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April 01 2013

18:15

Shaping technology to the story: The Brown Institute for Media Innovation is finding its niche

The Brown Institute for Media Innovation just began accepting applications from students or alumni of Columbia and Stanford for its second round of Magic Grants. Helen Gurley Brown made headlines last year when she donated $30 million jointly to Columbia and Stanford to found the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, a bicoastal effort toward helping students build “usable tools” for the proliferation of “great content.”

The idea was that combining the engineering prowess of Stanford students with the journalistic know-how of Columbia students would propel innovation in the news industry. To that end, Columbia would construct a $6 million state-of-the-art newsroom within its j-school building (now under construction), and the institute would offer serious grant money — up to $150,000 per team, or $300,000 if it features members from both schools — for projects. Its next batch of Magic Grantees — due to be announced at the end of May — will go a long way toward further defining what a direct collaboration between computer science and journalism can produce.

The quest for personalized TV

The first three Magic Grants were awarded last June. Connecting the Dots is a project by two Stanford students dedicated to drawing out large, complex, data-heavy news stories through logic mapping, similar to the way that metropolitan transit maps simplify networks of trains and busses. Dispatch, a joint startup that already has an app for sale through Apple, helps journalists in crisis scenarios conceal their identities while publishing via mobile device.

The largest team belongs to the third winner, EigenNews — 10 members from both campuses combined. The idea: personalized television, built around a playlist of of national news clips based on the user’s selected preferences (by both category and by show) and by viewing behavior and user voting. (You can sign up and get a daily email update from EigenNews — it works pretty well.)

eigennews-screenshot

The design is meant to provide the user up-to-the-minute broadcast news while filtering out certain types of stories, but to maintain a sense of immediacy, some current very popular current stories make the playlist no matter what. “The playlist strikes a balance between presenting the most important stories currently and those stories that might be of particular interest to you,” wrote Stanford-based team member David Chen in an email. “For the second factor to be more evident, the user’s view history has to contain a sufficient number of samples.” As the project’s description puts it:

We forecast that next-generation video news consumption will be more personalized, device agnostic, and pooled from many different information sources. The technology for our project represents a major step in this direction, providing each viewer with a personalized newscast with stories that matter most to them…

Our personalized news platform will analyze readily available user data, such as recent viewing history and social media profiles. Suppose the viewer has recently watched the Republican presidential candidates debate held in Arizona, an interview with a candidate’s campaign manager, and another interview with the candidate himself. The debate and the candidate’s interview are “liked” by the viewer and several friends on Facebook. This evidence points to a high likelihood that a future video story about the Republican presidential race will interest the viewer. The user’s personalized news stream will feature high-quality, highly-relevant stories from multiple channels that cover the latest developments in the presidential race.

Chen said the EigenNews team wants to incorporate more sharability in the future — currently, you can generate a link by click a button on the player, but they hope to add comments soon. He also said they’re looking toward a future model that would incorporate more local coverage and user-generated video content.

“Seeing situations where the journalism is leading”

Mark Hansen, who was appointed director of the Columbia side of the Brown Institute last fall, says he imagines some form of the EigenNews project will probably live on. “That work is work that Bernd [Girod, his Stanford counterpart] does as part of his research program, so my guess would be that some part of that work will be funded consistently.” Hansen will be overseeing the administration of the second round of funding. Coming from the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at UCLA, where he gradually began to realize the implications of data journalism, he is a blend of journalist and statistician.

“Over the course of my ten years at UCLA, the Center shifted…to more participatory systems, where we were encouraging the public to get involved with data collection. As we started working with community groups, as we started reaching out to high schools, the character of the enterprise changed,” he says. While sensor networks are opening up the power of public data, coordinating the gathering, calibration, analysis, and dissemination of that information is no small order. Hansen says that realization has honed his understanding of the important role that journalists play. His students learn to code — not just how to work with engineers who code — but what he’s most interested in are projects whose genesis is a journalistic question, not a technological advancement.

