Journalism Department wins grant to develop app to guide student reporters

Friday, April 04, 2014

Journalism students are lining up to test a soon-to-be-developed app and website that will guide them in the reporting process, in partnership with bilingual community newspaper El Tecolote. The Journalism Department’s proposal for Newspoints landed SF State a $35,000 micro-grant in the first round of the Online News Association’s Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. The 12 winners were announced April 4.

Newspoints — set to launch in January — will help students connect and organize interviews, notes, sources, data and multimedia by assignment, topic, time and geography. Students will use the new tool by reporting for the Mission District-based El Tecolote, covering community issues such as immigration, evictions, housing and gentrification. Assistant Professor Jesse Garnier, the project’s principal investigator, says 34 students have already signed up.

“Even for experienced journalists, disorganized reporting and disconnected assets can add overhead and complicate production in both deadline-driven and project-based environments,” Garnier writes in the grant proposal. “Newspoints automatically links reporting, research and multimedia in real time.”

Computer Science graduate students will lead development of the Newspoints mobile app, directed by department chair Dragutin Petkovic and faculty with Sean Connelley of Stamen Design. Students in Garnier’s Data Journalism class will integrate the guides through content analysis and expert contributions. Photojournalism Professor Ken Kobre will oversee visual and multimedia aspects.

All 12 grant winners will now compete for up to $100,000 in additional grand prizes for best project and evaluation.

“Bright shiny things and gee-whiz technology were not the goal,” Online News Association Executive Director Jane McDonnell writes in a blog post. “We wanted to see true community engagement and impact, at a level of success that would be replicable in other schools. Will students learn to produce new kinds of news in open collaborative teams? What do they want to find out with their experiment? How will their community and local news outlets benefit?”

For the challenge fund, the Online News Association has partnered with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, McCormick Foundation, Democracy Fund and Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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