Syria is frequently in the news, but could you find it on a map?

Seeing people’s general lack of geographic knowledge while discussing world news motivated a University of Missouri student to create Gistory, a news startup that helps people identify where news events are happening in the world.

Knowing a geographical location can provide necessary context for a story, says Zahra Rasool, a graduate student from India studying at the Missouri School of Journalism.

“So many of us discuss Syria but very few of us can say which countries border Syria,” she says. “This is important information to know while discussing the political conflict in the country.”

The Gistory website, which launched Feb. 23 in beta, will use an interactive map to provide news to people in a “simple, conversational and concise manner using local sources,” says Rasool.

Zahra RasoolShe also wants Gistory to be a platform for people, particularly those who don’t follow news closely, to quickly get an idea of what’s happening globally.

She was inspired by her mother who kept asking her, “But how did it get started?” when the two talked about news.

Rasool created the prototype for Gistory in her emerging technologies class.

From there she recruited classmates and other university students to form a core team, which developed, launched and operate the startup.

“There’s a lot of passion and a lot of dedication from everyone involved,” says Bryan Bumgardner, business manager for Gistory. “That’s what you really need for a startup.”

The team’s adviser is Jim Flink, assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and former vice president of news operations and general manager at Newsy, a digital video news service.

“Gistory would not be possible without the guidance and assistance provided by professor Jim Flink and the team of nine students currently working on the startup,” says Rasool.

She continues to seek writers who will create story briefs using local news sourcing. Through local news sourcing, contributors will be compiling summaries of what’s already been reported in local news sources.

Funding and investors

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute is providing the initial funding for the startup.

“RJI is keenly interested in accelerating efforts that maximize technology to maximize journalism,” said RJI Executive Director Randy Picht. “We think Gistory does exactly that and will have a promising future.”

Soon the Gistory team will begin taking the eight-week MU Entrepreneurial Workshop for startups. The workshop is hosted by Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers in partnership with the University of Missouri, the Missouri Technology Corporation and the Missouri Innovation Center.

“They will take a lot of organizations from idea to the point where you’re ready to stand in front of investors,” says Bumgardner.

What's in a name?

There are three meanings behind Gistory's name:

  • Gist of the story
  • History
  • GIS (geographic information system)

Jennifer Nelson-Pallikkathayil  
Senior Information Specialist


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