OpenNews: Elections Code Convening. Open your code with us!

This year has been a year of trying new things at OpenNews. One of the big things we’ve been doing is experimenting with ways of bringing newsroom developers together to open up projects together. We call them Code Convenings, and we’re opening up applications for our third Convening today.

The idea behind Code Convenings is pretty simple: we’ve found that often the thing holds code back from being open-sourced is just finding the time to do that last-mile abstraction work and creating first-class documentation. Code Convenings bring devs together for a couple days to do exactly that. We feed you, put you up in a hotel, and give you the time and space to do the work that’s necessary to get some great code out.

Our first code convening was in Portland Oregon this spring, and resulted in four great projects being opened up—since then, they’ve been used and reused numerous times. Our second code convening brought together folks to collaborate on a single code base, resulting in the creation of the California Civic Data Coalition. We considered both these convenings prototypes: opportunities to try things out with a reduced number of variables. As a result, we invited folks to take part, but kept the lead-up quiet—no need to promote while we were still figuring things out. Well, we think we’ve got this relatively figured now, so we’re going public for the last Code Convening of the year.

We’re hosting an OpenNews Code Convening in New York City November 13 & 14, and we want your news developers to take part. This will be coming soon after the midterm elections in the United States, and so we’ve chosen “Elections” as the organizing theme of this convening. If your newsroom has been working on some interesting code this election cycle, that you’d like an opportunity to open up to the larger journalism code community, you should apply.

We’re moving pretty quickly here: The application opens today and closes on October 17. We’ll be selecting a maximum of five projects, and will notify folks if theirs have been chosen by October 21. You’ll need to commit two people or, if you can only send one, work with us to find a good partner) to the two days of the convening, and we’ll cover food and travel. It will be so awesome.

This is a great opportunity to get code out into the world: take it!

Samurai helmet (Kabuto) shaped like an octopus from 18th century Japan.

Samurai helmet (Kabuto) shaped like an octopus from 18th century Japan.

(Source: museum-of-artifacts, via thisbelongsinamuseum)

OpenNews: Breaking and Fixing (and one day left to apply)

They say that news “breaks.” And when they do, it conjures images of daybreak, shedding new light on the world. But news also breaks things apart: our understanding, our assumptions, how we thought the world was. This week feels a lot like that.

When we talk about the Knight-Mozilla Fellowships—applications for which close tomorrow night—we talk often about the experience of being in the room when news breaks.

But working in journalism isn’t just about being around when things break, it’s about staying in that room as the real work begins. Because news isn’t simply about breaking things: At its best, it is about fixing, about healing, about reaching understanding.

Looking at news break this week it’s clear that understanding is no longer achieved through the printed page or the broadcast booth—things move too quickly for that now. From parsing the Snowden documents to covering the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, real understanding now comes in new ways.

Those new ways mean bringing new skills into newsrooms and with those skills new ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds. It means experimenting with new forms of storytelling and new tools on the backend. It means collaboration, sharing, and working in the open.

This is what Knight-Mozilla Fellows do every day. And it’s why you should apply to join their ranks in 2015. If you love to build things on the web, if you’re a creative thinker who solves problems in code, if you’re a civic hacker, a data scientist, a web designer, or just a self-taught coder, join us.

As a Fellow, you will do many things: work in some of the best newsrooms in the world, have colleagues that will challenge and champion you in equal measures, write open-source code that gets used by thousands. But most important is helping bring understanding to a world that desperately needs it.

But it’s almost too late to apply. Deadline is tomorrow, Saturday, August 16, at midnight Eastern. Don’t hesitate. Change the world. Apply.

OpenNews: Last week to apply, a look at the total Fellowship package

This is the final week to apply to become a 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellow. The application closes at the stroke of midnight Eastern time, Saturday August 16.

The last few weeks, we’ve had our news partners and our current Fellows make the case for why YOU should apply to become a Knight-Mozilla Fellow.

Becoming a Knight-Mozilla Fellow is a thrilling opportunity, one that will plunge you head-first into the problemsets of journalism, and allow you to experiment and build compelling solutions. We tell our Fellows that they should “follow your passions” in approaching their builds and projects.