“I’m interested in seeing situations where the journalism is leading. Where there’s some story that needs to be told, or some aspect of a story that can’t be told with existing technology, but then drives the creation of a new technology,” he said. “As opposed to, ‘Look, we made tablets — okay, now you guys tell stories around tablets.’”

Since moving to Columbia, Hansen has had ample opportunity to observe the interplay of hard science and journalistic practice. He teaches a course on computational journalism, and he says the transition from teaching statisticians to journalism students has been enlightening. “When you teach a statistician about means, for example, their comment on the data will end with ‘The mean is 5.’ The journalist will say: ‘The mean is 5, which means, compared to this other country, or five countries, or other neighborhood…’ The journalists will go from the output of the method to the world. They contextualize, they tell stories — Emily Bell calls this narrative imagination — and they are hungrier than any other students I have ever worked with.”

Hansen plans to use the resources of the Brown Institute to recreate the open dialogue and experimentation of the classroom, in hopes of uncovering ideas for projects and prototypes to receive Magic Grant funding. “I’m usually the one writing the grants, not the one giving them away,” he joked. To that end, he’s been in conversation with industry professionals from the likes of ProPublica, The New York Times and Thomson Reuters, trying to figure out “what the interesting questions are,” he says. Defining what Brown can do that is distinct from the other institutes, labs, and other entities in the space is a top priority.

Organizing hackathons and other collaborative events is another route Hansen wants to explore. He is interested in a hackathon model with more concrete pedagogical objectives than the typical open-ended approach. The Brown Institute has already hosted a data hackathon, as well as a conference Hansen calls a “research threeway,” after the three sectors he aims to bring together — journalism, technology, and “opportunity” (that is, funding). Mixing speakers with journalism, media, and engineering backgrounds resulted in a “beautiful collision of language,” he said, and some intriguing ideas.

“There was a nice conversation around serendipity, especially as it connects to large data sets. I think often times we fall back on a kind of search metaphor where we are constantly googling something. If we don’t know what it is we’re looking for, how do we activate an archive, how do we activate a data set? How do you engineer serendipity?”

Building a space

Meanwhile, Hansen has also been overseeing some engineering in a more concrete sense. He hopes to unveil the Brown Institute’s newsroom by summer 2014, a two-story facility which he says draws inspiration from both traditional newsrooms and the “large, open, reconfigurable workspace” that we associate with startups and tech incubators. The space will feature a mezzanine, transparent conference rooms, and shared workspaces called “garages.” It’ll be a wireless office space with flat panel displays and a number of projectors, shared by Brown grantees, fellows, and faculty. “Emily Bell will be teaching a class on the sensor newsroom, a kind of pop-up newsroom,” Hansen says, “and that space will be the perfect space to try out the ideas that are coming out of that class.”

Hansen says one of the most rewarding parts of his directorship so far was having the chance to share the plans for the newsroom with donor Helen Gurley Brown just before she passed away last August. Both the architects and the web designers for the Institute’s new website were told to use the creative output of Brown and her husband, film producer David Brown, as a design compass. As a result, the website will feature a rotating color palette, updated on a monthly basis to reflect covers from Cosmopolitan magazine throughout Brown’s career.

Running a bicoastal institute is not without its challenges, and the hope is that the new space in New York and a newly unified website should help to deal with those. Stanford grantees and fellows don’t have a centralized office space like their New York counterparts, but travel costs are covered by Magic Grants for bicoastal projects and regular project reviews.

Still, Hansen says figuring out how to operate as one entity has been challenging. “Not only is [Stanford] 3,000 miles away, and not only is it two different disciplines,” he says, “but it’s also the quarter system and the semester system, and three hours’ [time] difference — every little thing you could imagine is different is different.” In addition, engineering grad students study for four to five years, while Columbia’s main graduate journalism program is only one year long. To allow the journalism students equal opportunity to participate, they’ll be eligible to apply for Magic Grants as part of an additional, second year. Says Hansen: “We’re doing what we can to make it feel like a cohesive whole.”

