Hacks/Hackers: journalists and tech experts meet in Buenos Aires to advance digital journalism

byIsaac Itman
Apr 22, 2011 in Digital Journalism

Journalists and tech experts will meet for the first time in Buenos Aires to exchange ideas on advancing digital journalism.

The event, scheduled for April 28, is part of the international project Hacks/Hackers, which launched in late 2009 in the United States to bridge the communication gap between journalists and IT professionals.

Hack/Hackers currently has chapters across the U.S. as well as Canada, Mexico and Europe. To learn more about the event, IJNet interviewed Argentine journalist Mariano Blejman, founder of Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires.

Blejman, 35, has been working since 1998 at Argentine daily Página/12, where he is editor-in-chief of the rock section NO and a section on digital culture. His fellow organizers include Martín Sarsale of Sumavisos, Cesar Miquel of Easytech and Guillermo Movia of Mozilla Argentina.

IJNet: How did you get the idea to launch Hacks/Hackers in Buenos Aires?

Mariano Blejman: I started to conceive the idea when I was accepted to attend a class called “Open Journalism on the Open Web”, offered by Peer 2 Peer University in September 2010. That’s how I learned about Hacks/Hackers.

IJNet: What's on the agenda?

MB: At this first meeting we will discuss the goals of the organization founded by Burt Herman of Storify, Aron Pilhofer of The New York Times and Rich Gordon of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. We’ll exchange information about digital tools available for journalists and we’ll focus on the contributions made by software developers to manage large volumes of data.

Also, we’ll provide an overview of great examples of digital journalism, such as The New York Times, ProPublica and The Guardian, and we’ll share information about how journalists and software developers can work together using Storify, Audioboo, Stroome and Google tools.

IJNet: Who will be attending?

MB: About 100 people have signed up so far for our Meetup group...There are several editors and renowned journalists from national media outlets. Also, there are many technology journalists and several software development companies. Most of the promotion has been done through Twitter.

IJNet: Why should journalists and IT professionals meet? How do they complement each other?

MB: We usually say journalists know how to interpret “reality,” find stories and analyze facts, but with the penetration of digital culture in modern societies, they find more and more large volumes of data they are not able to process.

Software developers and computer scientists are able to manage digital data, but most of the time they are not able to interpret it. The fusion of both worlds is creating a new kind of journalism that has never existed... We think that Latin America is a couple of steps behind what is taking place in some developed countries.

Therefore, we want to encourage these kinds of meetings. I think many software developers, computer scientists and IT professionals in general are able to find in old and new media avenues to transform data from the web into stories.

IJNet: How is traditional media in Argentina responding to the digital revolution?

MB: What newspapers are offering for mobile devices, iPads and smartphones, is still very bad and high prices to get those devices hinder the possibility to speed up the process. Digital media without a print edition is usually tiny, blogs or depend on print editions from mainstream media. Business models of print media are far better than business models for digital media.

IJNet: Are there any successful digital projects in Argentina that mix the expertise of journalists and tech experts?

MB: There is a site about public spending, but it is incomplete and not successful yet. It's by a software developer who uses data from the city government in Bahía Blanca, in the province of Buenos Aires. But the project does not have a journalistic side.

IJNet: What’s next for the group?

MB: We’ll certainly keep organizing monthly meetings, as Hacks/Hackers does worldwide. We haven’t heard about the opening of new chapters in Latin America, except in Mexico, but we have received requests from provincial journalism schools in Argentina to organize meetings.

Photo by damienvanachter, used with a CC-license.