ICFJ Knight Fellows Share Digital Tools, Projects at Top U.S. Journalism Conference

Oct 102017
  • ICFJ Knight Fellow Omar Mohammed leads a roundtable discussion about fact-checking best practices around the world. (Photo: Steven Strasser)

Five International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) Knight Fellows showcased their work before an audience of 3,000 U.S. journalists and media leaders at the 2017 Online News Association (ONA) conference October 5-7 in Washington, D.C. At the conference, ICFJ Knight Fellows spoke on panels, gave lightning talks and led roundtable discussions, spotlighting tools, services and ideas from their projects that could be adopted by U.S. newsrooms. Our Fellows work with news outlets around the world to spur a global culture of media innovation and experimentation.

Bridging the Global News Tech Gap

ICFJ unveiled the results of the first-ever global news tech survey at an ONA reception. The survey found that a majority of journalists worldwide lack the technology skills to meet the daily challenges they face in their work. To address this gap, ICFJ Knight Fellows are building journalists’ capacities and helping transform newsrooms so they can compete in the digital age. Two Fellows - Nasr ul Hadi and Janine Warner - presented their projects at ICFJ’s event.

In many newsrooms, digital training opportunities for journalists don’t offer the skills reporters say they need the most, the survey revealed. To bridge this skills gap, Hadi has developed a peer-to-peer training model, called “Digital Fridays,” to jump-start weekly in-newsroom learning sessions. As a Fellow, he assists newsrooms from New Delhi to New Jersey in setting up digital-first teams, workflows and organizational structures.

Warner, founder of the nonprofit SembraMedia, explained why digital-only newsrooms are finding a greater variety of revenue sources than print publications are. Although advertising is the top source of revenue for digital news outlets, more than 15 revenue models—including training, consulting, grants, events and crowdfunding—are emerging in Latin America, according to a recent report from SembraMedia, which helps digital media entrepreneurs in the Americas network, share resources and learn business and technical skills.

A Range of Expertise from Data Journalism and Fact-Checking to Media Business Strategy

The ICFJ Knight Fellows lead projects that deepen news coverage, expand content delivery and engage citizens in the editorial process. They build networks that develop and spread digital tools for high-quality journalism. They establish data desks and fact-checking initiatives around the world. And they spur transformation in newsrooms by piloting new forms of storytelling, introducing new revenue-generating strategies and revamping editorial workflows. The ICFJ Knight Fellows highlighted some of their cutting-edge work and shared their advice for journalists and newsrooms.

Hadi demonstrated mobile and SEO-friendly data visualization, storytelling and engagement tools created by a team of ICFJ Knight Fellows in India at “Steal My Tool,” an event co-hosted by ICFJ and Vox Media. He shared digital storytelling tools such as toTimeline, which offers a vertical layout (as opposed to the more traditional horizontal timeline structure) optimized for cell phones. He offered insights for newsrooms on how to use analytics to expand their reach. He also stressed the importance of collaboration within news organizations and across multiple newsrooms.

Shaheryar Popalzai, an expert in 360° video coverage and an ICFJ Knight Fellow in Pakistan, launched a step-by-step guide for newsrooms that want to produce immersive storytelling content without breaking the bank. Popalzai, whose work has been featured in the New York Times, has introduced 360° video to three of Pakistan’s most important news outlets. At ONA, he also presented strategies for engaging audiences through live video storytelling.

ICFJ Knight Fellow Omar Mohammed explained successes and lessons he learned from helping expand PesaCheck, East Africa’s first fact-checking initiative, from Kenya to Tanzania. ICFJ Fellows in Kenya founded the project in 2016 to verify the accuracy of public officials’ statements on budgets and public finance. At ONA, Mohammed spoke on a panel about innovations in fact-checking local governments and led a roundtable discussion about news verification practices around the world.

ICFJ Knight Fellow Jacopo Ottaviani shared his expertise in data visualization, in-depth multimedia storytelling and cross-border data journalism projects with ONA attendees. With a special focus on Nigeria, he has recently spearheaded the creation of a network of women data journalists. They report on vital issues such as contaminated drinking water and female genital mutilation.

Warner presented more tips for digital media entrepreneurs during ONA’s "Fail Fest," a session that brought together journalists, technologists and entrepreneurs to talk about lessons news startups have learned from setbacks. She also led a roundtable discussion of news business strategies and highlighted SembraMedia’s research in greater detail.

Collaborate with the ICFJ Knight Fellows

ICFJ is eager to expand the impact of our Knight Fellowships program by sharing the Fellows’ work with journalists in the United States. To learn more about the ICFJ Knight Fellows’ tools and projects, visit http://tools.ijnet.org. If your newsroom is interested in partnering with a Fellow, contact Program Director Ben Colmery and Program Manager Sara Olstad.

Check out our #ONA17 highlights:

See more: https://storify.com/ICFJKnight/icfj-knight-at-ona17