The Brown Institute is also invested in ensuring that, when it funds successful projects, they have the opportunity to live on. While grant winners can apply for a second year of funding, Hansen is also focused on communicating with private investors, companies, and other foundations. He’s particularly excited about the potential addition of computational journalism to the National Science Foundation‘s official subfields, which would open up significant additional funding for Brown Institute alums.

“It does really feel like a great moment to be thinking about technology and storytelling, technology and journalism,” Hansen says. But in addition to using technology to propel the journalism industry into the future, he takes cues from the memory of the Browns, and hopes to shape the Institute into something that reflects them both.

“Helen and David were showmen, if you will,” Hansen says. “They really understood audiences and how to tell a good story.”

September 02 2012

16:54

How the Deseret News supports a local newsroom with a national strategy

Nieman Lab :: The Salt Lake City company is breaking out of the newspaper mold by building online-only products that aim at an audience beyond Utah’s borders.

A report by Jonathan Stray, www.niemanlab.org

[View the story "Deseret News: Pitfalls of online-only products" on Storify]

Deseret News: Pitfalls of online-only products

Jonathan Stray, Nieman Lab, writes: "The Salt Lake City company is breaking out of the newspaper mold by building online-only products that aim at an audience beyond Utah’s borders." -- Does Deseret News' online-only product strategy work or not?

Storified by Steffen Konrath · Sun, Sep 02 2012 09:54:12

Source: "Focus and web-only content: How the Deseret News supports a local newsroom with a national strategy" Jonathan Stray, Nieman Lab
In his article about Deseret News, Jonathan Stray writes, that "one of the basic advantages of the web is its ability to involve the audience in the production of media."

Unfortunately that kind of openess comes with some pitfalls as well:
.@StKonrath Nieman fails to mention Deseret News is owned by LDS church & national agenda is parallel. Citizen content=unpaid opinionBallerinaX
@StKonrath Also opens up for situations like this http://bit.ly/ORdhoO that end up like this http://bit.ly/ORdlVkBallerinaX
The first link refers to an article written by Jared Page, Deseret News, in which he informs readers, that "West Valley City mayor admits using false identity to write news stories."
Tags: Newsroom

August 02 2012

15:53

July 26 2012

18:56

Chicago Tribune staff: We're frustrated and concerned about Journatic connection

Jim Romenesko :: Eighty-eight Chicago Tribune staffers have written to editor Gerould Kern about their “deep frustration and concern in the newsroom over the Tribune’s continued relationship with Journatic,” which they say “threatens to jeopardize our credibility.

Read the staff letter here - by Jim Romensko, jimromenesko.com

July 25 2012

16:20

How to bring 'agile' into the newsroom. Agile?

Journalism.co.uk :: Wander into a room of developers and you may hear the term "agile". But what is agile and why and how should journalists learn from developers and adopt some of the principles? This guide looks at how a number of newsrooms have taken aspects of agile on board, and how some journalists have actually been using some of the principles without knowing it.

A report by Sarah Marshall, www.journalism.co.uk

Tags: Newsroom

May 05 2012

15:46

.@MercuryX is adding a community room to their newsroom #fillthelab

Merceditors Desk :: The call to #fillthelab takes on new meaning for The Mercury audience and residents of the Pottstown tri-county area, with the announcement today that our Community Media Lab was selected as one of 10 newspapers throughout Digital First Media to get funding for a community room project.

HT: Jim Brady, here:

The @MercuryX is adding a community room to their newsroom. @merceditor writes about it here: bit.ly/LfxTXS

— Jim Brady (@jimbradysp) May 5, 2012

Nancy March, or @merceditor, is the editor of The Mercury, an award-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. She "writes about the trials and tribulations -- and joys -- of running a newsroom."

