Lately, there’s been a good deal of ink (both printed and virtual) lamenting the current climate in traditional Western newsrooms (and on some entrepreneurial online platforms) that are experimenting with new models for journalism in the 21st century. The complaints include the following:
- The rightsizing of traditional newsroom staff, which is linked to lower print readership and advertising income (and a rise in digital readership)
- Robot journalism and what transpires when local news is reported by folks who are not located in the region supposedly being covered
- Western media coverage of international news that’s hampered by the closure of bureaus, resulting in higher travel costs to get reporters where they need to be (These reporters are less tuned in to local sources.)
However, there has been good news for the journalism field recently too. The June 2015 Global Editors Network (GEN) Summit in Barcelona, Spain, featured its fourth annual international competition, Startups for News, rewarding “the most promising startups that provide innovative services for newsrooms.” The winner is SourceRise, a service that connects journalists to nonprofit sources from all around the world. SourceRise’s vision is for a more inclusive form of journalism that helps engage society to catalyze solutions to global problems. SourceRise connects journalists to on-the-ground nongovernmental organization (NGO) sources who know the communities they serve. Sign-up is free for journalists, photojournalists, bloggers, and international development experts working for social impact organizations.
Innovative Journalism Websites
Connecting journalists with experts is nothing new. If your beat is Africa, for example, there is the Africa Portal database of experts, which provides curricula vitae (including contact information) for researchers in government and at universities throughout the continent. The Conversation US takes a different approach, as “a collaboration between editors and academics” providing “informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish.” The following are more examples of journalism projects that are embracing the digital age:
- Bellingcat encourages citizen investigative journalists to use open source information to report on global issues that are being ignored.
- Global Journalist is a weekly 30-minute, web-based radio show that reports on the state of press freedom around the world.
- 100Reporters is “dedicated to forging new frontiers in responsible journalism. It joins scores of the planet’s finest professional reporters with whistle-blowers and citizen journalists across the globe to report on corruption in all its forms.”
- freedominfo.org is a global network of freedom of information (FOI) advocates sharing resources and reporting on new legislation that limits or expands FOI around the world.
On June 22, 2015, Google introduced its News Lab with an eye toward supporting this brave new world of media. As the blog post announcing the initiative rightly states, “In the past decade, better technology and an open Internet have led to a revolution in how news is created, distributed, and consumed.” News Lab supports quality journalism by providing journalists, news organizations, and media entrepreneurs with “tools, data, and programs designed to help” them “discover, create and distribute news content,” such as tutorials on products created specifically for newsrooms. Google Trends has been updated to provide “journalists with deeper, broader, and real-time data, and [it] incorporates feedback” collected from global newsrooms and data journalists. Google wants “to help ensure that innovation in news leads to a more informed, more democratic world.”
A Strong Set of Finalists
SourceRise’s win should not take away from some of the other entries in the Startups for News competition, including the following services:
- Storyform recognizes the impact of “the story.” It effortlessly transforms static “blog posts and photos into immersive narratives—all with the click of a button” so users can focus on the content and let the platform do the rest.
- NEWSKID is a free transmedia service designed to engage children ages 8–12 in international current affairs by using augmented reality.
- Stringr acts as an online marketplace for media organizations to purchase video from both amateur and professional videographers.
- Datavisual offers predesigned templates and data importing (e.g., from a .csv file), as well as presents visualizations that were formerly only possible using custom data graphics programs.
- Spot.IM helps website owners and publishers “turn their websites into a social network driven by their own content.”
- SAM (Social Asset Management) exists “to help storytellers tell stories that matter” by offering a suite of utilities for news-related workflows.
- Fotokite makes aerial filming simple: “We are building a safe, intelligent flying camera that anyone can deploy in under a minute.”
Past Winners, Near-Wins, and Another GEN-Sponsored Contest
Past winners of the Startups for News contest include last year’s Coda Story, “a single-issue web platform that reports on one crisis at a time and stays with it, providing unique depth, continuity and understanding.” It uses traditional journalism techniques and a specialized platform to cover news stories “after the spotlight has moved on elsewhere.” The runner-up in 2014, which won an honorable mention, was Wibbitz. “Wibbitz re-packages textual content into rich and informative video summaries that can be watched conveniently on mobile screens, at home or on-the-go.”
Two years ago, the winner was Datawrapper, a tool that allows the most novice users to make maps and charts “in just four steps.” Descriptions of the contest’s first winner, Teleportd, and all the finalists from prior years are on the Startups for News website. If you are interested in data journalism and visualizations, you can see similar information concerning the GEN-sponsored Data Journalism Awards at globaleditorsnetwork.org/programmes/data-journalism-awards.