Home Journalism Students + Computer Science Majors = Better News Apps for All

Journalism Students + Computer Science Majors = Better News Apps for All

The good old days of print journalism are becoming just that – good old days, the domain of old timers who reminisce about tape recorders and digging through other people’s garbage bins.

While such reminiscences undoubtedly wrench a wistful sigh from the breast of those who lived and worked in those heady days (like, before 2002), educating young would-be journalists about how early adopters and the tech-minded are consuming and helping distribute news is a necessary step to ensure the evolution rather than the extinction of American news services. Northwestern University has taken productive steps in that direction this spring and is set to present five interesting, student-created news apps this week.

“Right now we’ve got the resources, time and energy to do research and development that the news industry doesn’t,” says Jeremy Gilbert, assistant professor of multimedia at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. The school recently got the J-school kids to team up with a bunch of computer science majors from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and five innovative results are to be presented this Wednesday.

The students have focused on easing creation and consumption of news while reducing costs of news production and enabling journalistic standards of research and factuality.

The body of work from this experiment includes sports story generator (Machine Generated Sports Stories, or MGSS) that writes sports coverage all by itself from box scores and play-by-play; a Microsoft Word plug-in (Easy Writer) that allows journos to research and fact-check stories as they write them without having to use a separate search engine; an iPhone app (News Feed) that provides the daily news in five- 10- and 20-minute chunks for news-hungry readers with limited time to read; and two Twitter apps.

Twitter News Service sends pertinent news links to users based on their posts. Either the tool will run in the background of Twitter or from a designated Twitter account that users choose to follow (or un-follow) as they desire.

Tweedia will combine news stories with relevant personal opinion and information on a given topic. By integrating Tweedia into a news site, readers get instant access to relevant Twitter posts. News outlets can place a Tweedia link at the end of stories that will either open a widget on the page or redirect readers to the Tweedia site.

Last year, Medill students built News Mixer, a site that mashed up local news with Facebook, allowing users to comment as they read even though many old-school news organizations still don’t allow for comments.

Now all Northwestern needs to do is throw in the business school kids and a couple hundred thousand dollars; Startup Semester, anyone?

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