Continue to read Nancy March, merceditorsdesk.blogspot.de

Tags: Newsroom

April 18 2012

18:20

11th Int. Newsroom Summit: Smart strategies, game changers and enemies of change

NextLevelofNews.com /Liquid Newsroom is media partner of the 11th annual Newsroom Summit, in Hamburg.

WAN IFRA ::  Paul Lewis, the Special Projects Editor at The Guardian in the United Kingdom, has been a role model for embracing the changing world around him. By harnessing the power of social media and crowdsourcing, he has produced some of the most compelling investigative journalism in recent years, such as his on-the-street reports of the riots in Britain last summer. “I think actually there are very few realms of reporting that don’t lend themselves to being much more open in the way that we produce and then subsequently report the news,” says Mr Lewis, who had 10,000 Twitter followers before the riots and today has 47,000.

As the total rethink of traditional newsroom roles, workflows and business models continues without end, an openness to all things new appears to be necessary for success. That philosophy will be on display when some of the newspaper industry’s smartest newsroom minds share their open-minded strategies at the 11th annual Newsroom Summit, to be held on 10 and 11 May in Hamburg, Germany.

Planned sessions:

  • Integration 4.0 – game changers, successes and future challenges on the digital express train
  • Dealing with the enemies of change in newsroom transformation
  • New jobs in the newsroom and the jobs you have never heard of but needed yesterday
  • Streamlining newsroom workflows for efficiency and savings
  • Is the subs room a legitimate target for cuts?
  • How the newsroom can become a revenue centre
  • Latecomers to multiplatform publishing may be the real winners

Planned speakers:

  • Tomas Brunegård, CEO, Stampen Group, Sweden: Dealing with the enemies of change.
  • Anette Novak, Consultant and former Editor in Chief of Norran, Sweden: New positions in the newsroom, the jobs you have never heard of but needed yesterday.
  • Lisa MacLeod, Managing Editor, Financial Times: Newsroom 4.0 at the FT.
  • Mathias Müller Blumencron, Editor in Chief of Germany’s Der Spiegel: Can serious journalism survive on mobile devices?
  • Wolfgang Blau, Editor, Zeit Online, Germany: Can separate print and online operations deliver more?
  • Knut Engelmann, Managing Editor, Wall Street Journal Deutschland: Expanding into new markets.
  • Matt DeRienzo, Connecticut Group Editor, Journal Register Co.: Re-training journalists to become ‘digital ninjas’.
  • Margaret Boribon, Secretary General, Copiepresse, Belgium: Taking on Google – and winning.
  • Peter Atkinson, Group Editorial Consultant, Avusa Media, South Africa: Smart ways to reorganise newsgathering and production.
  • William Davis, Editor, Bangor Daily News, USA: The open source newsroom.
  • Joycelyn Winnecke, Vice President and Associate Editor, Chicago Tribune: Engaging readers in real life.
  • Jan Helin, Editor-in-chief, Aftonbladet, Sweden: Journalists as brands.

Visit the conference site - 11th annual Newsroom Summit

Tags: Newsroom

January 23 2012

19:38

facebook-newsroom.com: Facebook registers 'newsroom' domains

Fusible :: Now the social networking giant has bought up “Facebook Newsroom” names like facebook-newsroom.com. Altogether, the company registered three domains: facebook-newsroom.com, facebook-newsroom.net, and facebook-newsroom.org.

Details (WHOIS data) - Continue to read J.B., fusible.com

January 16 2012

20:18

Chicago Tribune offers newsroom voluntary buyouts

Chicago Tribune :: Looking to reduce costs as it continues to grapple with a changing media landscape and challenging economy, the Chicago Tribune told employees Monday it will offer an undisclosed number of voluntary buyouts in the newsroom. Gerry Kern, senior vice president and editor of the Tribune, issued a memo outlining the voluntary separation program

Continue to read Robert Channick, www.chicagotribune.com

September 20 2011

05:49

First release of Google Wallet with MasterCard now available for Sprint Nexus S 4G customers

Mastercard Social Media Newsroom :: If you’re lucky enough to have a Sprint Nexus S 4G, keep an eye out for an over-the-air update which will enable the Google Wallet app. - It’s only been a few brief months since Google and MasterCard first announced the partnership with some of the biggest names in the industry on Google Walletthe technology that enables customers to instantly tap, pay and save with a NFC (near field communications) enabled phone at PayPass terminals nationwide.

