Reuters recently partnered with the Global Editors Network to present the New York Times Hackdays. We asked the winning and highly commended teams to share their projects and insights with us. In this first post Lauren Johnston and Kristen Lee from the NY Daily News team spoke to us about their winning project NewsQs and the future of digital storytelling.
Could you tell us about your Hackday team?
Our team consisted of: Lauren Johnston (Digital Editorial Director), Kristen Lee (Digital Integration Editor) and Cecilia Reyes (Daily News data intern). Kristen started her Daily News career as a political reporter. Lauren was managing editor of the website handling breaking news and homepage programming until about a year ago when she was asked to head up a new department focused on innovative storytelling, social media and general digital development. Kristen came on as deputy. Cecilia came on board in fall 2013. This was Lauren and Kristen’s first hackathon and the first time Cecilia presented at a hackathon.
How was the Hackday experience different to your usual working day?
On the average day in our newsroom, we are thinking about dozens of projects at once and reacting to news. The hackday was a great opportunity to focus on one project and we were amazed that in two days we were able to go from concept to working prototype.
Tell us about your winning project?
NewsQs mimics the behavior of a live chat with an expert and is intended to offer readers a quick, fun and innovative way to navigate content on a website. Instead of a person on the other side of the chat window, we connected the Reuters elections API and invited users to ask the tool poll-related questions about which candidates were winning, which candidates were running in different areas and which issues were important to them. The answers were pulled from the Reuters database. We imagined this tool as a component of a media outlet’s broader election coverage including stories, maps, photos, etc. NewsQs offers customized, direct delivery of a particular data set.
What aspect were you particularly proud of?
NewsQs is flexible and can be used with many data sets. We feel we created something that offers an alternative to search or site navigation for content discovery. NewsQs offers the reader a conversational path to request and interact with information.
How does NewsQs meet the needs of today’s news audience?
It’s personalized and it gets to the point fast. We (and our readers) are accustomed to quick, direct exchanges. We text, gchat, FB chat, etc. all day – this mimics the experience of brief conversation with the site itself.
What does NewsQs offer a news publisher?
We are all trying to find new ways to engage the audience. NewsQs lets us talk to our readers in a novel way.
What were the key trends that emerged for you from the weekend?
The theme of the event was “news as a conversation.” The audience has been participating in our reporting and making the news process a dialogue since the development and rise of social media platforms, but the tools created at our hackday event were all seeking to invite the audience to participate in new ways. Customization, audience participation and deep analysis of social data will continue to play an increasingly important role in journalism.
How is your organisation adapting to meet these challenges/opportunities?
We created a program called DailyNewsU to offer regular training sessions in multimedia, data reporting, social media and new digital tools. We also have an in-house Innovation Lab, a program that brings startups into our newsroom to develop tools to meet media development needs.
How can these types of activities impact the newsroom?
Every newsroom should be devoting time and space to thinking about the types of projects we worked on in our hackday weekend. In that concentrated setting, each team created an exciting concept that might be worth developing in any newsroom.
What excites you about the future of digital storytelling?
It’s limitless. There is so much innovation and creativity in our field now. New products are changing the landscape and the way we interact each day.
Find out more about upcoming GEN Hackdays.
Find out more about Reuters US Elections Service.