24.com, Africa’s largest digital news publisher, is hosting sub-Saharan Africa’s first newsroom hackathon, in Cape Town, this weekend.
The two-day Editors’ Lab will see 14 teams from across South Africa compete to build the most innovative news-driven mobile app or website, with expert support from the initiative’s sponsors, the Global Editors’ Network (GEN), the African Media Initiative (AMI) and Google.
“The main objective of the Editors’ Lab is to produce new and open journalistic tools, and to promote a culture of innovation within newsrooms. Their mission statement couldn’t lie closer to that of 24.com’s so it was a simple decision to host the event,” says Geoff Cohen, CEO of 24.com.
Previous Editors’ Labs have been hosted at world-renowned newsrooms including the New York Times in the USA, the Guardian in the UK, El Pais in Spain and 17 other international thought-leader media.
The Cape Town hackathon will be hosted at 24.com’s digital headquarters, and will see all of South Africa’s major news organisations send teams. Each three-person team will consist of a journalist, a designer and a developer. They will use public data or other content to build mobile apps or digital tools that help audiences better understand or engage with the world around them.
24.com’s parent company, Media24, believes that digital innovation is so important to the future of journalism, that it is sending separate teams from its Media24 Digital News, Media24 Magazines Digital Division, News24, and City Press divisions. Other media who are sending teams include BDFM (the publishers of Business Day and Financial Mail), Cape Times, Daily Maverick, Eyewitness News (from Talk Radio 702 and CapeTalk FM), Oxpeckers Center for Environmental Investigative Journalism, SABC Digital News, the South African Press Association (Sapa), the Sunday Times and West Cape News. The Johannesburg chapter of digital newsroom pioneers, Hacks/Hackers is also sending a team.
“Newsrooms have to systematise a new kind of innovation process in order to pitch new apps, interactive content, data visualisation and newsgaming projects. Newsrooms need to be in a sort of permanent BETA mode! The GEN Editors Lab programme of hackdays is a kind of world cup of innovation in journalism travelling the world to meet the community of newsroom innovators and give them the attention and the credit they deserve. I am excited to see which team will win the hackdays and come to Barcelona to represent South Africa at the Final Hackathon!” says GEN deputy director Antoine Laurent, who manages the global Editors’ Lab programme.
Preliminary ideas submitted by teams range from mobile apps to help citizens report corruption / bribes or potholes to tools for helping citizens track election promises made by politicians and tools for choosing schools and then monitoring their performance.
The best projects built at the hackathon will be in line to win R20 000 in cash as well as tickets to the next GEN Summit in Barcelona, Spain, in June 2014. There the South Africa winners will compete against their counterparts from around the world at the annual Editors Lab Hackathon.
Google’s global lead for media outreach, Nicholas Whitaker, and his Code for South Africa counterpart, Adi Eyal, will present masterclasses at the Cape Town Editors’ Lab. The local judges include Memeburn editor Michelle Atagana, GEN deputy director Antoine Laurent, and AMI chief strategist, Justin Arenstein. Arenstein is also a judge in the Global Data Journalism Awards.
AMI’s Code for Africa laboratories in South Africa and Kenya will help teams turn their ideas and rough prototypes into real newsroom products after the hackathon.“
“Mobile phones and the mobile internet are changing the way that ordinary people live. It changes the way that people relate to each other and also the way that they find and react to information. Legacy media, like newspapers or broadcasters, need to reinvent themselves to stay relevant in this new world — and the Editors’ Lab hackathons are just one way that we’re helping them do that,” says AMI’s Justin Arenstein, who manages the continent’s largest newsroom innovation programme.
“The exciting thing about the South African hackathon is that it isn’t just the big media who are competing: smaller grassroots newsrooms like WCN and Oxpeckers are also sending teams, as are journalist associations like Hacks/Hackers. We’re hoping to find some great ideas here, that we can help scale globally through things like our African News Innovation Challenge or similar support programmes.”
The challenge takes place this weekend, 6-7 September.
IMAGE: Global Editos’ Network