Well, what do you know? It’s finally here!

New York Google taxicab wallet demo

Continue to read Ryan Block, newsroom.mastercard.com

What is "Near Field Communication"? - Continue en.wikipedia.org

August 03 2011

09:28

Announcing news:rewired – connected journalism, 6 October 2011

Journalism.co.uk’s next news:rewired event will take place on 6 October at MSN’s London offices in Victoria.

What’s it about?

news:rewired – connected journalism will look at different forms of integration and collaboration in the industry, both inside and outside the newsroom.

As journalists we don’t work in isolation, and collaborating with our audience is becoming increasingly important. And as the way we do journalism changes, organisations need to think carefully about the way members of staff and different departments work together to produce the best product in the most efficient way possible.

Journalism.co.uk’s next news:rewired event will look at the latest opportunities for collaboration in the newsroom given the evolution of new digital journalism roles, and how reporters can work with the wider community to improve, fund and find the journalism of the future.

Sessions at the one-day conference will include:

  • a look at the architecture of the newsroom and new opportunities for integration
  • advice on how to inspire continued and enhanced engagement from a community
  • a guide to some of the top tools and latest digital platforms for integrated multimedia storytelling
  • insight into innovative business models being adopted by community-focused news outlets
  • a discussion on the importance of collaboration for the future of investigative journalism and how to build the necessary bridges between journalists, news outlets and the general public

In the spirit of collaboration, we are keen to hear about anything you would like to see covered during the day. Just let us know @newsrewired or email rachel[at]journalism.co.uk.

Several speakers have already been confirmed for the event, including:

Iain Overton, managing editor, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Philip Trippenbach, editor-in-chief, Citizenside.

Laura Oliver, community co-ordinator, the Guardian.

Turi MuntheTuri Munthe, founder and CEO, Demotix.

Kate DayKate Day, social media and engagement editor, the Telegraph.

Who’s it for?
news:rewired events are for: working journalists with an interest in digital media; media trainers and students; journalism and communications academics; PR and communications professionals; and anyone interested in the future of the journalism and media industries.

Book Your Place!

How can I book tickets?
There are 50 tickets available at a special earlybird rate of £85 (+VAT). But you will need to be quick because this 35 per cent discount is only available until 29 August.

After 29 August ticket prices will rise to £130 (+VAT). For information about tickets and availability email ed[at]journalism.co.uk.

How can I learn more?
You can email rachel [at] journalism.co.uk for more information on the agenda, or to suggest any topics you would like to see covered.

For sponsorship/advertising queries contact stefanie[at]journalism.co.uk or james[at]journalism.co.uk.

Image by WebWizard on Flickr. Some rights reserved

July 10 2011

16:03

Phone hacking and News of the World: Rupert Murdoch has taken risks too far

Guardian :: The advertiser boycott of the News of the World grew and grew recently. It wasn't a question of who would be pulling their ads any longer, more of whether anybody would dare to take space. 

[Peter Preston:] Didn't Rupert (Murdoch) traditionally ring up the News of the World editor every Saturday afternoon and ask "What have you got"? Did he never go on to inquire where it came from, then? How could Rebekah Brooks, NOTW chief executive have been unaware of her whole show going off the rails?

There is a risk that the destruction of the News of the World in a mushroom cloud of contrition, doesn't work for the Rupert Murdoch's news empire. Will it ease the pressure and let News Corp get back to making pots of money from movies and television? That's what an increasingly restive board in New York, flanked by an even more restive array of corporate shareholders, will be hoping. But it's very hard to see that happening. 

