August 2017 Stakeholder Newsletter
by Dan Sinker and Erika Owens
(This is the first of a new series of monthly newsletters to stakeholders providing an overview of what OpenNews has been working on and showcasing folks in the community.)
At OpenNews, our purpose is to connect and nurture the people using technology to create stronger, more representative journalism.
We understand that journalists need support and care for the whole selves that they bring into this work. The challenges may change week to week, from hurricanes to massive data dumps, but the need for more durable and accessible support systems remains. We see how a data journalist of color building maps to cover socially-charged issues will need different support systems than a white journalist or how a woman manager is perceived differently advocating for her team than a man—that is why we hope to find places where we can collaborate with folks to promote the health and diversity of this community.
SRCCON: A space to share and care for one another
August kicked off with our fourth annual SRCCON conference, two days of collaborative sessions focused on the practical challenges that news technology and data teams encounter every day.
We design SRCCON to empower and celebrate the journalism tech community. For many, it has become more than just another stop on the conference circuit: Folks created spaces to continue conversations from NICAR such as being a journalist of color and threat modeling for your own well being. This year, the Journalists of Color Slack decided to hold their first house party at SRCCON because of its dedication to inclusion and diversity, and their admin team came to us to ask about what sort of resources OpenNews might be able to provide to help them nurture the community. Many across the news nerd community come to SRCCON because, for them, it is the heart of the family.
Anonymous feedback from attendees reflects this inclusive design:
“OpenNews should be an example to the rest of the (tech) world on how inclusivity should be defined and implemented to be successful."
“I’m a white, male engineer/programmer. I’ve been to dozens of programming conferences in my career, and only twice have I sat down at a table with 5+ other women and through talking we realize we’re all programmers, and have some of the best, amazing technical discussions. Both of those times have been at SRCCON (’15, ’17). You all are leading the way on how to have a great conference that is welcoming for everyone, and someday the tech industry will be so much better off when it adopts what you’ve done."
And people already have a sense of what they’re walking away from SRCCON with:
“1) Excitement to be in the industry and doing what we’re doing. It’s like a major refuel / recharge for me meeting with so many other awesome people doing awesome things. 2) Two or three things to try and implement in our newsroom and organization. 3) New contacts that I can ping later to get advice from."
“Story ideas, of course, and strategies for my team to work together better. What I didn’t expect to take home, but did, was a sense that other people in the industry are struggling with the same things I do and are willing to help and be supportive."
“I’ve done a ‘micro SRCCON’ back at work (Dow Jones Media Group) with members of our team - recreating slightly modified versions of some of the projects I participated in at SRCCON. Our team leader is a SRCCON alum and has put into practice a lot of ideas / attitudes / methodologies I would say are popular amongst the SRCCON set."
“I made some really great connections with people, but I also came back to my job with some ideas for big culture-changing ideas."
Participants are able to leave re-energized and with new strategies because people attend SRCCON ready to lead and participate in sessions that it’s hard to find space for elsewhere. Conversations like building software to cover democracy, tools for inter-newsroom collaboration, mentorship in the newsroom, and many others. About a third of the sessions were transcribed to share with folks who weren’t able to attend and as a reference point for continued work on the questions folks brought to SRCCON. Several sessions are also being documented on Source where you can already find pieces about skill testing for journalism tech jobs, an open and candid look at supporting caregivers in newsrooms, and Erika’s closing benediction on the importance of inclusion in journalism. For many, SRCCON and the followups published in Source are where they find the tools, skills, and community they need to help transform their newsrooms.
Perspectives from the community: Meet Emma
Emma Carew Grovum has been part of the OpenNews community since nearly the beginning. Along with attending every SRCCON, OpenNews was able to grant her a scholarship to attend an Asian American Journalist Association leadership summit. She tells of her experience transitioning from editorial to product:
Five years ago I was a social media and data journalist but never thought of myself as being “in technology.” A mentor suggested I join my first technology community: Tech Lady Mafia, which led me down several roads, one of which brought me into the OpenNews community. Four SRCCONs, several newsroom changes, and two CMS launches later, I’m moving from an editing role at The Daily Beast to a product role with the technology group. As our industry has evolved and the intersection of newsroom and technology has expanded, OpenNews has shaped this conversation, ensuring it is as diverse as possible, and making it clear to me that I could have a place in the community. I’m eternally grateful for the friends and relationships I’ve developed through OpenNews programming and would not have been as well-positioned to make this move without attending SRCCON the past few years.
Many members of this community are at career transition points like Emma, and we’re working on a bunch of ways to support and better understand the career trajectories of this community.
Building on the conversations about career, collaboration, and self care at SRCCON, we’re excited to present SRCCON:WORK as a conference focused on just those topics. It’s a chance for folks who may be new to the field, exploring a different area of technology, or figuring out how to take on more responsibility on their team to strategize and connect. SRCCON:WORK is coming up December 7+8 in Philadelphia and the call for proposals opens on September 6. We’ll have much more to share about this next month.
Right now, we’re running our annual News Nerd Survey, made possible by the support of Google News Lab and a community advisory group including Soo Oh, John S. Knight Fellow; Jennifer Lee of Google News Lab; and Liam Andrew of The Texas Tribune. It will help us, and the rest of the community, understand the career pathways and skill-building needs of news nerds. Can you help us spread the word? It’s open till September 9: https://www.research.net/r/newsnerd2017. We will share the results from the survey at SRCCON:WORK.
We’ve got a few more events brewing for the rest of the year, and we’re wrapping our ticket+travel scholarship program this year by sending folks to the Excellence in Journalism Conference and Online News Association conference. By the end of the year, we’ll have sent over 100 journalists from a range of newsrooms to events around the world where they were able to learn from journalists at other career stages and build skills. We’ll have more about that soon as well.
As we enter September, we’re deep into planning for 2018 with our advisory board and drawing from community feedback. Please reach out to us if there’s anything here that resonates with what you’re working on—we’d love to collaborate.
We have settled into our new home, since transitioning earlier this year, and we’re not only excited about the work ahead, but we know its necessity. We have heard from community members how they need organizations like ours, organizations that have their back and intentionally build the supports they need to focus on transformative journalism. We’re grateful to be a part of this work with them—and you.