Open Studio Night, 2013: where our students present their final projects

We like to describe Studio 20 as “a consulting group that gets paid in problems.” By which we mean: really good problems.

Every December, Studio 20 students finishing their third semester present their final projects from their Studio III course. For 2013, there were twelve graduates. These twelve presented their final projects in front of an East Village crowd with friends, family and digital journalism people from the New York media world.

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(L-R) Students Nuha Abujaber, Jesse Kipp, and Simran Khosla From Amy Webb, Head of Webbmedia Group

This past spring, Studio 20 students in their second term partnered with a diverse group of companies for a project focusing on networked reporting.

What is “networked reporting,” you ask? We like to define it as “when the many contribute to reporting that is completed by a few.” 

Tech site PandoDaily.com was among the companies students worked with. Studio 20 students Nuha Abujar, Jesse Kipp, and Simran Khosla collaborated with PandoDaily’s Head of Social Media and Experimental Journalism, David Holmes (a Studio 20 graduate himself), to develop a system that would visualize the history of startups through the Silicon Valley mafias, using the precepts of networked reporting as a guide for research, design, and implementation. 

The final product is a useful (and visually beautiful) work that offers striking, user-friendly clarity and a fun interactive element. Along with getting some popular notice, the group’s work was hailed by several future-of-journalism figures. 

I had the chance to quiz Simran Khlosa before she (and her class partners) graduate from Studio 20 this December; she muses on the impact of the work, where the inspiration for this idea originated, and its potential for use in other areas of reportage.

What inspired you to choose Pando Daily? Why did they suit your project best?

We appreciated Pando Daily’s start-up nature and it’s unique niche in the media website world. In Pando Daily’s mission statement, they talk about tracking the start-up ecosystem, mapping the various branches of that world. This fit in perfectly with our idea of mapping the start-up root system. 

Why did you choose to visualize this the Silicon Valley mafia?

Pando Daily founder Sarah Lacy was working on an e-book on tracing the lineage of all the mafias and their histories. We realized it would be the perfect thing to try out the “mapping an ecosystem” idea. It was also interesting because these “mafias” (a.k.a. Silicon Valley families) have been notoriously talked about as interconnected and all-powerful, and it was cool to see all the connections laid out visually.

How does doing this map help to understand the role of the Silicon Valley in a wider sense?

I think it shows the interconnectedness between a lot of companies and makes you realize it’s not just a series of start-ups going through similar cycles; there’s actually many key players and investors who really shape the ecosystem.

What was the toughest part of this project? What was the easiest

Toughest: getting all the info together; making sure we didn’t miss anything.

Easiest: I don’t know if it was “easy,” but I think the most fun was planning it all and watching our creation come to life with (Jonathan) Soma’s coding. 

(Ed. note: NYU instructor Jonathan Soma will be featured in an upcoming Q&A on this blog soon - stay tuned.)

How did doing this project influence your approach to subsequent projects?

I think it taught me how to divide and conquer. We all chipped in equally to make this happen. 

What other companies / movements could you see applying this sort of work to?

I think large-scale data visualizations like this are beneficial for any journalistic organizations. We could’ve mapped out Syrian conflict leaders; we could have mapped out celebrities or potential Peace Prize winners. Experimenting with new styles of storytelling like this can be applied to anyone.

How does this project encapsulate the themes and main thrust of Studio 20.

It’s all about trying something new: displaying information in a unique way; using data; creating something completely new to live online. I think that’s what we strive for here at Studio 20, pushing journalism to the potential the medium of the internet has.  

Open Studio night: Dec. 12, 6 to 8 pm at NYU. Would you like to come?

You’re invited. Studio 20’s Open Studio night is Thursday, Dec. 12, 6 to 8 pm. 

Studio 20 graduates will present their final projects. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Conversation will be had. Luminaries of the digital journalism community will be present. And… Josh Benton, director of Harvard’s Nieman Lab, will present his slide show: “The Year in Innovation.” 

Hello from the Studio 20 program at NYU: still the world’s only studio program in journalism education, focused on innovation and figuring out where news needs to go.