Continue to read Peter Preston, www.guardian.co.uk

July 05 2011

21:47

In an era of technology-fueled transparency: data journalism, and the newsroom stack

O'Reilly radar :: MIT's recent Civic Media Conference and the latest batch of Knight News Challenge winners made one reality crystal clear: as a new era of technology-fueled transparency, innovation and open government dawns, it won't depend on any single CIO or federal program. It will be driven by a distributed community of media, nonprofits, academics and civic advocates focused on better outcomes, more informed communities and the new news, whatever form it is delivered in.

Continue to read Alex Howard, radar.oreilly.com

June 25 2011

05:05

Tools & techniques to rebuild trust in newsrooms again

PBS :: The journalism industry ships lemons every day. Our newsrooms have a massive quality control problem. According to the best count, more than half of stories contain mistakes -- and only 3 percent of those errors are ever fixed. Errors small and large litter the mediascape, and each uncorrected one undermines public trust in news organizations. In Pew's last survey in September 2009, only 29 percent of Americans believed that the press "get the facts right." What to do?

Scott Rosenberg: "Yet the tools and techniques to fix this problem are known and simple."

Continue to read Scott Rosenberg, www.pbs.org

June 14 2011

06:03

Gay Talese's Page One: the inner workings of The New York Times

Vanity Fair :: The Kingdom and the Power, Gay Talese’s 1969 masterwork describing the inner workings of The New York Times, opens with this description:

[Gay Talese, 1969:] Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections in people and places.

At the June 9 screening of Page One, a documentary about The New York Times, hosted by Talese, very few attendees could see any warts on the film, least of all Talese himself. The film’s director, Andrew Rossi, had spent a year following reporters and editors from the Times’s media desk.

Sarah Ellison, Vanity Fair, asked Talese to share some thoughts about the Times he worked for and wrote about in the 1960s and the one he saw in Rossi’s documentary.

Continue to read Sarah Ellison, www.vanityfair.com

June 05 2011

05:16

New York Times: Jill Abramson takes over a more diverse staff than the average U.S. newsroom

Poynter :: When Jill Abramson becomes The New York Times’ first female executive editor in September, she takes over a more diverse staff than the average U.S. newsroom. Minority journalists make up about 19 percent of the Times’ staff, compared to about 13 percent in the average U.S. newsroom. Mallary Jean Tenore, Poyner, asked Abramson today by phone why a diverse staff matters and she responded.

[Jill Abramson:] I think that when you have a diverse staff you get a diverse reaction to news developments and angles on things that have happened that you might not have thought of otherwise.

Continue to read Mallary Jean Tenore, www.poynter.org

May 24 2011

21:13

@pageonemovie - Inside the New York Times by Andrew Rossi, Kate Novack

Take Part :: For the making of Page One: Inside the New York Times, director Andrew Rossi and producer Kate Novack gained unprecedented access to the New York Times newsroom and the inner workings at the paper's media desk. In this exclusive interview, Rossi and Novack tell TakePart about making their documentary and what they hope audiences will walk away with after seeing the film this summer.

The movie on Twitter @pageonemovie

Continue to read www.takepart.com

Visit the site www.takepart.com/pageone

September 16 2010

08:56

Does journalism need a fail whale?

I thought about the title of this post as I was reading around about the recent update to twitter has caused a flurry of posts outlining what it will mean for journalists.

Over at the Nieman Lab Megan Garber ponders what the new twitter might mean for networked journalism. They make a good point about how this might be effected by “Twitterers, end-user innovation-style”.

But she ultimately concludes that:

The Twitter.com of today, as compared to the Twitter.com of yesterday, is much more about information that’s meaningful and contextual and impactful. Which is to say, it’s much more about journalism.

You could take a view that she means twitter has now become more useful to journalism. But I have to ask how much journalism is ready to take advantage of what it has to offer.

