CircaOnce a Fellow, always a Fellow is my attitude toward the talented alumni of the Reynolds Fellows program. While they tackle interesting and important projects during their year here at RJI, they eventually pack up and go off to create and do other great stuff, making room for the new class of Fellows.

Keeping up with their successes is a challenge, but a fun one. David Cohn, familiar to many of you, has gone through a series of changes since leaving Columbia. Back to his Spot.us crowd-funding initiative, then briefly to American Public Media, to the just launched Circa. He explains his new endeavor here:

There are many aspects of Circa that are entirely unique. For example — we believe our design approach is particularly well suited for a mobile news experience. But the fact that we’ve designed the reading experience for mobile is itself not a unique strategy. While we know our careful attention to design sets us apart from many other mobile news apps — that alone is not what makes us different.

Rather — the big “so what” about Circa is how we’ve changed the form of news itself. The building blocks of news for Circa are different and what makes us newsworthy (pun intended) lies beneath the surface.

One: The Atomic Unit of News

We don’t produce news in a traditional article form, but we do tell stories. Circa’s stories are a combination of “points” or individual updates. Media thought-leader Jeff Jarvis refers to these as “assets.” We tend to think of them as the “atomic units of news.”

Points in Circa might be facts, statistics, quotes, events and images. One can imagine other “atomic units” of news as we don’t claim our list is exhaustive and we may add more in the future. But the idea is that constraints about what can be included in a Circa story optimizes the content to be comprehensive, concise, and factual. There is no “opinion,” “deep thought,” or “analysis” atomic unit of news.

Step one is simple enough — we break down the news into atomic units — providing clarity and saving the reader time. It’s certainly a different way to tell news stories — but not necessarily by itself mind-blowing (although it can allow for mind-blowing data manipulation detailed here).

Two: Eliminate redundant reading — optimize for the reader’s knowledge.

Three: The reader can “Follow” stories.

Four: No story is an island.

Five: Transparency for Accountability.

Read David’s take on Two through Four here.

Read Dave’s earlier post on his personal blog here.

Check out MediaBistro’s 10,000 Words view here:

Three lessons journalists can learn from Circa

Brian Steffens  
 
Director of Communications



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