OpenNews Ascent Stage Initiated

A wall of ideas at SRCCON 2016. (photo/Erik Westra)

Today is a big day for OpenNews. After six years with Mozilla, we’re striking out on our own thanks to a new grant from the Knight Foundation. There are press releases and blog posts and this really is a big deal, but before we get to what’s new I want to talk about our community.

At OpenNews, we build our programs with the community of coders and journalist, data geeks and designers that are helping journalism stay vital and relevant. These are people that wake up every day driven to ask hard questions, to write tough code, and to help the world better understand itself. It’s not an easy job. It’s not one that pays all that well. The demands of deadline and the culture of newsrooms can be taxing. But it is rewarding work. It is work that helps people. It is work that speaks truth to power.

It is work that, today, couldn’t be more important.

And so, for all of us at OpenNews, we start our day every day asking how we can help that community doing the work get better, grow stronger, and continue to provide access to vital information in new and exciting ways. We ask how events and community supports can help to support and model an inclusive ecosystem. And we ask how a diverse community of peers can work and learn and solve problems together.

Those questions have been key to our success at OpenNews–they drove the design decisions when we launched our website Source in 2012, they influenced the evolution of our fellowship program as we iterated every year, they lead to prototypes of things like our code convenings, and to the design of SRCCON, our yearly conference for this community that has become a key driver of conversations advancing journalism.

And these same questions are at the center of our announcement today: new funding and a new home so we can continue to build with this community in ways both familiar and new. There’s a ton to cover, so let’s go:

  • First and foremost, we are striking out on our own: as of today OpenNews is independent, working as a project of Community Partners, a nonprofit fiscal sponsor. Our six years with Mozilla have been amazing and we’ve learned much of what we know about community from them. We’ve reached a point where we’re mature enough as a program to head off on our own and we’re excited to do so.
  • We’ll be continuing a number of our most successful programs, and beginning to build out new offerings as well. There is a ton we’re working on, so hold on to your butts:
    • SRCCON, our two-day conference for the journalism-code community and closely allied fields like civic tech, mapping, and open data is returning this year! It will be held August 3 & 4 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We’ll be announcing ticketing and our call for proposals at this year’s NICAR conference.
    • Source, our long-running website dedicated to the work happening by coders, designers, and data analysts in newsrooms, is relaunching today complete with a new, mobile-friendly look and feel as well as a whole slate of columnist, better access to jobs listings, and much more.
    • The community survey we took in 2016 that looked into the size and health of the journalism-code community will become a yearly census, the first results of which will be released at the NICAR conference.
    • Based on the success and the demand of SRCCON, we’ll be launching a second SRCCON late in the year focused on a single topic of importance to our community. Expect a full announcement at this year’s SRCCON.
    • Our successful Code Convenings are transforming into Code, Culture, and Leadership Convenings that will take the small cohort model of our Code Convenings and apply it to helping build peer groups and grow collaboration and expertise along a multiplicity of challenges facing newsrooms.
    • Based off prototypes from last year, we will offer OpenNews Ticket + Travel Scholarships that help to bring diverse members of our community to conferences and trainings.
  • We’ll be adding to this list as we bring new partners and funders online: diversifying our funding strategy is another big focus for OpenNews this year, as we grow in new and exciting ways.
  • With today’s announcement, the Knight Foundation also shared the results of an intensive study of our work by Network Impact. This research included a deep look at the five years of our fellowship program. The fellowship is on hiatus for 2017 as we delve into that data and chat with community members about what shape the fellowship could take going forward.
  • Finally, we’re excited that the entire OpenNews team is making this transition with us so we can hit the ground running just as fast as ever. And with this transition, Erika Owens will move into the newly-created Deputy Director role, helping to run the day-to-day operations of OpenNews and help plan for the future of the organization as well.

These changes couldn’t be happening at a better time: Journalism is as vital today as it ever has been and we’re excited to be supporting and assisting the people committed to making sure it stays that way.

posted February 09, 2017 | posted in opennews