Every year as the fall term draws to a close we put on Open Studio night. Our graduating students present their final projects in innovation, which they have spent six months working on. It’s the culmination of their year and a half with us. This year’s group includes projects on:

* the journalistic uses of Google glass (with Digital First Media) 
* developing a “house style” for Instagram and Vine (with Time Out New York)
* the uses of live blogging in the coverage of entertainment (with ABC News)
* moving beyond ‘Snowfall’ to a workflow for multi-media storytelling (with The Atavist)

And five more! Also this year, we have asked Joshua Benton, Nieman Lab’s ace director, to review the year in journalism innovation and prepare a slide show that distills the highlights.

Meaning: the companies, the products, the tools, the people, the ideas that have pushed journalism forward in 2013. It will be instructive and entertaining. If you care about where journalism is going and needs to go, you really ought to join us.

So please make plans to be there: Thursday, December 12 at NYU Journalism, 20 Cooper Square, New York, NY, 7th floor. Cocktails and chatter, 6 pm. Presentations begin at 6:30. You’re done by 8 pm. RSVP by emailing Jay Rosen, director of Studio 20: jr3 [at] nyu [dot] edu

Callie Schweitzer with Studio 20 first-term student Erin Brown Callie Schweitzer, Erin Brown, and Professor Jay Rosen

Callie Schweitzer (known as @cschweitz on Twitter) came to visit Studio 20 on October 1.

She’s the Director of Digital Innovation at TIME, and worked previously as Director of Marketing and Communications at Vox Media, and Deputy Publisher at Talking Points Memo. In 2012, Callie was listed as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, and earlier this year Business Insider named her one of the 30 Important Women Under 30 In Tech.

Sparky, fun, and personable, Callie dispensed a stream of wit and wisdom to students, much of it gleaned through her past experiences working at the interaction where news and audience development meet. Some quotes from the conversation:

  • "I have a habit of creating jobs for myself."
  • "The best journalists are marketers."
  • "I get so many ideas on things from Twitter."
  • "Suggest an alternative and how you’re two steps ahead - that’s golden."

Professor Jay Rosen was interviewed by Callie in 2010. Last night, the tables were turned as Rosen discussed ideas around innovation (and a bit of politics too), with the final takeaway being: Figure out what needs to be done and do it, regardless of whether it fits with the “image” you have of yourself and your position. He said that Schweitzer had taken that approach in her previous jobs and that’s what led to her present position at Time.

Callie had a single response: I’m a fixer.

That, right there, is the encapsulation of what we do at Studio 20. We’re fixers.

Studio 20’s Networked Reporting Project

For the 2012-13 academic year, Studio 20’s major project focused on networked reporting, which we defined as… “When the many contribute to reporting that is completed by a few.” (For more on networked journalism, go here. It’s a pdf.)

We had six partners: ProPublica, The Wall Street Journal Social Media Desk, Mashable.com’s gaming beat, PandoDaily.com, Fast Company and Quartz News (qz.com). Each came to class and explained  the problems they have making more productive use of a networked approach. The Studio 20 teams listened, did their research, and came back to the partners with project ideas, which were refined over a period of months.

The goal of each team, as defined by the project editor, Prof. Jay Rosen: Make incremental progress on networked reporting by solving a problem the partner had in trying to do it. The 2-3 person teams designed their own projects by persuading the judges (the project editor, the partners, others in Studio 20…) that their plans made sense. Then they had to execute on that plan, revise it as reality collided with intention, and deliver useful improvements to the partners by May 15. Plus present a report on their findings to staff at the partner site. 

ProPublica

Finding viable sources online for an ongoing investigation. 

For Studio 20: Blake Hunsicker, Melodie Bouchaud, Andrew Han.

For ProPublica: Blair Hickman, Community Editor. Amanda Hickman, Senior Engagement Editor. Paul Kiel, Reporter. 

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The Wall Street Journal Social Media desk

A tool for locating likely sources within an established Twitter network.

For Studio 20: Johannes Neukamm, Derick Dirmaier.

For The Wall Street Journal: Liz Heron, Director of Social Media & Engagement. Neal Mann, Social Media and Digital Innovation Editor.

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Mashable’s Gaming beat 

Connecting Mashable journalists to enterprise sources on Reddit.

For Studio 20: Patrick Hogan, Mike Rothman.

