The web has created many challenges for news organisations but also lots of opportunities for telling stories in new and innovative ways. In particular it allows us to bring together multimedia combinations of text, graphics, video and audio, and gives us new ways to visualise information and create interactive graphics.

At the BBC News website, most of this work is handled by a combined team of journalists, developers and designers (we call them the ‘Specials’ team) and they produce content such as the recent and popular World at seven billion and 9/11 memories from the wreckage..

Now, as a result of a fellowship scheme we are taking part in called the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership, we’re looking forward to welcoming a new member to the team. If you are interested to know more, Senior Product Manager Andrew Leimdorfer explains:

News website screengrab

The project, set up by the web browser provider Mozilla and the not-for-profit Knight Foundation, has created a series of fellowships for aspiring tech-savvy journalists or news-savvy technologists (depending on your preference). The Partnership ran a series of “challenges” to select five fellows, who will each spend a year working in “one of the world’s most exciting newsrooms”.

Working as a partner in this project fits perfectly with the remit of our team. The project’s goals are “to advance the best values of both journalism and the open web by continuous innovation. Working together, technologists and journalists can accomplish great things”. The BBC News Specials team has a particular focus on this kind of collaborative approach to the production of digital news content for the BBC. In our corner of the newsroom, journalists, designers and developers work side by side on finding new and interesting ways to enhance our storytelling.

Choosing the five successful fellows (who will also be based at The Guardian, Al Jazeera, and Zeit Online) has been an extremely creative three-stage process, which started with a call for entries on the following themes:

  • Unlocking video: How can new web video tools transform news storytelling?
  • Beyond Comment Threads: How can we reinvent online news discussions?
  • People-Powered News: What’s the next killer app for news?

Hundreds of ideas were submitted and assessed. The best sixty proposals then took part in a Learning Lab in July where participants refined, combined, and developed their ideas from the challenge.

In October this year the twenty “finalists” attended a really inspiring four-day “Hackfest” in Berlin. This was where the partner news organisations got to meet the prospective fellows and see this group of outstanding journalism innovators in action. It was also a great opportunity for the partner news organisations to get to know each other and begin to open channels of communication about the work we do and how shared approaches to technology might be mutually beneficial.

Deciding alongside the partners which of these candidates should be placed in each news organisation was huge challenge due to the calibre of entries, but also extremely enjoyable task. Everyone taking part in Berlin displayed levels of enthusiasm, creativity and skill that would benefit a newsroom.

The final five names are being announced 4 November at this year’s Mozilla Festival, which has a theme of “Media freedom and the Web” and takes place at Ravensbourne College in London.

We’ll be there with our new fellow to talk about how this year’s MoJo program has gone so far and how we think the project will develop. We certainly have high hopes for the collaboration as we begin the next phase, working with our fellow to continue inventing the future of news.

Update, 09:38, 9 November: Andrew Leimdorfer: I think it’s worth mentioning a couple of points that people have brought up in the comments.

With regard to the BBC’s policy on commenting. The subject of the original challenge set by Mozilla – Beyond Comment Threads: How can we reinvent online news discussions? is not a subject the BBC proposed. Although it’s obviously of interest to many organisations publishing news (the BBC included), this won’t be where our fellow will be focussed as it isn’t something that sits within the remit of the Specials team, whose focus is on interactive content.

Similarly with regards to the comments made by JunkkMale and just-passing-through, the news partners working with the Knight-Mozilla fellowship were not chosen by the BBC. The BBC is happy to be working with the other four news partners, including the Guardian, but this is not a relationship we specifically fostered in favour of any other. Mozilla are very keen to attract other news organisations to the fellowship in the future and one of the main aims of the project is for the partners involved to release code to open source libraries where it could be used by anyone.

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.


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