Hacking the news: What happened at the Walkley Editors Lab 2017

joint GEN-Walkleys logos


Editors Lab — March 9-10, 2017

THEME: Audience Engagement

Supported by

Walkley Innovation Program Partner:
Editors Lab Venue Partner: macleay-college-logo
Editors Lab Networking Partner:

Congratulations to the ABC News team of Simon Elvery, Ben Spraggon and Colin Gourlay! They won both the jury’s top choice and the People’s Choice for their project Initiate. Here’s how they describe it:

The barriers to entry for encrypted communication are currently very high — although Signal/WhatsApp/etc are helping change that — and we wanted to build something which would make the first point of contact easy and safe. With our system anyone can send an encrypted message with zero knowledge of how encryption works. To receive encrypted messages, a bit more knowledge is required, but not much. Try it out here and check out the codebase on github.

The ABC News team won an all-expenses-paid trip to compete in the international Editors Lab final (aka the World Cup of newsroom innovation) in Vienna in June 2017.

The jury gave a special mention to the Storyful team of Kevin Nguyen, Jacob Sturges and Ula Adamcyzk for their tool, Pinpoint, to help journalists identify and communicate with high-value social media accounts.

Check out all the projects at the GEN Community site.

What’s Editors Lab?

Journalists, designers and developers hacked the news at Australia’s second Editors Lab. Three-person teams took two days out of the news cycle to develop innovative prototypes that help journalists engage more deeply with their audiences. At the end, they shared their work in a four-minute pitch.

About the Editors Lab series

The GEN and Walkley Foundation Editors Lab in Sydney is part of a series of international hackdays hosted by world-renowned media organisations in New York (The New York Times), London (The Guardian), Madrid (El País), Buenos Aires (Clarín), Paris (Le Parisien) and more. It will bring together teams representing news media outlets from all platforms. Each team will be composed of a journalist, a designers and a developer. Independent teams may also apply.

Contacts for this event

Kate Golden, multimedia manager, The Walkley Foundation: +61 (02) 9333 0951
Sarah Toporoff, programme manager, Global Editors Network

The teams

ABC News: Simon Elvery, Colin Gourlay, Ben Spraggon
SBS: Jackson Gothe-Snape, Ken Macleod, John Grist
Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax Media: Inga Ting, Richard Lama, Mallory Brangan
Junkee Media: Osman Faruqi, Dejan Husakovic, Esteban Aguilar
The Conversation Media Group: Lucinda Beaman, Mark Cipolla, Emil Jeyaratnam
Newsroom.ly: Nadia von Cohen, Ryan Bradley, Leon Bombotas
Australian Associated Press: Andrew Leeson, Sean Fitzpatrick, Miguel D’Souza
News Corp Australia: Justin Lees, Alex Lytvynenko, Alexis Devoreix
The Daily Telegraph: Tony Salerno, Aloysius Chan, Cody Phanekham
Storyful: Kevin Nguyen, Jacob Sturges, Ula Adamcyzk
The Vocal: Sheree Joseph, Isabel Brison, Vincent Vergara
The Age: Craig Butt, Andy Ball, Soren Frederiksen
Alternative Hacks: Taylor Denny, Aishwarya Sahu, Kate Paterson

The jury

John Bergin, board member, Online News Association
Damien Cave, Australia bureau chief, New York Times
Kate Golden, multimedia manager, The Walkley Foundation
Jonathan Richards, team lead, Google Creative Lab
Sarah Toporoff, programme manager, Global Editors Network

Frequently asked questions

What do you mean by the theme ‘audience engagement’?

How can we find our audiences, make the news more meaningful to them, or inspire action?

In tackling this theme, you might prototype tools to connect more deeply with specific audiences. Perhaps you’re seeking to engage with those left out of mainstream coverage. Maybe you think up a tool to get input at the beginning of the editorial process, like in Hearken’s audience-driven news framework. Or maybe you find a way to tell or share stories, say through VR, or by transforming data visualisations into art or games.

Get inspired with these engagement tips and resources.

How much does it cost to enter?

Nothing. Food and drinks will be provided, too. But we can’t pay your travel or accommodation.

How do I enter?

Sorry! Registration is now closed.

Do I have to be at a major media organisation?

No, although Editors Labs see teams mostly from major media. We’ll take freelancers, university students and non-journalist teams, but will give preference to journalist teams. We’ll take teams that mix people from different organisations, too. If you lack a team, email Kate Golden to register your interest and she may help you find some mates.

I’m at a very large media organisation. Can we have multiple teams?

Sure. Probably. Well, space is limited. Maybe. So, you can register two teams, but we may come back to you and ask you to pick your A team if there’s a lot of interest.

Do we have to make a working prototype?

Well yes, that’s the idea. Stuff happens, of course: sometimes the prototype doesn’t get working by the deadline. In those cases, in past Editors Labs, people have sometimes pitched the idea and how it would work. But a working prototype is going to seem more impressive to the jury.

How are prototypes judged?

Criteria from GEN’s Editors Lab page:

Editorial quality. How innovative is the project? How useful to the users will it be?
Design. How user-friendly is the interface? How creative is the design?
Development. How functional is the prototype? What level of technical expertise does this project demonstrate?
• What is the potential scale of the idea?
• Is it logistically and technically feasible?

We will also have a People’s Choice award.

What can we do beforehand?

Think. Research. Investigate possibilities. Truly, sometimes the best ideas happen during a U-turn halfway through the hackathon.

