The Knight News Innovation Lab, which brings together minds from Medill and McCormick to develop new technologies for journalists, recently received a top honor from the world’s largest group of online journalists.
The Online News Association’s Online Journalism Awards, which honors advances in digital media, recognized the Knight News Lab for its most recent project, Congressional Primaries 2012. This site aggregated a wide range of information about the various congressional races across Illinois to assist local news organizations in their political coverage of Illinois congressional candidates.
More than a dozen local newspapers, broadcast stations and community blogs utilized the resources offered by the project, which included insights about political candidates from social media activity and campaign finance information.
“In this era of shrinking resources in newsrooms and with the continual redrawing of the district maps, it becomes really difficult for a news organization to cover every race in its circulation area,” said Northwestern journalism professor Owen Youngman, one of the Knight News Lab’s founding professors.
According to Youngman, this type is “unusual” but unique in its spirit of collaboration across numerous news organizations.
“It would have been unthinkable 20 years ago for all these competitive sites to link to and include the same information from the same source unless it was [The Associated Press],” he said.
The Congressional Primaries 2012 team included graduate and doctoral students from Medill, McCormick and the Bienen School of Music as well as Knight News Lab developers. They began work on the project in January 2011, which was supported by a grant from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and funding from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
“The purpose really is to foster innovation at the intersection of technology and journalism,” said Youngman about the lab, “and to do it in a way that helps communities continue to have access to the best information easily and conveniently.”