In amongst the early comment I particularly liked Laura Olivers pondering on what the new features could offer:

I can also see clever journalists using the embedded feature to tease stories with video snippets and by giving their Twitter audience more content encourage those followers to visit a news site and engage there too

I love that idea. But how many newsrooms are ready to take advantage of it.

It’s easy to dismiss putting time in to getting your multimedia on twitter as a waste of time. Like the ipad, it’s easy to dismiss things like twitters new features as gadgets and technology that get in the way of proper journalism.

But experimenting with getting a video on to twitter is not about video on twitter. That’s the easy (now easier bit). It’s about exploring if you have the capacity to do video at all. Just like exploring delivery of content to the ipad is a way to experiment with html5. Hell, if nothing else it’s a convenient excuse to try.

If you don’t take the opportunity to experiment then you will find that you have less of a capacity to do produce the content your audience will want and no ability to chase them as they migrate to platforms that do.

When they come to you, you may as well have the newsroom fail whale up: “Sorry we are over capacity”

Real capacity

Maybe we should be more honest about what we can and can’t do. Be more bullish about what we do well. Perhaps we should get over wanting to chase them everywhere (or corral them in one place behind a paywall).

Or maybe we should take advantage of the free, open and engaged platforms to see just what capacity we really have.

September 02 2010

16:21

The Cartoonist Aims to Bring Newsgames to the Masses

The Cartoonist, our winning entry in the 2010 Knight News Challenge, emerged from two research programs. For the past two years, my research group at the Georgia Institute of Technology has been cataloging and analyzing the burgeoning genre of "newsgames" -- videogames about current and past real-world events. That research produced a book, Newsgames, which will be published next month by MIT Press.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, professor Michael Mateas and his Expressive Intelligence Studio at UC Santa Cruz have been working on the problem of game generation by creating artificial intelligence tools to create a virtually infinite number of games.

The goal of our two-year Knight grant is to create a tool for generating newsgames on the fly, making it viable to create a videogame about a breaking event. This is done by identifying the issue and an angle for editorial or reporting, boiling the story down into its constituent agents and their relationships, and selecting from a range of rhetorical archetypes. Anyone who understands how to use the tool will be able to create a newsgame, remixed from the structures and mechanics of popular arcade games, within five minutes or less. The game will output to Flash and HTML 5 for instant uploading to the web, where it can be paired with reportage, columns, video, infographics, and cartoons covering the same current event.

Early Newsgames

Our project strives to enhance the online viability of local newspapers and to lower the technical barrier required to produce videogames with editorial intent. We see it as as an extension of, rather than a replacement for, the tradition of editorial cartooning. The creator of the earliest newsgames, Gonzalo Frasca, was the first to describe his work as "playable political cartoons." The French-language history and geography textbooks Frasca encountered in high school featured many cartoons drawn by an artist from Le Monde, and they were, according to him, all that made civics education bearable.

By now, anyone studying or working in journalism understands the great loss to news revenue caused by the shift of classifieds to online sources such as Craigslist and eBay. It is our contention that the abandonment of staff cartoonists at many papers -- a tragic and highly visible symptom of overall budget cuts during the recent recession -- represents a similarly vital loss, though of a different kind. For over a century, editorial cartoons drew attention to issues of local importance and generated a sense of regional pride. Their contribution to the wellbeing of local papers has never been easily quantifiable, but it's clear that they've always served a pivotal role in maintaining product loyalty and funneling readers toward the rest of the paper.

Appeal of Puzzles

Games accomplish a similar goal: Studies by the New York Times, the London Times, and a number of local papers showed that a significant percentage of their readerships bought the paper primarily for the puzzles. Although the crossword retains its loyalists, and despite the advent of Sudoku having ushered in a new generation of puzzlers, the rise in popularity of online web game portals represents yet another threat to the growth and retention of news readerships.

