Articles about "news apps"


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How to build a news apps team (Hint: if you don’t have a lot of money, settle for scrappy)

It isn’t really a question of whether you need a news apps team or not. The question for most newsrooms is what kind of news apps team can you afford? And then, how can you keep them as long as possible, given your scarce resources?

Programmers and developers with journalistic inclinations are in high demand. They command good salaries and they tend to want to live in places where there is a vibrant tech industry.

That means big newsrooms with big budgets in big cities have a distinct advantage. So smaller newsrooms with smaller budgets must be realistic and strategic.

Emily Ramshaw, editor of the Texas Tribune, and Jonathan Keegan, director of interactive graphics at the Wall Street Journal, offered up tips and strategies this past weekend at ONA14 for building the best news apps team possible. (Concession: The WSJ is hardly a small newsroom, but Keegan argues he has a tiny apps team compared to the more than 350 developers working across all departments at the New York Times.)

Ramshaw will have four developers on her team at the Texas Tribune as soon as she makes a couple hires, up from two. Two people work on the front end, two on the back end and they get support from a four-person tech department. Keegan works on a different scale. His team has 16 people, 10 programmers, two designers, two tools developers, and two data developers.

Keegan and Ramshaw both argued for strategy and precision in finding the right mix skills and personalities.

  • Hire for skills: A news apps team member needs to be good at two of three skills: Coding, journalism and design. No one is good at all three, so stop looking for that unicorn. Instead look at the hole you need to fill and find that skill.
  • Look for a background or understanding in journalism: Programmers with no interest in journalism usually don’t get along in the newsroom.
  • Look for reporting skills: “We don’t hire anyone who can’t pick up the phone and ask a source for information. The temptation is to ask the reporter to do that,” Ramshaw said, adding that in her shop, developers are reporters.
  • Hire for chemistry and cultural fit: People who get along get more done. Skills will grow.
  • Once hired, match projects to personalities: Don’t put the guy who hates sports on a football project.
  • Vary projects to combat burnout: That way, team members don’t get stuck with the same kind of work over and over.
  • Be realistic: If you are a small newsroom, paying small salaries, take what you can get in terms of skills and knowledge and give them opportunities to grow.
  • Sell what you can about your newsroom: Ramshaw touts Austin’s culture, microbrews, great food and the fact that young developers will work on big stories and get bylines right away. Keegan talks about the WSJ’s global audience and offices all over the world.
  • Designate a team leader and project leaders to act as point people with the rest of the newsroom: That will facilitate good relationships.
  • Help them grow: Nurture young talent and interns by making them feel like family.
  • Hire your interns: “If someone is doing great work for you, don’t let them go,” Ramshaw said.
  • Scour area startups: Look for burned-out programmers and lure them away with the promise of making a difference in the world and having some fun.
  • Train: If you really don’t have a budget to hire someone new, train home page producers to learn programming skills.
  • Keep the walls up: Don’t let news apps team members get sucked into the product team. News apps should be strictly editorial.
  • Shop in house: When you don’t have enough resources, one strategy is to borrow a promising designer from the graphics team for a month for a special project. Many designers are eager to grow their programming knowledge.

You can find the slides for Ramshaw and Keegan’s session here. The hashtag was #appsteam. Read more

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iPhone Apps

App use dominates mobile browser use, but what does that mean for news content?

The latest report from Flurry shows mobile users are spending the vast majority of their time with mobile apps, not with mobile Web browsers. So far in 2014, iOS and Android users have spent 86 percent of time with their devices using apps, up from 80 percent in 2013. Read more

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Eric Migicovsky

PoynterVision: Consuming news on wearables

Jeff Sonderman, deputy director of American Press Institute, shares his vision of how we might consume news on such wearables as watches:

For more on the news impact of wearables, watch the complete Webinar replay of Preparing Journalism for the Age of Wearable Devices at Poynter NewsU. Use the promo code 13POYNTER100WEAR to get unlimited free access to the on-demand replay.

Related: PoynterVision: Watch out for wearables Read more

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TV Arrested Development

How NPR made its ‘Arrested Development’ graphic: ‘We like to build useful stuff’

Adam Cole is not an “Arrested Development” superfan: “I have friends who are much more into it than I am,” the NPR reporter said in a phone interview. But Cole took a scientist’s eye to the cult television series, which will be resurrected Sunday after its 2006 cancellation.

Cole’s employer, NPR, presented his data Friday in an insanely complex news app called “Previously, on Arrested Development.” The app lets you delve into, say, how many times Tobias “giggles ambitiously,” or do a deep dive into Buster and missing limbs.

A selection from the graphic.

Cole originally envisioned a static graphic, saying that “I didn’t think I would bring this to work. I thought it would be a fun thing.” But he added that when Netflix announced it would revive the series, “I was like, ‘Wow, this is as good a peg as I’m ever gonna get.’ ” Read more

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How the Washington Post made its election-predictor tool

Source | Washington Post

NPR news apps developer Jeremy Bowers discusses in Knight-Mozilla OpenNews’ Source the legwork that went into the Washington Post’s election predictor app.

Bowers worked with the Post’s Ezra Klein and graphics editor Emily Chow to produce the tool, which launched in April 2012 using economic data models from to predict the likelihood of President Obama being re-elected. In the essay, Bowers says the work of political science professors John Sides at George Washington University, Lynn Vavreck at UCLA, and Seth Hill at Yale (now of UC-San Diego) was integral to the process. Read more

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ProPublica releases style guide for news apps

News applications editor Scott Klein has written a “ProPublica News Apps Style Guide” that codifies “the typographic and technical best practices” its developers follow.

Much like the AP Stylebook, the News Apps Style Guide helps journalists resolve uncertainty and avoid common mistakes by providing guidance on the most important or often misunderstood points.

Also like the AP Stylebook, the News Apps Style Guide contains an alphabetical list of subjects — from Accuracy to Updates (no “z-” words yet) — with a brief discussion and guidance for each.

Which browsers should your news app be sure to work in? “The current and prior major release of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari on a rolling basis” as well as “the built-in browsers in the latest revision of the iOS and Android [SDK],” and “if earlier releases represent more than 2.5% of our audience, continue to support them.” Read more

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Developers explain why they like to work in newsrooms

Daniel Sinker

Of all the high-demand jobs software developers can take these days, why choose to work in a newsroom? Dan Sinker of the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project got six developers at The New York Times and ProPublica to answer that question on video. Their responses are revealing.

NYT developer Jeremy Ashkenas explained the allure of fast-paced development:

Something happens, you have to respond. What kind of app can you build in the next 12 hours, in the next 24 hours, that’s going to be able to tell a story? That’s a really fun challenge, and that’s something that you don’t have in a lot of programming.

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