Journalism at MozFest 2016: Great Stories, Strong Communities, New Tools

This post was written by Lindsay Muscato, Assistant Editor at Source. All photos by Mike Tigas.

This year’s journalism track gathered tons of the newest and best ideas, strategies, and tools from newsrooms around the world. We camped out on the 8th floor, hosting more than two dozen sessions about the future of tech and journalism, and the survival of the open web.

Five things we focused on, and a few things we learned:

1) Compelling, data-rich stories

When storytelling gets swamped by ever-changing (or contentious) information, a user-centered perspective can help you stay grounded. For example, journalists covering the U.S. elections can learn a thing or two from those who’ve already been through Brexit: Think hard about your particular audience’s needs. Give meaningful context.

Participants enjoying the Lessons from Brexit session

2) Engaged user communities

Successful online communities aren’t always easy to build, but they’re essential to creating dialogue that’s meaningful and informed. The Coral Project’s open-source tools can help.

3) Newsroom code and tools

Creating VR stories doesn’t have to be out of reach, even if you don’t have lots of money or know-how. New tools like MozVR A-Frame and GuriVR have made open-source options a reality.

Laurian Gridinoc trying out 360 degree video

4) More privacy and security

Information security, encryption, and threat modeling can feel totally overwhelming — but it’s all incredibly important right now, and not scary if you can nail down a few basics. Step one: think about security issues you’re likely to encounter, not every possible threat under the sun.

Julia Chan of the Center for Investigative Reporting enjoying MozFest

5) Better ways of working

If you’re designing internal tools for your colleagues, think of them as users. Don’t neglect UX, just because it’s internal tech. Everyone works better and more efficiently with publishing systems designed for their workflow and needs.

We also gained tons of insight from beyond the edges of journalism, thinking about the power of collaborations — with nonprofits, the arts, and more — and inspiration found in disciplines like poetry, theater, education, and sports. (Case in point: Hamilton’s mini-performances on the sidewalk bring in new audiences. What’s the journalistic equivalent?)

Tracey Jaquith and Daniel Schultz of the Internet Archive

Plus, we held our first-ever series of MozFest “lightning talks” — 5-minute presentations pulled from across Mozilla fellows programs. We heard from the OpenNews fellows, the Mozilla Science fellows and the Open Web fellows on a huge array of topics, including the joy of spreadsheets, the first-ever computer, and the perils of storing data in a drawer. Oh, and, Harry Potter as a pathway to following your dreams.

Overall, it was an amazing two days. We’re so grateful to MozFest-ers for participating, to session leaders for sharing their work with us, and to the Mozilla organizers for enabling us to pull this all together.

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