It’s almost time for the ONA14 conference (yeah!) and that means another board election approaches.
My first term on the board is almost complete and I’m running for re-election. It’s been an honor to serve on the board with such a wonderful and talented group of journalists. ONA continues to make great progress and I’d love to continue serving the members and the organization. If you’re a member (or not yet a member, you should join) — I’d greatly appreciate your vote.
Here are some highlights from my candidate page. I also want to know what you would like from ONA going forward, so please drop me a line in the comments below, on Twitter or privately here:
Vision for ONA and skills I would bring to the board
ONA members include every type of journalists in every type of news outlet. As an organization we deal with subjects that affect a wide spectrum of the industry — such as leadership, ethics and diversity — and more specific topics — like how to protect sources, use a new tool or adopt new reporting methods.
In order to best serve our members and take advantage of ONA as platform (see http://bit.ly/GLonaboard12), we need to include more voices.
We need more members and participants who are in business, advertising, sales. They also work in the news business and are a notably absent group in our conversations about the present and future.
We similarly need to expand our community to include others outside of news — professionals and academics whose fields share similar fundamentals, themes and practices or who have methods we could learn from and apply to journalism. We should recruit them as associate members.
Artists and architects. Biologists and book-creators. Filmmakers and forensic accountants. Game animators and geographers. Industrial designers and improv actors. Linguists and librarians. Mathematicians and musicians. Poets and philosophers. Sociologists and screenwriters.
We have so much to learn from our peers and colleagues. But, beyond learning from each other, we have even more to learn from those outside our field — the subject-matter experts and specialists.
What are their processes? How do they solve problems? How have they been disrupted? How have they adjusted their business models? What have they made? How have they spearheaded change?
It’s like you’re writing a story. You have the seed of an idea, so you ask a reporter in the next pod if it sounds worth checking. Then you start contacting sources, asking them for other experts and broadening the scope of what you know.
That’s the same kind of expansion we need.
Invite them to local meetups. Ask them to speak at annual conferences. Include them in dCamps and leaderships breakfasts. Appeal to them for guest posts on journalists.org.
What the technology behind Bitcoin enables, in short, is the ability to track online trading of a digital object, without relying on any one central authority, by using the block chain as the ledger of transactions.
What if we built a block chain system for news? Recording and verifying facts, data, updates, quotes, people, etc like the Bitcoin protocol tracks transactions in a database that no one owns, but of which everyone always has the same copy. (Update: This is meant more as “inspired by block chains,” but it would be different kind of system because we’re not dealing with transferring or owning the units.)
How useful would that be in the reporting and dissemination of information? With all the noise introduced during breaking news and even long, complex story arcs, it seems like there’s a lot of potential here.
The nature and task of art is different from news, but there’s much we can learn (stay tuned for more posts on that topic). Consider this from Anil’s piece:
Reblogging is essential to getting the word out for many digital artists, but potentially devastating to the value of the very work it is promoting. What’s been missing, then, are the instruments that physical artists have used to invent value around their work for centuries — provenance and verification.
Think of these two key terms he uses.
In the context of news, provenance could be the source of information — or it could be who first reported something. Verification, of course, is already a common term.
The next question then is: What instruments do we have to give our work value?
Not methods. Instruments.
All this — you guessed it — also makes me think of GitHub for News (more here). That idea would make tracking updates, contributions, feedback and even facts more structured by incorporating them in a versioning system like git.
Neither GitHub for News nor Block Chains for News would solve all the problems they aim to tackle. Anil’s piece smartly notes in the art realm:
as with any new idea, it can be difficult to reckon with the implications. Steven Melendez asserted that monegraph could “eradicate fake digital art”, when this is exactly backwards. In fact monegraph makes it possible to have “fake digital art”, because prior to this we had no consistent way of defining an “original”.
So, where should we start?
UPDATE: More discussion and explanation…
@spetulla This would have nothing to do with funding, actually. It’s just applying the same fundamentals of the Bitcoin protocol to news.
Digging through notebooks or scanning old articles isn’t the best way to find archival information. Structure your beat using the key subject matter as your foundation to track people, places, organizations, incidents, schools and more.
“Why develop in the newsroom?” asks Dan Sinker. In short, I’d say because you have near limitless opportunities to solve interesting problems. For example:
How can we find better ways to tell stories?
How do we uncover new information and find meaning in it?
How do we properly inform people about their communities?
How do we foster and contribute to important conversations?
How do we hold public officials and powerful figures to account?
How do we increase understanding of complex issues?
In The Washington Post‘s newsroom, where I work, developers are a highly valued bunch. There are far more ideas and a far greater desire to collaborate with developers than we have time or resources for — and we probably have more coders than many newsrooms.
Developing in a newsroom is not about “IT” or support — it’s about building things. Things that our audience and others across the newsroom use. We have folks who do a mix of the following:
develop news applications
create platforms and services
These individuals work in different areas — from graphics to digital design to the embedded developer team. Personally, I coordinate data and technology projects for a specific desk — local — and occasionally use code. I previously did a six-month stint on the embed team after starting at the Post as a producer.
“Six-month stint?” What does that mean? It means my newsroom gave me half a year to improve my self-taught code skills and build projects alongside full-time developers. How awesome is that? I’m forever grateful for this opportunity to level-up my coding abilities, build strong relationship on that team and better manage projects because of those two things.
Another example of the value our organization places on fostering and recruiting developers is evident in this excerpt from Miranda Mulligan’s response to the “Why develop in the newsroom?” question:
Earlier this year, the Washington Post and Medill School announced a partnership to offer programmers scholarships to study journalism at the school. The hope is that those programmers will eventually bring their technical skills to news organizations around the country. The Washington Post will assist the Knight Foundation — which helped originally fund the program — in paying for the education of three scholars over a three-year period. After graduating, the scholars will work a paid internship with the Post’s tech team. If you have questions about the scholarship program, please contact Rich Gordon at email@example.com.
Opportunities abound. Whether they’re hard journalistic problems or even hard computer science problems, you’ll have the opportunity to tackle a wide range of projects. Bring other domain knowledge or expertise — science, business, sports, politics, whatever. I’m ridiculously excited just thinking of all the possibilities.