The good folks at Netsquared in San Francisco are sponsoring a Mashup Challenge, designed to encourage civil society and social benefit organizations to submit innovative new ideas for Mashups) supporting social change.
Of the 50 or so entries submitted so far, a number of them have a news angle that may be of interest to journalists and the larger media community.
For example, a submission called Community News & Caring Map is aimed at allowing writers to know where their readers are geographically located. The idea being that if you know more about who your audience is, the better you can speak to them and provide more informed journalism. I like this idea…it makes sense intuitively. What I don’t understand is how such information can be gathered or shared in an opt-in fashion that doesn’t violate the privacy and anonymity of the reader.
Another listed contender is called NewsFlash: Mapping top stories in 200 plus countries. This one is already live, and allows you to pick top stories from around the globe from a colorful world map. The idea here is to encourage people to expand their news horizons through a graphically rich interface. I also get this one, as it is a one-stop-shopping and visually pleasant way to scan international headlines. It certainly gives you that “we are the world” feeling. The only thing I would say on the flip side is that it appears to be only a news aggregation tool, and doesn’t do anything to help identify quality journalism or determine the accuracy of stories being reported. But that’s a whole other issue…one tool at a time.
My favorite idea submitted so far on the news front is called Ushahidi: Mapping Reports of post election violence in Kenya. This mashup intends to help document issues of violence and death not reported by the government, police or the mainstream press. The effort seeks to provide a graphical timeline of events, document specific cases, and ultimately provide pictures and information about unreported or underreported victims. This strikes me as a very practical and important tool, not to mention representing “citizen journalism” at its best.
Had I the time or inclination, I would add my own entry to the bunch – called something like “All News Is Local”. My mashup would be a small widget that you can plop on any organization’s website or blog that streams locally relevant news with Twitter like headlines. By locally relevant I mean news that a particular nonprofit organization, business, or agency creates itself, ideally text, audio or video submitted on the fly by clients or staff of the organization or the public at large. Think of a kind of billboard that you drive by on the highway with different messages from individual cars as they go by. The benefit of this somewhat chaotic news distribution system is that it is VERY locally generated and relevant. And the widget hosting website or blog doesn’t have to manage the news…it’s dynamically generated and automatically submitted by anyone who wants to contribute. And in my perfect mashup world this widget is a money maker too! Small Google-like ads can appear in one corner of the widget box, and host sites can opt for mainstream (but zip-code relevant) news headlines/stories which they get paid to display. Everybody wins!!!
Crazy idea, you say? You’re probably right…so what’s YOUR idea to change this mashed up mixed up world?