For Mashable: Chelsea Stark, Gaming Reporter.

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PandoDaily

Visualizing the history of startup systems through the Silicon Valley mafias.

For Studio 20: Jesse Kipp, Simran Khosla, Nuha Abujaber.

For PandoDaily: David Holmes, Head of Social Media and Experimental Journalism. Adam Penenberg, Editor.

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Fast Company

Building up and tapping into an “inchoate” network from which editorial content can spring. 

For Studio 20: Boryana Dzhambazova, Cecelia Bittner, Danielle Powell.

For Fast Company: Anjali Mullany, News Editor. Noah Robischon, Executive Editor. 

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Quartz News.

Designs for a Networked Beat

For Studio 20: Anna Callaghan, Jay Rosen

For Quartz: Kevin Delaney, Editor; Gideon Litchfield, Global News Editor; Zach Seward, Senior Editor.

Go here to see Jay Rosen’s post: Designs for a Networked Beat.

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Studio 20 gets an assignment from Quartz News

These specs were sent by the editors of Quartz to Professor Jay Rosen as part of Studio 20’s networked reporting project in spring 2013. Jay Rosen responded with his presentation, Designs for a Networked Beat, May 13, 2013. 

A networked beat spec for Studio 20 from Quartz (April, 2013)

The goal: To put together a suite of tools and techniques for quickly booting up a network around a fast-moving, ongoing global news story that cuts across traditional beat boundaries and is worth obsessing about.

The problem: As well as Quartz’s longer-term obsessions, we often obsess on shorter-term stories that turn into big news for a few days or weeks, but that we don’t know in advance are going to become big. Recent examples include the Cyprus bailout, Hugo Chávez’s death, bitcoin, and the H7N9 outbreak. Perhaps also Abenomics, though that’s turned into a longer-running story.

Typically these have multiple facets and impacts—political, business, economic, and social—thus cutting across beat boundaries and going outside any one journalist’s area of expertise. (We tend to focus on the business and economic impacts, but political and social ones inevitably play into them.) They also affect diverse groups of people in various countries. Examples, not intended to be comprehensive:

Cyprus. Issues: European politics, Europe-Russia relations, economics, European and global financial regulation. Affected: Cypriot depositors, wealthy Russians, the rest of Europe.

Hugo Chavez. Issues: Venezuela’s stability, US-Lat Am relations, the power of the Latin American leftist bloc (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil), world oil markets. Affected: Venezuelan people and businesses, the Castros, OPEC countries.

Bitcoin. Issues: financial regulation, the technology of finance, global markets, personal investing. Affected: tech companies, bitcoin miners, savers/investors, speculators.

H7N9. Issues: Global public health, Chinese politics, Chinese media/internet and censorship, business in Asia. Affected: Chinese citizens, Asian businesses, Asian airlines, and potentially everyone on the planet.

Abenomics. Issues: Japan’s economic recovery, global central-bank theory, global trade, ”currency war”, Japan-China relations. Affected: Japanese people and businesses, other Asian businesses, monetary-policy theorists, central bankers, European and American policymakers.

What we want is a way to quickly build up networks that can help us report on these issues, taking into account their complexity and the diversity of the groups involved, using all the platforms at our disposal.

Specific core goals include:

- to find experts who can comment and analyze as sources for stories

- to find experts who can contribute as op-ed writers

- to find people affected by the issue who can provide leads for stories

- to build up a core audience of obsessives

- to reach a wider audience of interested readers

Additional goals could be:

- to curate disparate communities that are affected by the same story, either for the purpose of comparing their reactions to it, or even for creating connections between them that wouldn’t otherwise exist (for instance, Russians and Cypriots around the Cyprus bailout, or Western monetary-policy wonks and Japanese small-business owners around Abenomics)

- to create resources for people who are obsessed with the story and want to follow it more deeply than we do

- to create an online “peanut gallery”, a core group of commenters who give feedback and suggest leads over Twitter or other media.

To see Jay Rosen’s response, go here

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Studio 20 would like to extend a big thanks to everyone who made it out for last night’s Open Studio presentations and helped make the night a big success!

