Eight years ago I attended a one day conclave about the future of journalism. The event was held at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and had speakers from big national news organizations as well as local newspapers. All day long the speakers and audience struggled with questions of how verifiable news would survive in the digital age.
That event was mostly a last gasp attempt to envision news organizations as they had existed prior to the internet. The middle aged and older newspaper editors were looking for ways to continue organizing and presenting news as they always had. They seemed to see new technology as a challenge that had to be overcome. Well, the war is now long over and journalism as we knew it was soundly defeated. But what comes next?
Why Digital News Is Your Friend
Journalism schools are certainly not sitting around waiting for answers to arise, instead they are actively involved in the search for answers, hoping to continue being relevant. The foundation of journalism is verifiable news. The internet provides more news than anyone can possibly consume, but how much of it is accurate? That’s the question that points to the foundational skills of journalism: investigation, verification and editorial guidance.
Hackathons have become a very significant social laboratory for journalism to explore the new digital circumstances of news collection and dissemination. People still want to know what is real and what is false; and journalists have long-established means of determining that difference. Hackathons offer a forum for reinventing technical means that re-establish journalism’s role in the flow of socially distributed information.
The Fastest/Simplest Way To Be Real
This weekend I’m going to participate in a journalism hackathon, Hack Jersey 2.0. at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. The selected focus of Hack Jersey 2.0 is to explore better data journalism as well as new tools for storytelling. There are five judges – two of whom are from the New York Times – and there are several substantial sponsors I’m hoping to learn more about the whole hackathon process and see what types of career development opportunities arise during the event.
Hack Jersey is not a unique idea. There are hordes of journalism schools who have hackathons. If you do a Google search for the keyword, “hackathon journalism” there are 183,000 results, many of which are hackathon announcement pages. Hackathons have become the newest way journalism is embracing what was previously the digital enemy. It’s a good strategy, journalists need to know how to connect with their audience and provide verifiable news. They also need to know about coding and hackathons offer both.
I called the organizers of Hack Jersey to find out about their team selection process. I spoke with Joseph Amditis, who is the coordinator at the Center for Cooperative Media and he sent me a short video of the “Hackshackers” hackathon he attended last year. He made it up from video he took at the event – it’s a sort of video notes about that event. I was impressed with the resources they had at hand. The event took place in New York City at the Conde Nast offices and interestingly, the Conde Nast representative who spoke early on at the event said he had job openings and hoped to hire. Take a look at the video – it’s about ten minutes. (Click the picture or anchor text above)