground Truth: A service that aims to better connect journalists and researchers with community sources by using SMS and mobile devices.
- UNICEF Data Severity Index: A system to help governments filter and prioritize disaster data.
Newton, formerly with the Los Angeles Times and the Oakland Tribune, developed the idea for Kon*Fab while a Knight Fellow at Stanford last year and had submitted it to one of this year’s Knight News Challenges. She said the idea isn’t just better news discovery; it’s also to encourage discussion around the news tied to place. While there’s plenty of conversation on Facebook and Twitter, she said the idea is to bring that back to a real world (i.e., not digital) setting. “There’s just something missing online when you read a story,” she said.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.