The new online news media require a new form of game, one that draws from the accessibility of arcade games and the capability of videogames to present an editorial opinion. Indeed, The Cartoonist has uses far beyond interactive cartoons, and as a result we will be changing the final product's name to reflect its broad potential. More on that as things progress.

Once it is fully developed, our studios will work with local reporters, columnists, and cartoonists in Atlanta and Santa Cruz to introduce them to the authoring system. Later, we'll make the tool and its source code available to everyone, from veteran cartoonists, to indie game developers, to citizen journalists. Until then, we'll be publishing findings, problems, and points of interest twice a month on this blog, along with other articles on our own Newsgames and Expressive Intelligence Studio websites. We look forward to your questions, comments, and continued support.

16:21

The Cartoonist Aims to Bring Newsgames to the Masses

The Cartoonist, our winning entry in the 2010 Knight News Challenge, emerged from two research programs. For the past two years, my research group at the Georgia Institute of Technology has been cataloging and analyzing the burgeoning genre of "newsgames" -- videogames about current and past real-world events. That research produced a book, Newsgames, which will be published next month by MIT Press.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, professor Michael Mateas and his Expressive Intelligence Studio at UC Santa Cruz have been working on the problem of game generation by creating artificial intelligence tools to create a virtually infinite number of games.

The goal of our two-year Knight grant is to create a tool for generating newsgames on the fly, making it viable to create a videogame about a breaking event. This is done by identifying the issue and an angle for editorial or reporting, boiling the story down into its constituent agents and their relationships, and selecting from a range of rhetorical archetypes. Anyone who understands how to use the tool will be able to create a newsgame, remixed from the structures and mechanics of popular arcade games, within five minutes or less. The game will output to Flash and HTML 5 for instant uploading to the web, where it can be paired with reportage, columns, video, infographics, and cartoons covering the same current event.

Early Newsgames

Our project strives to enhance the online viability of local newspapers and to lower the technical barrier required to produce videogames with editorial intent. We see it as as an extension of, rather than a replacement for, the tradition of editorial cartooning. The creator of the earliest newsgames, Gonzalo Frasca, was the first to describe his work as "playable political cartoons." The French-language history and geography textbooks Frasca encountered in high school featured many cartoons drawn by an artist from Le Monde, and they were, according to him, all that made civics education bearable.

By now, anyone studying or working in journalism understands the great loss to news revenue caused by the shift of classifieds to online sources such as Craigslist and eBay. It is our contention that the abandonment of staff cartoonists at many papers -- a tragic and highly visible symptom of overall budget cuts during the recent recession -- represents a similarly vital loss, though of a different kind. For over a century, editorial cartoons drew attention to issues of local importance and generated a sense of regional pride. Their contribution to the wellbeing of local papers has never been easily quantifiable, but it's clear that they've always served a pivotal role in maintaining product loyalty and funneling readers toward the rest of the paper.

Appeal of Puzzles

Games accomplish a similar goal: Studies by the New York Times, the London Times, and a number of local papers showed that a significant percentage of their readerships bought the paper primarily for the puzzles. Although the crossword retains its loyalists, and despite the advent of Sudoku having ushered in a new generation of puzzlers, the rise in popularity of online web game portals represents yet another threat to the growth and retention of news readerships.

The new online news media require a new form of game, one that draws from the accessibility of arcade games and the capability of videogames to present an editorial opinion. Indeed, The Cartoonist has uses far beyond interactive cartoons, and as a result we will be changing the final product's name to reflect its broad potential. More on that as things progress.

Once it is fully developed, our studios will work with local reporters, columnists, and cartoonists in Atlanta and Santa Cruz to introduce them to the authoring system. Later, we'll make the tool and its source code available to everyone, from veteran cartoonists, to indie game developers, to citizen journalists. Until then, we'll be publishing findings, problems, and points of interest twice a month on this blog, along with other articles on our own Newsgames and Expressive Intelligence Studio websites. We look forward to your questions, comments, and continued support.

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