Top journalism students and faculty from across the country traveled to Arizona State University last week to envision cutting-edge media products to help underserved communities as a part of PBS MediaShift’s 2nd Annual Journalism School Hackathon.
The two-day event brought approximately 50 students and 30 faculty members to ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix, where teams developed a variety of sustainable media products. The winning team created Basics, a mobile app designed to serve the homeless community and those battling poverty.
Basics gives charitable service providers a direct way to communicate with the underserved community, giving them real-time status updates of available resources. The team said the app would help eliminate the issue of those in need arriving to a closed food bank or a full shelter by sending text and online notifications.
“We stuck with the idea of simple information and a way to get it out there,” said Edgar Walker, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Because that’s what matters: Are they open? How much do they have? And how long will they be available for?”
Walker was joined by fellow students Katie Callahan of Point Loma Nazarene University, Grace Fenlason from Northern Arizona University and facilitators Danielle Cervantes from Point Loma Nazarene University, David Morgan of the Cochise County Record and Pat Shannahan of the Arizona Republic.
Shaping a Startup Mentality
In all, 10 teams competed over the February 28/March 1 weekend, developing projects in one of three threads: gaming, data or audience engagement. Other notable projects that earned recognition included [Rec]ollection, an app providing a digital way for individuals to preserve their stories; Uproot, a scavenger hunt and trivia app focused on African-American history; and Accessible Phoenix, an app providing accessibility information on Phoenix restaurants and shops for people with disabilities.
PBS MediaShift launched the first hackathon last year in partnership with the Reese News Lab at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication focused on solving issues at local media outlets. While most hackathons center on coding, PBS MediaShift Executive Editor Mark Glaser said this event is designed to shape the next generation of journalists through entrepreneurship.
“I think it’s important that schools and their students get entrepreneurial training to do startups, and I hope it spreads,” Glaser said.
This year’s hackathon participants heard from veteran entrepreneurs, who offered guidance and advice on funding and product design. Speakers included Alan Lobock, co-founder of SkyMall, Mike Alonzo, the chief operating officer at Storybyte, Retha Hill, the executive director of the Cronkite School’s New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, and Elizabeth Mays, assistant director of Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.
Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan said ASU recognizes the importance of entrepreneurial training. He said the hackathon is one of several events centered on innovation at the Cronkite School.
“I think this was a great opportunity not only for Cronkite, but for the other journalism schools here to see some of the thinking that goes into entrepreneurship and coming up with innovative ideas that can actually be applied,” Callahan said.
How the J-School Hackathon Turned Me Into an Entrepreneur, by Tresa Tudrick
My Experience in Developing ‘El Remedio’ at the J-School Hackathon, by Alex Arriaga
J-School Hackathon at ASU: Coverage, Video, Photos and More, by Sonia Paul
Lia Juriansz is a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and an intern for the Cronkite Journal.