But those passions require time, and moving to a new city (Fellows live in the city their host newsroom is located in) requires real dedication. As a result, being a Fellow is an adventure, but it’s also a commitment: of thought, of talent, and of time.

At OpenNews, we recognize that commitment and work to live up to it by offering a generous stipend and significant supplements to it that reflect the needs of the lives our Fellows lead.

In addition to the $60,000 Fellowship stipend, we offer a series of supplements to help offset the cost of housing, healthcare, moving, and more:

  • Partner and Children: We know that not everyone that writes code is single. And we want your partner and children to share the adventures of your Fellowship with you. All of our supplements scale and adapt to your living situation. We even offer a supplement to help cover the cost of childcare.
  • Housing: Moving to a new city for your Fellowship is a big deal, and so we want to help by covering much of your moving costs as well as offering a supplement for your rent.
  • Equipment and Research: We want our Fellows to be ready to do write next-level code, and we know that sometimes means updating their equipment or doing deep-dives on research, and so we we offer up to $3000 as in our research and equipment allowance. On top of that, we give each Fellow $250 to cover domain registrations or server costs for their experiments.
  • Travel: Our Knight-Mozilla Fellows travel the world and we help to cover much of their travel. We even help to book it.

We want the year that you are a Knight-Mozilla Fellow to be amazing. We want you to make things that last long beyond your Fellowship year. We know that the first step on that is knowing that you’re taken care of during your Fellowship year, and we do our best to make sure you are.

The end of this week—midnight eastern Saturday night—is all that’s left to apply. Don’t hesistate: make the commitment to apply.

OpenNews: One week to apply, our newsroom partners make the case

Becoming a Knight-Mozilla Fellow means being embedded in some of the best news organizations in the world. That means you won’t just be in the room when news breaks, you’ll be creating compelling new ways to break it. You won’t just have colleagues to learn from, but peers excited to learn from you too. And you won’t just be another set of hands in the newsroom—you’ll be experimenting, trying new things, and tackling major newsroom projects.

The deadline to apply to become a 2015 Fellow is August 16, just a week away, and the newsrooms that are partnering with us—the Guardian, NPR, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Vox Media, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and La Nacion in Buenos Aires—have articulated the opportunities fellows will have if they’re embedded with them. At the Guardian in London, incoming Executive Editor of Digital Aron Pilhofer sees “the unique vantage point” of a Knight-Mozilla Fellow:

You will be fully part of the London newsroom, able to collaborate with reporters, editors, graphics editors, interactive developers, designers and more. You’ll also have the ability to collaborate with business-side teams as well, including the Guardian’s world class digital development, analytics and product teams.

But as a Knight-Mozilla Fellow, your goal isn’t just to improve the Guardian; it’s to improve journalism as a whole, with one of the world’s most important newsrooms as your laboratory.

NPR wants a fellow to join their unique hybrid Visuals team in Washington, D.C. For Brian Boyer, the NPR Visuals editor, the fellow will be a teammate—plus:

You’ll be our teammate: making stuff with us, learning what we’ve learned, teaching us what you know and what you’re learning elsewhere during your fellowship year.

The Washington Post and the New York Times are teaming up with Mozilla and OpenNews to build a next-generation community platform for news. As the Washington Post’s Greg Barber writes, they’re bringing two Knight-Mozilla fellows into the New York-based team as well:

One thing we know for sure is that we want Knight-Mozilla Fellows with us, doing what they do best: experimenting and breaking boundaries. We want fellows to push the work our core team is doing in new directions, to think of things we haven’t, to be independent operators within this deeply collaborative project.

Vox Media sees their fellow as someone that can bridge their seven media sites and help “open source the elements that would be beneficial to the larger journalism community.” Writes Chief Product Officer Trei Brundrett:

We have benefited greatly from open source as we have aggressively built a media company from scratch. Now we’re eager to give back as an active member of the OpenNews community. This year at our hack week, VAX, we kicked off the process by making it easier for our teams to share our work with the open news community and releasing some code, but there is still much left to do. We want you to help us shape that commitment.