You can find more info on the ten innovative presentations below:

Kat Patke: User-to-User Community Building with the Huffington Post

Laura Edwins: Decoding User Engagement with the Christian Science Monitor

Silva Shih: Data Viz On The Go with Quartz

Nadja Popovich: Re-framing elections with the Guardian US

Khwezi Magwaza and Patrice Peck: PUSH New Media: Collaborative Innovation (with test partner Ebony.com)

Yoo Eun Lee: Video Template with Global Voices

Tracy Levy: Online Video: How What Why with Tablet

Tando Ntunja: Clients-As-Storytellers/Clients-As-Reporters with Safe Horizons ATP

Ana Maria Benedetti: Dreamers Across America with UNIVISION

Open Studio Night: An Invitation.

Want to check out the innovation efforts that this year’s crop of Studio 20 students have been working on for the past three months? Thursday, December 13th, Studio 20 will hold its second annual Open Studio night, a presentation of final projects from the graduating class. 

These projects are the capstone for the NYU Studio 20 concentration at the Arthur L. Carter School of Journalism, as well our own idiosyncratic review of best practices and new directions in journalism today.

There will be food, drink, and colleagues from the world of digital journalism in New York City, which means some good socializing is also on the agenda. You must RSVP to attend. Send your RSVP to OpenStudioNYU@gmail.com.

When: 6:00 to 8:00 PM, December 13th, 2012

Where: Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University 20 Cooper Square, 6th Floor New York, NY 10003

Presenters:

Kat Patke | Partner: The Huffington Post

Kat’s project centered around user-to-user community building. She partnered with The Huffington Post’s TV vertical to explore different methods of creating horizontal community among users, with the aim of increasing loyalty to the site.

Laura Edwins | Partner: The Christian Science Monitor

Laura worked to build a user engagement strategy for the Monitor’s politics blog, DC Decoder. Her goal: to make it easier for readers to find other people who share their political interests and passions, and to give those communities the opportunity to share their views and contribute their ideas on DC Decoder.

Silva Shih | Partner: Quartz

Silva partnered with the Atlantic Media’s new business venture, Quartz, to explore data visualization on mobile platforms – especially the iPhone. Her aim was to identify ideal subjects for data visualization on a mobile platform and then create templates for Quartz to use, incorporating a “responsive design” approach.

Nadja Popovich | Partner: The Guardian US

Nadja worked on an alternative approach to covering elections 2012 with the Guardian’s Open Editor Amanda Michel. Building on the Citizens’ Agenda project that Studio 20 tackled last Spring, she explored how a data-centric approach to tracking presidential campaign statements can illuminate new paths for campaign coverage.

Khwezi Magwaza and Patrice Peck | Partner: Ebony.com

Khwezi and Patrice developed a strategy for and launched a multimedia production and consulting start-up called PUSH. PUSH worked with Ebony.com as a test client to develop an original man-on-the-street video series, among other creative multimedia projects.

Yoo Eun Lee | Partner: Global Voices

Yoo worked with Global Voices Online to create a video template and tool kits for bloggers and citizen journalists. The new template will encourage contributors to package existing content (text and images) into video news clips.

Tracy Levy | Partner: Tablet

Tracy created a multimedia strategy for the niche site Tablet (“a new read on Jewish life”). Her project examined best practices for integrating video into small, born-on-the-web media ventures looking for ways to expand their brand.

Tando Ntunja | Partner: Reboot

Tando’s project is “Design for A Digital Newsroom At A Non-Profit.” She partnered with a service design firm, Reboot, to explore ways of involving clients of non-profit organizations in the news conversation by making them self-publishing multimedia storytellers. She worked with one of Reboot’s clients, Safe Horizon’s Anti-Trafficking Program, as a test case.

Ana Maria Benedetti | Partner: Univision

Ana worked with Univision to create a site dedicated to documenting the DREAMers fight for immigration reform. She has been working on funding, design and community outreach, including advisory sessions with Homicide Watch.

Please join us 6:00 to 8:00 PM, December 13th, 2012. We promise a good time.

Lewis Dvorkin fields some good questions from Studio 20

Lewis Dvorkin recently stopped in Studio 20 to talk with first year masters students about innovation in the digital age. After an hour and a half Q&A — and some wine and cheese — Dvorkin, who is Chief Product Officer at Forbes and founder of True/Slant, left the students pretty impressed.

