OpenNews: Insights From Building a Community of Newsroom Technologists

Publication Date February 9, 2017

In the last five years under Mozilla’s leadership, OpenNews has brought new technology talent into newsrooms, advanced journalism innovation and worked to encourage cultural change in an increasingly digital world. The project’s training programs and events have built a community of more than 1,100 developers and reporters from across the world, given rise to new leaders in journalism and helped increase newsroom diversity. In addition, Source, an OpenNews web publication, has allowed developers to share stories, case studies, code and journalism tools with tens of thousands of people. Its Knight-Mozilla Fellowship program has placed 33 fellows in 19 newsrooms across five countries to solve digital challenges. Fellows have created innovative open source technology projects, including the popular Tabula (a tool for taking data out of PDFs), which is used by more than a dozen news organizations from ProPublica to The New York Times.

The impact of the OpenNews project is further detailed in a report released by Knight Foundation, “OpenNews: Insights From Building a Community of Newsroom Technologists.”

Building on the project’s success, OpenNews will now launch as an independent organization, working as a project of Community Partners, a nonprofit fiscal sponsor and civic intermediary, to expand its work with a growing community of developers and newsrooms. Knight funding will help support OpenNews’ new operational structure and activities including:

  • The fourth SRCCON (pronounced “Source Con”), OpenNews’ two-day, hands-on conference focused on the challenges faced by news technology and data teams, is being held Aug. 3-4 at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center. SRCCON launched in 2014 and is the fastest-selling conference in the journalism-code community.
  • The redesign of Source launches at source.opennews.org. Source has been rebuilt from the ground up with a new emphasis on learning and how-tos from diverse newsroom technologists and a new look optimized for mobile.
  • A biweekly Source community conference call including discussions of recently launched projects and tools, and announcements of events, grants, jobs and other opportunities.
  • Code, Culture and Leadership convenings, which will allow smaller groups to build relationships and collaborate on shared projects.
  • A smaller, topical SRCCON event coming later in the year, designed to offer a deeper focus on a single subject facing the news tech community.
  • OpenNews Ticket + Travel Scholarships that will allow members of the journalism code community to build their skills at conferences and training sessions around the world.
  • A yearly community survey to better understand the growth, needs and concerns of the journalism-code community. The results of a prototype survey OpenNews ran in 2016 will be released at the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ 2017 Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference, March 2-5.

The next phase of OpenNews will be informed further by the report released commissioned by Knight Foundation and produced by research firm Network Impact. Using social network data analysis, surveys and participant interviews the report outlines the project’s achievements and lessons learned.

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