This week I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the opportunities that lie at the intersection of open-source philosophies and journalism. Today the “thinking out loud” stops, and the “making it happen” begins. And that begins with the announcement of the 2011/12 Knight-Mozilla fellows.

But before I get to that, a quick background:

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In 2011, the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership’s pilot year, the goal was to place five technologists in partner newsrooms through a selection process that included an open-call design challenge that received over 300 applicants, a 60-person learning lab, and a 20-person hackfest in Berlin. At each step along that route, we met excellent people with compelling ideas for open-source news innovation. A lot of those ideas have been documented nicely by Phillip Smith, who helped shepherd this project in its formative stages (thanks!).

Getting to these final five was done in consultation with our five news partners for 2011/12: Al Jazeera, the BBC, the Boston Globe, the Guardian, and Zeit Online. I could not ask for a more incredible group of news organizations to be able to work with. All of them joined us in Berlin for the Hacktoberfest hack days, and were able to meet all of the participants. They went back and submitted a “wish list” of people and things they’d want them to work on, and we matched accordingly.

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The thing that’s most thrilling to me about the matches is that each organization wanted something different and, as a result, the fellows are a diverse lot in terms of backgrounds and talents. It is my great pleasure to introduce them to you.

Introducing the innovators

Mark Boas | Al Jazeera
Mark makes, teaches, writes about and promotes new and open web technologies. Co-founder of Happyworm, a tiny entrepreneurial web agency and makers of the jPlayer media framework, Mark enjoys pushing the limits of the browser with HTML5 and JavaScript. Though a generalist at heart, Mark spends much of his time playing with web-based media and real-time communications. A lover of all things audio, his passion often drives his work, and he’s currently enjoying the challenge of taking audio “somewhere new” with his Hyperaudio experiments.

Cole Gillespe | Zeit Online
Cole Gillespie is a JavaScript developer originating from deep within the North Carolina Appalachians. In recent years, he has spent his time in Raleigh, N.C., working with various companies including Project Mastermind, National Geographic, CNN and IBM. He spends most of his free time playing music, hacking open-source projects, or trolling in IRC trying to keep up with the web’s rapid evolution.

Laurian Gridinoc | BBC
While studying medicine, Laurian co-founded a brand strategy and interactive consultancy in Romania. In the meantime, Laurian followed his interest in the semantic web through a master in Computational Linguistics and several years of research into semantic navigation at Knowledge Media Institute (The Open University). For the past year, Laurian has been implementing applications using semantic web technologies at technology innovation company Talis.

Nicola Hughes | Guardian
After academic excursions in the fields of Physics, Zoology, Anthropology and Journalism, Nicola started her media career at CNN in London. While working as a digital media producer, she started blogging and tweeting about data journalism (@DataMinerUK). She left CNN to join a data scraping startup, ScraperWiki, and to gain coding skills. She is now taking her skills, perspectives and startup mojo into the newsroom for testing.

Dan Schultz | Boston Globe
Dan Schultz is a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab studying in the Information Ecology group. At the lab, he is a research associate at the Center for Civic Media and has learned how to make almost anything. Before coming to MIT, Dan received a B.S. in Information Systems from Carnegie Mellon University, and was awarded a Knight News Challenge grant in 2007 to write about “Connecting People, Content, and Community.” He is also the technology lead for MediaShift and Idea Lab.

What’s next

So what now? Now the fun begins. All five fellows have been tasked with three things:

  • To embed themselves within their partner newsrooms so that they become intimately familiar with the daily ebb and flow of some of the best newsrooms in the world — because without understanding real context, needs and uses, innovation ends up happening in a vacuum.
  • To work in the open, in the spirit of Mozilla, and the open-source community. That means blogging regularly about what they’re working on (respecting the sanctity of investigations in-process, naturally), the learning they’re doing, the things they’re building. It means being active and engaged in communities outside their host newsroom as an advocate for open innovation.
  • To release the code they create into the larger open-source and journalism communities. Because the goal is not to benefit only their host newsrooms but to make tools that benefit all of journalism (and beyond).

We’re still a couple months away from fellows getting their boots on the ground — most will start after the new year — but we will have set up a space that you can find their blogs, their code, and more by the time they’re ready to share.

I’ve spent the last week talking about how exciting a time this is for journalism, how many opportunities there are for building a coding community, for doing peer-to-peer learning, and for making new things. It’s about to get even better.

P.S. If you’re going to be at the Mozilla Festival this weekend, do say hi!

A version of this story first appeared here. Images courtesy of Knight-Mozilla.

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