OpenNews: Coding While History Happens

This week in Texas, State Senator Wendy Davis successfully stopped an anti-abortion law from passing by filibustering in the statehouse for 11 hours. For those unfamiliar (or simply not paying attention this week) it means that she stood, unassisted, and spoke for 11 hours in the hopes of running out the clock on a vote that had to happen before midnight. As it turned out, it was not her that ended up stalling the vote past midnight, but the voices of thousands that filled the galleries as the filibuster wore on, brought to the statehouse by organizers, word of mouth and by watching the filibuster via the livestream run by the Texas Tribune.

Today on Source, Travis Swicegood, the head of technology for the Texas Tribune, writes about how he and his team kept the servers up and running as 200,000 people watched the events in Texas play out. As has been noted a lot this week, the major news networks didn’t cover the filibuster live—the sole window into the political drama playing out in Texas was the Texas Tribune’s stream.

There’s never been a more important moment for digital skills in journalism than right now. Whether it’s to keep infrastructure humming like in Texas or to display the leaked documents that exposed the NSA’s vast metadata collection, which is how the Document Cloud project got put to use a few weeks back. Whenever there’s an election, talented newsroom developers help to visualize the leadup, and the results. News developers are creating new ways to understand the world—and transforming it in the process.

While some developers concentrate on new ways to share ever-shorter video clips, the developers working in the newsroom are helping the world to better understand itself. This is why the Knight-Mozilla Fellowships are so exciting: they allow coders curious about the world of journalism to engage in it for 10 month stints at some of the best news organizations in the world. Fellows are given free rein to experiment and try new things, to be in the room when news breaks, and to collaborate and code for a better tomorrow.

We’re accepting applications to become a 2014 Knight-Mozilla Fellow now, and the Texas Tribune is one of our six newsroom hosts next year. We couldn’t be more proud of the work they’ve done, and more happy to be a part of the community of news developers at this turning point in history. Join us by applying today.