Open Source in the Newsroom at ONA11 

A funny thing happened on the way to the Online News Association conference. There had been a long-planned lunch-hour presentation by the Knight Foundation’s Jose Zamora and the Mozilla Foundation’s Mark Surman to talk about the project that I now head up, the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership. But as it turns out, both Mark and Jose had last-minute scheduling conflicts, and I was asked to step in to talk about the program.

Now I’m certainly no stranger to being up on stage, and I think the Knight-Mozilla Partnership is amazing but it seemed like there might be a better way to spend an hour at the ONA conference that would both hold true to the spirit and philosophy of the partnership, while also bringing other voices and perspectives into the mix.

And so I’m happy to announce a last-minute addition to the ONA Schedule: Knight-Mozilla Presents: Open Source in the Newsroom. I will moderate an hour-long discussion about the impact of open source code in newsrooms and what’s compelling a growing number of news apps developers to share their code back out with the community in the form of open-source projects. The Chicago Tribune’s News Apps Team put it perfectly earlier this month when they said: "Show Your Work" I truly believe that it’s through collaboration, openness, and “showing your work” that we’ll see real innovation in journalism. In fact, that’s the driving force behind the Knight-Mozilla Partership and is why I’m so excited to be able to spend an hour driving a discussion about it.

Joining me up there will be three open-source committing, news-apps building, fire-breathing powerhouses: Brian Boyer, from the Chicago Tribune's News Apps team; Al Shaw, news apps developer for ProPublica, and Jacqui Cox, from the Interactive News Technologies team at the New York Times. This is such an unbelievably talented panel that listing everything they’ve been a part of seems nearly impossible. Three standout projects from this year:

Fech by the New York Times, a Ruby Gem which allows for easy querying against the Federal Election Commission’s database of political action committee’s expenditures, donors, and more.

Timeline Setter by ProPublica, a great tool (another Ruby Gem, actually) that let’s a programmer or journalist build a great interactive timeline. (Timeline Setter was used to great effect recently in MinnPost’s timeline of coverage of Michelle Bachmann)

Englewood, and a host of other mapping tools, built by the Chicago Tribune, that eases the creation of dot-density maps that use census data, seen here in this map of same-sex partners in the Chicago Area.

Not only do these folks represent some of the best examples of successful adoption of open-source philosophies in the newsroom, they are also three shining examples of bringing a spirit of openness and collaboration to their work by communicating and sharing externally instead of keeping everything locked away internally. I urge you to subscribe to each team’s blogs: the Chicago Tribune’s News Apps Blog, The ProPublica Nerd Blog, and the New York Times Open Blog.

This is going to be one hell of a discussion. If you’re at the ONA conference, do come. Saturday 1-2pm, Salon F-G 110 Huntington Ave.

If you can’t make it or can and want to live tweet it, we’ll be using the hashtag #onaopen on Twitter, and I’ll post all our notes and links using that tag after it’s over.