The Center for Investigative Reporting is looking for someone who “loves visual data” to help bolster their dataviz work. Writes Jennifer LaFleur, CIR’s Senior Editor for Data Journalism:

We work with many graphic designers and have featured their incredible work. But we’ve never had anyone dedicated to making our reporting and data analysis really shine. When it comes to news apps, we’ve been pretty good at faking it, but we know that we can really up our game.

We need to be able to tell readers things they don’t already know and are actually worth knowing. We need your help to communicate that information more effectively. We’ll challenge you to help users understand complex concepts and help us understand the best way to distill millions of relevant records into a compelling presentation.

In Buenos Aires, La Nacion’s data team is “motivated by the possibility to produce changes with our work, using technology to open data, especially in a country where there is no transparency law and with high levels of corruption,” explains data manager Momi Peralta Ramos. Their fellow would join their team in opening datasets and making them accessible to the Argentinian people. As their whole team explains in a subtitled video:

The opportunity to work with these incredible news organizations is yours. If you love to code and want to spend 10 months deeply immersed in the problem-sets of journalism, then apply now.

OpenNews: So what is the Fellowship experience like anyway?

We are under two weeks until the end of our search for our 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellows. If you love to code and want to spend ten months having an impact in journalism, you should apply.

Of course, you may have questions about what being a fellow is actually *like*, and so the last two weeks, our current Fellows have written about their experiences. Each experience—like each one of our fellows—is different, and the takeaways are unique. The Knight-Mozilla Fellowships are about writing great open-source code, but they are also about so much more. And what that is, is up to you.

Harlo Holmes, who has spent her fellowship year at the New York Times likens becoming a fellow to “Scrooge McDuck taking a swim in his vault.” Except in this case, the vault isn’t filled with money but instead “a veritable treasure trove of code libraries, frankenstein-y demos and PoCs, and wacky ideas.”

Ben Chartoff’s fellowship at the Washington Post has been all about learning:

I know so much more than I did half a year ago, and have so many more people and communities I can learn from. I may not be in school anymore, but I’m certainly a student. Today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my career, I will be learning every day, and I’m figuring out out how to life-long-learn because of this stupendous, magical, yes-it’s-really-that-great fellowship

For Gabriella Rodriguez, her fellowship at La Nacion—which involved moving her entire family of four from Portland, Oregon to Buenos Aires, Argentina—has been “una aventura!" Gaba has been focused on bringing more voices into journalism, she explains in Spanish, through her work on the VozData project, and by organizing “cafés de DATA” with the civic hacker community across the Rio de la Plata in Montevideo, Uruquay.

Brian Jacobs applied to become a Knight-Mozilla Fellow two years in a row, and his second time was the lucky one, landing him a fellowship at ProPublica in New York. His time as a fellow has been about doing the unexpected:

I’m working on a project that involves visualizing NASA data, integrating with repositories of satellite imagery, processing it in Photoshop, in the command-line, making it interactive in a news application, helping to create what I hope will be something really beautiful and worthwhile to explore. Working with data from space is basically the coolest thing I could be doing right now. Did I expect to be doing this? Not really. All I did was follow my interests, because I have less of a job description and more of a general mandate to work with incredibly smart people and make interesting things.

Marcos Vanetta moved from Buenos Aires to Austin, Texas for his fellowship year at the Texas Tribune. His first time in America, and his first time in a newsroom, he has adapted quickly. He writes in Spanish that after only four months, he’s writing software and participating in projects that are visited by thousands of people every day.

Aurelia Moser, who has had a joint East African fellowship with both Ushahidi and Internews Kenya, has juggled her collaboration with news partners, fellows, and many others in the journalism code community (the workflow has been tricky enough that she’s managing it with Github issues). And it’s embracing working in the open that has impacted her fellowship year the most:

Some of the more tacit benefits are nearly impossible to articulate without being gushy. It’s the stranger famery you’ll experience in the news community that clashes with your impulse to imposter syndrome; the kind where you’ll get requests to collaborate on projects from strangers instead of just your friends. Pre-fellowship, I never really had comments on my Github projects and my public code persona was pretty weak; 5 months in, I get regular email about blog posts I’ve written and repos I’ve open-sourced.

