Sometimes the stars align in unexpected ways.
As governments, platforms and societies evolve, the media must reinvent themselves. The Hacks/Hackers Media Party, which starts tomorrow in Buenos Aires, is an example of how they can do it.
The number of variables that must be met so that planetary forces can come together and create an event like this three-day event could only be measured by a super computer not yet invented. A mélange of forces, including free software, collaborative culture, open standards, open data, innovation in media, transparency and the creation of open standards will make up Media Party 2013.
Code is content
Global innovation leaders are flocking to Buenos Aires. Among them are dozens of international personalities, 2,100 members of Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires and hundreds more who are attending because they know innovation is coming to global media.
We'll bring Jacqui Maher, assistant editor to the interactive news team of the New York Times, to lead an amazing workshop on working with sports data based on the Times' experience with the Olympics. Maher is at the heart of innovation, working at one of the planet's most respected news outlets, which has been attracting the best talent in interactive journalism under the leadership of Aron Pilhofer.
Another example of innovation is, undoubtedly, the Chicago Tribune, a publication which has produced many of the best news apps that exist today, and that was also home to many who now come to the Media Party. Among them is Mark Ryan, who leads the interactive news team and whose presentation is provocatively named, "Code is content."
The Knight News Challenge forms an important part of the new news ecosystem. Awarded by the Knight Foundation, the contest is helping accelerate media innovation. It has forced entrepreneurs to look at the ecosystem in an immersive way. The thousands of projects funded in recent years have produced new tools that tackle new problems. Many end up being disruptive, but also function as a beacon for entrepreneurs.
One of these is DocumentCloud, a tool that lets anyone upload and analyze documents. It will soon launch its Spanish version. Ted Han, the lead developer, and several other News Challenge winners will come to the Media Party to rock it.
Many of the finest innovators also come from the Chicago Tribune. Among them are Brian Boyer, creator of the Panda Project, who now leads the news apps team at NPR, along with Joe Germuska, who left the Chicago Tribune to lead software development at the Knight Lab at Northwestern University. He and Miranda Mulligan, who directs Knight Lab, will lead a collective design thinking exercise for possible software tools which will help reporters with their investigations.
Another workshop that will tackle applications design will be led by Nuno Vargas, Knight Fellow at Stanford University and trainer at the prestigious d.school. Vargas comes to offer his experience in applications design.
The steps for open government
Open government and the use and misuse of public data will form a central theme of this year's Media Party. The context is encouraging: Argentina's national government and the city government are rushing to launch data portals.
Also in search of tools to better understand the relationship between people and government transparency comes Waldo Jaquith, former consultant for the open government team at the White House and now a Knight News Challenge fellow. He is also the creator of State Decoded, a tool to "follow" government documents in their various evolutions.
Another noted speaker is Shannon Dosemagen from PublicLab, a combination of community and experimental tools to investigate environmental problems and use inexpensive techniques to change the way people look at the world in political and social terms.
The role of data journalism in the process of opening governments
While dozens of laboratories have sprung up around governments producing open data and "civic participation" applications, too many people mistakenly believe that simply releasing data will make governments more efficient and that the mere generation of civic applications will transform the relationship between citizens and their governments.
Much of the work my colleagues Miguel Paz (Poderopedia), Mariana Santos (Chicas Poderosas, formerly The Guardian) and Gustavo Faleiros (Infoamazonia) and I are doing as ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellows has much to do with the generation of an ecosystem. We're looking at what tools, elements and conditions need to be achieved to get more and better data news teams up and running in Latin America. We're rethinking the flow of content generation and what we can learn from other successful experiences in media.
Miguel Paz will do a full workshop on "How to install your own Poderopedia," the disruptive social network that tracks connection among the rich and powerful.
"Hurricane" Santos will do a huge favor to the community by attracting women with the launch of Chicas Poderosas (Powerful Women), an organization that seeks to get more women to work in technology positions in newsrooms across Latin America.
We will announce the launch of MediaFactory.vc, a local public media accelerator, which will invest US$75,000 per news startup. But beyond individual projects, we'll look at new structures that tackle recurring problems. OpenDataLatinoamerica.org is a portal to collect data sets from Latin America. The ideas that work emerged from two years of frustration and some successes around the growing Hacks/Hackers movement in Latin America.
The African mirror
Knight International Journalism Fellow Justin Arenstein was at the Media Party last year. He is two years ahead of us in generating an innovation ecosystem. He ran a slew of training sessions, networks, funds and accelerators. Arenstein, who organized the African News Innovation Challenge last year, brings seven innovation projects this time, linked to the network of Hacks/Hackers in the African continent. The growing ecosystem in Africa is a real discovery for us in Latin America, where we are more used to look up (toward North America) than to look sideways.
Also in that vein, the Global Editors Network will bring 30 editors and journalists together to collaborate and then to show their projects and products. The Editors' Lab is a concept also taking shape in Africa. The goal: bring hackathons to newsrooms and create collaborative spaces where there are none. and rethink the object in context.
Data journalism is punk
Dan Sinker, director of the Knight-Mozilla Open News Fellowships, came last year just to see what the Media Party was, and when he saw that the horizon was clear, he brought the whole troop.
Dan is a key player in shaping the Media Party. He brings along quite a clique. Buenos Aires will feature the eight Mozilla Open News Fellows working at major news outlets around the world. The focus of this fellowship program is to generate free standards in media so that they can be replicated and adopted as production standards.
Mozilla's commitment to free software and the liberty to choose is more than a decade old, but somehow the collaborative work culture has been slowly adopted by newsrooms. But they're finally catching on. Journalists who share how they work, teach their ideas and learn to work in teams are disrupting journalism.
Welcome to the Media Party.
Image: Photo from Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires Media Party 2012, courtesy of Mariano Blejman.