"We felt like equals, which is really cool when you’re talking to the head honcho of online media at Forbes," notes Studio-20er Simran Khosla.

"We got a lot of information about how a contributor-based media company can function and still have space for traditional journalists and staff writers," she continues. "The thing i appreciated most was his honesty when it came to the challenging parts of the Forbes model, addressing both the grumpy old-school journalists and the wayward contributors. "

And the students’ questions impressed Dvorkin in turn. Instead of leaving the visit at that — a nice afternoon with a class full of journos-to-be — he decided to revisit some of the big Qs of the class in a blog post for Forbes: “10 Questions From Journalism Students About the Future of News.”

Here are some highlights from his review, which re-posed and re-answered some of the questions Studio 20 students brought up to Dvorkin in class:

Do you even need journalists in your [new] model? Absolutely. The Web is not about great writing, it’s about great information…. The mission of journalism is to inform — to observe, collect and interpret. Journalists can do that. So can non-journalists who know their stuff. The challenge… is to separate the mission from the spoils of power they have enjoyed for so long.
What skills do you look for in a reporter today? Well, it’s far more than making phone calls, writing a story and going home. We’re betting on the individual, and that means the individual must accept more accountability. They need to write the story, the headline, publish, market and promote themselves across the social Web and engage one-on-one with their readers.
How has your digital strategy affected the magazine? We like to say that our authority starts with our print product, particularly our cover…. That said, I need to be clear. Print’s growth days are over for everyone. Digital is where the growth is. What’s so challenging is the downward pressure that programmatic buying, or computer buying, puts on CPM’s, or advertising rates. And that’s why the business models for journalism must change.

Read more at Forbes.

Final projects for Studio 20 students: they’re all about incremental innovation. All have media partners.

A key part of the Studio 20 program unfolds in the students’ third and final semester. Working with a media partner, they each have to design and execute their own project in innovation. Sort of like a consulting gig, but no money changes hands. Our currency… is good problems.

Meaning: some new and improved thing the partner should be doing, or could be doing, but isn’t doing now, probably because it’s difficult to pull people off the production schedule to figure out the best approach. Here are the projects the current Studio 20 students have negotiated this year.

Laura Edwins is partnering with The Christian Science Monitor in Boston to build a user engagement strategy for their politics blog, DC Decoder. Her goal is to make it easier for readers to find other people who share their political interests and passions, and to give those communities the opportunity to share their views on DC Decoder, while interacting with Monitor reporters.

Silva Shih is working with Quartz, Atlantic Media’s business news startup, to explore data visualization on mobile platforms (especially on the iPhone). She aims to identify which subjects are ideal for data visualization on a mobile platform and then create templates for Quartz to use, incorporating a “responsive design” approach.

Nadja Popovich is partnering with the The Guardian US over elections 2012. Building on the Citizens’ Agenda project the class tackled last Spring, she is exploring how a data-centric approach to tracking presidential campaigns can illuminate new paths for campaign coverage.

Tracy Levy will be creating a multimedia strategy for the niche site Tablet (“a new read on Jewish life”). In her project, she will examine best practices for integrating multimedia elements into small, born-on-the-web media ventures looking for ways to expand their brand.

Kat Patke's project is 'User-to-User Community Building on News Sites.' She is partnering with The Huffington Post's TV vertical to explore different methods of creating community between users, and with it, increased loyalty to the site.

Khwezi Magwaza and Patrice Peck are working together to develop a strategy for launching a multimedia production start-up called PUSH. PUSH will be partnering with Ebony.com as a test client to develop an original man-on-the-street video series.

Yoo Eun Lee will be partnering with Global Voices Online to create a video template and tool kits for bloggers and citizen journalists. The new template will encourage contributors to package existing contents (text and image) into video news clips.

Tando Ntunja's project is “Design for A Digital Newsroom At A Non-Profit.” She is partnering up with a service design firm, Rebootto explore ways of involving beneficiaries of non-profit organisations in the “news conversation” by making them self-publishing multimedia storytellers.

Ana Maria Benedetti will be partnering with Univision to create a site dedicated to documenting the DREAMers fight for immigration reform. She will be working on funding, design and community outreach.