Each of our current fellows has had a singular experience. They have learned more about journalism, more about their coding skills, and more about working with others, and about themselves. As Ben Chartoff says in his post, “This fellowship has already changed my life.”

And, a year ago, each of them was were where you are right now: Wondering if they should apply, wondering what it would mean to their lives. They know the answer now because they applied. You have until midnight Eastern August 16 to find out for yourself.


Looking north on Clark from Madison, 1927, Chicago


Looking north on Clark from Madison, 1927, Chicago


Designer Arturo Erbsman Uses Natural Resources to Create Ephemeral Ice Chandeliers 

(via 99percentinvisible)

OpenNews: Why Develop in the Newsroom 2015 (part two)

This week, as part of our search for our 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellows, who spend 10 months writing open code in the newsroom, we have asked others that develop in the newsroom why they do what they do.

The answers—we highlighted a couple on Wednesday—are still flowing in, but wanted to touch on two great ones, both from members of the team at Vox Media.

Lauren Rabaino, a product manager at Vox, outlines ten compelling reasons to write code in journalism. One hits on the fact that, in journalism, you’re constantly having to learn new things:

In order to execute on products that work, you have to force yourself to learn about processes and history and key players for topics you previously knew nothing about. Working in a newsroom with journalists is like going back to school, but more fun (there’s often a lot more cursing and whiskey and no tests except whether you’ve met the user’s needs).

Another of Lauren’s reasons hits hard at why *I* do this work: the ability to solve new problems:

The information industry has come far in recent years in evolving how we do storytelling in a digital world, but there’s still so much more to do, so much more progress to make, so many more problems to solve. This is a world that has immense and ever-growing potential at building the kinds of information solutions that help people live richer, more informed lives. And you can be a part of that. You can shape that. You can lead that. We need more leaders in this space.

For Ryan Mark, who recently joined the Vox team after a long stint developing at the Chicago Tribune, coding in journalism is personal:

I build for news because I’m building for myself. News and information, learning and knowledge is an extremely important part of my life. The free flow of knowledge that the internet has made possible has brought me happiness, wonder and purpose. I couldn’t imagine not being a part of it.

The application to apply to become a 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellow is open until August 16. If you love to code, want to learn new things, challenge yourself, and help make information more open, you should apply today.

OpenNews: Why Develop in the Newsroom? 2015 Remix.

One month from today, August 16, the search for our 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellows will come to a close. Knight-Mozilla Fellows do amazing work—they spend 10 months embedded in newsrooms writing code to help solve journalistic problems—but they don’t do that work alone. When you become a Knight-Mozilla Fellow, you join two communities: a community of fellows (both your peers and alumn from the program), and a community of developers working in the newsroom.

To mark this final month of our 2015 Fellowship search, we’ve invited a lot of voices to talk about their experiences coding in the newsroom. Later in the month you’ll hear from our fellows (both current and past) and our news parnters as well. But this week we’re going to hear from the community of developers currently doing this work in newsrooms big and small around the world.

The developer community in journalism is a dynamic one, and there isn’t one single reason anyone decides to start coding in a newsroom instead of a startup or in the enterprise. Instead, developers start coding in newsrooms for all sorts of reasons.

This week (as we’ve done in the past), we’ve asked developers to share their reasons and experiences with you. These stories—we’ll share a few a day—are wonderful; each one a unique argument to join a singular community.

For Jeremy Bowers, a developer at the New York Times, journalism offers something different than traditional coding jobs. He explains:

We’ve got soul.

We’ve got a mission.

We’re self-critical.

We’ve got stacks of interesting structured data aching to be investigated and summarized. Our reporters are staring down the federal government, tracking people who are otherwise invisible and watching the epidemics most people don’t even know about.

Aaron Williams, who codes at the Center for Investigative Reporting, echoes Bowers when he says that, in traditional programming, “it’s not often the code you write influences the politics of the community.” But, Williams also adds:

I develop in a newsroom because, honestly, it’s just plain fun.