What happens to the final projects?

In the spirit of open data and collaboration, we ask all participants to put their final code and data online using Github or similar, sharing it freely.

Intellectual property is owned by the teams, not us organisers.

Two days isn’t much time to make a prototype. Our hope is that some teams will be inspired to build on what they’ve done and turn their prototypes into real live apps. Each project will also be featured on the Global Editors Network website.

Also, it could lead to a Walkley Grant for Innovation in Journalism!

Precedents: In 2016, the Guardian Australia prototype, Time Serious, was a runner-up for the main award but ended up landing a $15,000 Walkley Grant for Innovation in Journalism later in the year. Skin, an Editors Lab prototype from Team Glasnost (Martin Newman, Suyeon Son and Kelly Tall) was a finalist for those grants. As was a project from hackathon alum Jackson Gothe-Snape.

Why should we get involved with this thing?

Journalists, developers and designers: You’ll get inspired. Get a chance to work with people outside your discipline or daily grind, people who think differently than you. Think bigger about how we can make the news better. Liberate some data. Chase new stories. And have fun!

News outlets: That feather in your cap if your team wins and goes to Vienna (and maybe wins there, too).

Partner organisations: Meet the hacks and hackers who are driving experimentation in this industry — and jump onto the innovation train with us! Yeah, it’s a buzzword — but it’s also really how we believe how great journalism will survive these modern times.

What happened in 2016

Journalists, designers and developers participated in the first Editors Lab in Australia on March 3-4, 2016. Global Editors Network (GEN) and The Walkley Foundation, with the support of Google, gathered some of the best Australian media innovators in Sydney for a two-day Editors Lab focused on developing innovative news prototypes.

The theme was “Data-driven Stories: Find or tell stories with data”, covering data hacks and visualisations.

The winning prototype

Beat — The West Aus’s winning hack at Australia’s Editors Lab from Walkley Foundation on Vimeo.

Joe Hardy, Sophia Lewis and Ben Martin from The West Australian in Perth won Editors Lab for The BEAT, a hack that visualises South Australia crime on a real-time map dashboard — overlaying it with available newsroom resources — what the team called “a simple, elegant, usable way to monitor the Beat of your city.”

The jury gave special mentions to the team from The Age, whose prototype Dex is a text editor that automatically scans the text and suggests potentially related data sets; and the team from Guardian Australia, whose open-source template Time Serious can summarise a data set in plain language.

See the rest of the projects at the GEN Community website or relive the magic on the #EditorsLab hashtag or through
GEN’s live blog of the event.

A prize for the winning team

The West Australian has won a trip to Vienna to compete against other winning Editors Lab teams during the Editors Lab Final — the World Cup of Newsroom Innovation, held during the GEN Summit 2016 in June.

An unofficial prize was offered by Patrick Crooks of Fusion Labs.
The Launch Ready Award went to the team Fusion Labs judged closest to being able to launch a product. The criteria: The quality of editorial support secured to progress their concept, and the team’s position to deliver on the concept. The prize will be up to two days of mentoring from Fusion Labs with focus on the start of the project, to help ensure that it has the best chance of succeeding. Training will cover:
– How to create an environment to innovate with focus, speed and learning
– Helping design the project approach and who to involve
– Educating the team on subjects such as Leading Innovation Teams, Lean Startup, Design Thinking and/or Corporate Innovation (as required).
Winners: The Sydney Morning Herald, whose prototype Data Hub was designed to connect researchers and journalists. Runners-up were the ABC team, with their Cooee app crawling ABC’s content to find what topics audiences are reading or responding to the most.

Participating teams in 2016

SBS Labs Gina McKeon, Ken Macleod, Matt Smith — Withdrawn due to illness
SBS News and Current Affairs Jason Thomas, Michael Bamford, Juliette O’Brien
Research Platforms, University of Melbourne Kim Doyle, Yuandra Ismiradli, Isabell Kiral-Kornek
The Age Marc Moncrief, Andy Ball, Matthew Absalom-Wong
The Sydney Morning Herald Inga Ting, Richard Lama, Kathleen Virnat
The Guardian Paul Farrell, Nick Evershed, Brett Tweedie
ABC News Simon Elvery, Colin Gourlay, Ben Spraggon
ABC Matt Buchanan, Nathan Jenkins, Jo Szczepanska
Team Glasnost Martin Newman (Daily Telegraph/News), Suyeon Son (freelance), Kelly Tall (Australian Financial Review/Fairfax)
News Corp 1 Jackson Gothe-Snape, Robbie Wain, Alister Hearnshaw
News Corp 2 (The Herd) Nigel Gladstone, Vito Tang, Salil Ahuja
University of Technology Sydney Taylor Denny, Tommaso Armstrong, Passiona Cottee
The West Australian Ben Martin, Joe Hardy, Sophia Lewis
Macleay College Jake Nelson, Andrew Leeson, Enrico Gaoni

The 2016 jury

Evangeline de Bourgoing, Global Editors Network programme manager
Jonathan Richards, Google Creative Lab team lead
Henare Degan, OpenAustralia Foundation
Kate Golden, Walkley Foundation multimedia manager

2016 speakers

Luke Bacon, OpenAustralia Foundation
Mac Bryla, Tableau Software senior sales consultant
Jonathan Richards, Google Creative Lab team lead
Patrick Crooks, Fusion Labs