Tool incentivizing quality reporting wins top prize

Nearly 80 programmers, news executives and community activists teamed up May 31 and June 1 at San Francisco’s KQED Public Media to hack products designed to improve journalism.

Incentivizr, which lets paid digital media subscribers allocate a bit of that money directly to the producers of their favorite stories, captured the $1,500 grand prize at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute’s first Hack the Future of Journalism event.

The prototype was built by San Francisco developer Faruk Atş and Bay Area brand strategist Wendy Qi.  Incentivizr increases the publisher’s audience engagement, gives the individual journalist a bonus for working on quality content rather than “click bait,” and gives users “a bit more ownership of the content they consume,” says Ate?.

RJI, KQED, Google and the Public Media Platform, a consortium of America’s five largest providers of public media content, sponsored the hackathon in conjunction with the National Day of Civic Hacking.

Additional financial and technical support was provided by Wayin, which gives media clients tools to better visualize social media, and Chute, which helps news organizations increase the value of visual media.

On the first day of the Hackathon participants started by throwing out ideas and recruiting teammates. Representatives from Wayin and Chute then demonstrated their APIs (application programming interfaces). Nick Whitaker and Vanessa Schneider from Google gave workshops on advanced search strategies and data visualization tools. They shared resources designed especially for journalists, including:

A live demo of My 2 Cents Radio, a mobile player of public radio stories and podcasts that allows in-app donations directly to content producers, drew considerable support and comment from hackathon participants. The app won the 2014 RJI Student Competition.

Three members of the My 2 Cents student team — Georgi Angelov, Connor Hickox and Jack Howard — also partnered with American Public Media’s Joellen Easton and Bay Area TV journalist Monique Soltani to earn the hackathon’s $500 prize for best use of the PMP API.

Their app, nicknamed HereSay, is designed for travelers. It combines location-based tweets identified by Wayin with relevant stories generated by the Public Media Platform. Easton says the app gives listeners “the deeper context that maybe you wouldn’t know to match with the topics that are trending.”

The $500 prize for best use of the Wayin API went to Civic Sentiment, a tool designed to engage young people in the 2016 presidential election by visualizing how they respond to political speeches and debates in real time using Twitter. Members of the Civic Sentiment team are user interface developer Ami Eaton, North State Public Radio news director Lorraine Dechter, visualization specialist Tiago Etiene, app development consultant Deepesh Kuruppath, and mobile apps manager Kristin Nevius.

Developer Zorigt Bazarragchaa won the $500 prize for best use of the Chute API. He created a prototype called “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words on Top of Twitter's 140 Characters.” It lets users find and tweet pictures associated with news stories that interest them.

The hackathon also included pitches for products that:

  • Improve overly sensationalized headlines
  • Use public media content to create a “sound path” while walking, biking, driving or taking public transit
  • Take the chaos out of news story comments
  • Create simple “bots” that alert journalists to breaking news events
  • Organize multiple live video streams from citizen journalists covering the same story
  • Automatically tie Instagram photos to related stories produced by public media.

Grand prize winner Atş summed up the two-day experience this way: “It felt like we were trying really hard to come up with ways to make journalism more sustainable in the future, increase quality and involve citizens and readers with the process more.

” For more information about RJI’s Hack the Future of Journalism, contact Futures Lab Deputy Director Reuben Stern.

Mike McKean  
Associate Director


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