On any given day you may have to write a web crawler to harvest crime logs from your local law enforcement agency or use Mechanical Turk to crowdsource analysis of PDFs you received from a public records request.

On other days you’ll need a better map than Google offers and end up making creating your own slippy map tile set. Or you may start picking up libraries like pandas and SPSS to do some serious data analysis on a 25 GB data dump you’re trying to clean in another Terminal window.

Needless to say, you’ll stay busy and you’ll become a better developer than you ever thought.

Have fun and change the world while you do it: Become a 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellow by applying today.

PS. if you’re a developer in the newsroom and want to contribute your voice to this collection as well, just let me know.


Ernest Wright & Sons of Sheffield, is the last remaining hand manufacturer of scissors . The film documents ’ Putter ’ Cliff Denton literally a putter togetherer of scissors.



More summer lovin’ from Marlys!

OpenNews: Building New Communities with the New York Times and the Washington Post

Community is at the core of what we do at Knight-Mozilla OpenNews—helping to build and strengthen the community of people writing code in journalism. And community is a big part of what has made Mozilla successful—the global community of contributors that has helped to build the Firefox web browser.

Community is also at the core of journalism: whether it’s geographic communities that form the bedrock of local news or the communities of interest that form around subjects as broad as basketball and politics, journalism has always had community at its core.

Which is why it’s exciting to announce that today, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are joining forces to create a next-generation community platform for journalism. The web offers all sorts of new and exciting ways of engaging with communities far beyond the ubiquitous (and often terrible) comments sections at the bottom of articles. We’re looking forward to writing code together to enable them.

We don’t see this project as a single product, but instead as building blocks for engaging communities throughout the web. Open source at its core, and focused on giving users unprecedented control over their identity and contributions, this is a project we believe in.

It’s also a unique collaboration between two of the largest and most respected news organizations in the world. Enabling that kind of collaboration is something that we’ve worked on for from the beginning at OpenNews. While this is a huge project—the grant is equal to the one that enables us to do our core work at OpenNews—it also feels like a natural extension of what we do.

Finally, this is a project that has the opportunity not only to improve community engagement in journalism, but to strengthen the web itself. Technologies like Backbone.js, D3, and Django have all been forged and tested in the demanding environment of the newsroom, and then gone on to transform the way people build on the web. We don’t know that there’s a Backbone lurking inside this project, but we’re sure as hell going to find out.

There’s much more to come, and we’ll be getting down to work soon. But for now, here’s to new experiments, to thinking big, and to communities, new and old—and all the the things we can accomplish, together.


The hopscotch crosswalk

OpenNews: Apply to become a 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellow

I’m excited to announce that starting today, applications to become a 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellow are open. The Fellowships offer an opportunity for people that love to code to get paid to spend ten months building new things in collaboration with some of the best news organizations in the world. Fellows spend their time following their passions, working in the open, sharing ideas, traveling the world, and writing transformative code.

2015 marks our fourth year of the fellowship program, and we’re going strong with seven incredible news organizations:

  • The New York Times
  • National Public Radio
  • The Guardian
  • The Washington Post
  • La Nacion
  • Vox Media
  • The Center for Investigative Reporting

Our news partners offer a home base for each fellow, colleagues to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with, and plenty of problem-sets to work with. Knight-Mozilla fellows are in the newsroom when news breaks and gets to feel the electricity in the air as the world changes.

This year’s partners represent some of the best we’ve yet assembled, pushing new boundaries in reporting, in visualizations, in presentation, and in the news product itself. From Argentina to England, from New York to the San Francisco Bay, our 2015 News Partners are trying new things and breaking new ground—and *you* can join them.

The Knight-Mozilla Fellowship year is an amazing chance for a creative coder, civic hacker, data geek, engineer, or technologist to challenge herself, to write amazing code, and to help journalism transform on the open web. This is a golden age of web-native journalism, and you can be on the cutting edge of it.

If you’re up for the challenge (and you should be), you have until August 16th to apply. We’ve made the application fast: just a few quick questions and links to your best stuff. You have a couple months, but should apply today.