4th Annual Journalism School Hackathon at University of Nevada-Reno

Weekend Hackathon Puts Focus on Bots & Chatbots


Can journalism and communications schools help shape the next generation of media entrepreneurs? Many schools have created special “labs” and innovation centers and are running courses aimed at building startups — and a startup mentality. But how can they share knowledge, improve skills and have fun doing it? MediaShift is producing our fourth annual Journalism School Hackathon on the weekend of February 24-26, 2017, co-produced by the Reynolds School of Journalism and Center for Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada-Reno. We’re convening a group of top students (graduates and undergraduates), faculty and professionals for the weekend Hackathon, with a real-world mission of creating startups around bots and chatbots. Students will have a chance to collaborate on diverse teams of students with faculty and pro facilitators.

No coding background is needed! The Hackathon is actually more like a Startup Weekend, with the creation of a startup name, business model and pitch deck. However, we will offer some video tutorials for those who want to learn to code chatbots.

Register Now!

Travel Scholarships

Thanks to the Ford Foundation, we were able to offer 12 travel scholarships for up to $500 for students who couldn’t otherwise afford to get to the Hackathon. Students were chosen according to financial hardship, with an emphasis on helping women and people of color attend.

How It Works

From the students, faculty and pros assembled, we’ll create “dream teams” with people from various schools on one team. Each team will have a mix of necessary disciplines — editor/producer, designer, tech person, business-savyy pro or faculty facilitator — who will learn to work together in the crucible of the weekend Hackathon. The weekend will be a combination of focused talks and training from innovation leaders and experts, work sessions and final presentations of startups from each team. Faculty and industry experts will provide expertise to each team and help them rapidly develop their solution. Judges will pick a winning team based on the startup’s viability, feasibility and desirability.

Each team will be comprised of students who will be doing the main work of brainstorming, designing and presenting their idea. Faculty and pros who attend will also be assigned to teams (or as floating mentors) to serve as facilitators and resources for the students — helping them stay on track and making sure all the students participate on the team.

Key Speakers

Dusty Wunderlich is an entrepreneur and free-market economist. In 2013, Dusty founded Bristlecone Holdings, a financial technology company which builds proprietary technologies and machine-learning algorithms to better serve consumers through smarter financial tools. An avid student of the markets and advocate for Austrian Economics, Dusty is determined to drive social change by building better financial models. When he’s not in a passionate pursuit of disruption, Dusty is studying philosophy and training for his next mountaineering endeavor. You can follow him on Twitter @DustyWunderlich.

amara aguilar

Amara Aguilar is an associate professor of professional practice in digital journalism at USC Annenberg. She previously was the journalism department chair and an assistant professor of journalism at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she advised student news publications and led the journalism program’s mobile and tablet initiatives. She was honored by the California Journalism Education Coalition as “Journalism Educator of the Year” in the two-year college division in 2014. Previously Amara taught multimedia as an assistant professor at Pierce College in Los Angeles, where she taught multimedia storytelling, podcasting, online journalism, media design and development. Follow her on Twitter @amara_media.


Celeste LeCompte is the director of business development at ProPublica, where she works with partners inside and outside the organization to develop new business and revenue opportunities. As an editor and product manager, she has developed and launched successful revenue-driving projects, including Gigaom Research and the year-long environment and tech reporting project Climate Confidential. She’s also an award-winning journalist and was a 2015 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. You can follow her on Twitter @celrae.


Colin Loretz is a technologist and community builder. He has competed in and organized many hackathons and is the founder of the Reno Collective Coworking space. As a software developer, Loretz has run his own software consultancy, worked in startups and now freelances for agencies and brands that are looking to build custom integrations and bots. You can follow him on Twitter @colinloretz.


Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and is known online for her Grammar Girl website, podcast, and games. She is also the author of the New York Times best-seller “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” and the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is co-producing the Hackathon with MediaShift. You can follow her on Twitter @GrammarGirl.

mark glaser bw headshot

Mark Glaser is founder and executive editor of MediaShift. He is a longtime freelance journalist whose career includes columns on hip-hop, reviews of videogames, travel stories, and humor columns that poked fun at the titans of technology. Glaser won the Innovation Journalism Award in 2010 from the Stanford Center for Innovation and Communication. Glaser has been a guest on PBS’ “Newshour,” NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” KALW’s “Media Roundtable” and has been a speaker and moderator at many industry conferences. He has been running events for MediaShift and acting as the MC since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.


Host School

The Hackathon will be hosted by the Reynolds School of Journalism and Center for Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada-Reno. The school is highly regarded within the university, within the community, within the professional media community of Nevada and around the country. Members of the faculty serve in important roles on university committees, interact with media professionals throughout the state, and are active in national organizations such as the AEJMC, PRSA, RTNDA and SPJ. The school serves as the venue for a variety of professional training programs. The Reynolds School of Journalism program has a tradition of strong professional orientation with an emphasis on hands-on skills training. Many professors have worked in journalistic fields, from broadcast to public relations. Many continue to be active in these pursuits. Instruction emphasizes professional skills and students are required to complete internships in their chosen journalistic fields. Learn more here.

Host Venue


The main venue for the Hackathon will be the University of Nevada, Reno Innevation Center – Powered By Switch. The Innevation Center is designed to empower Nevada’s next generation of economic leaders by igniting the creative and entrepreneurial spirits in University of Nevada, Reno students, faculty, community creatives, makers, economic developers, and emerging global tech companies. Learn more here.


If you are interested in sponsoring the Hackathon, please contact MediaShift’s Mark Glaser at mark [at] mediashift [dot] org.

The winning team at the 3rd Annual J-School Hackathon at Georgia

The winning team at the 3rd Annual J-School Hackathon at Georgia

Who’s Coming

All journalism and communications schools are invited to attend the Hackathon, as well as journalists, editors, technologists, entrepreneurs and others with an interest in networking, collaboration and innovation. We allow undergraduates, graduates and doctoral students to compete on teams. The following schools will be represented at the Hackathon:

Arizona State University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Point Loma Nazarene University
San Francisco State University
University of California-Berkeley
University of California-Santa Cruz
University of Montana
University of Nevada-Las Vegas
University of Nevada-Reno
University of North Carolina
USC Annenberg


Registration fees help cover the cost of food and drinks, as well as producing the weekend Hackathon. Registration costs $69 for students and $129 for professionals.

Please go to this Eventbrite page to register now!

Travel Info

Travel and housing costs are up to participants, but we do have some group rates at nearby hotels. Please check our special Travel Page for information on hotels and getting to the Hackathon!


Friday, February 24 to Sunday, February 26, 2017

Plan to arrive Friday, Feb. 24, in the evening by 6 pm for our kick-off mixer, with an official start early Saturday morning and ending Sunday afternoon at 2 pm with the announcement of the winners.


The Innevation Center
450 Sinclair Street
Reno, Nevada 89501

Google Map location

Kick-Off Mixer!

For those arriving early enough on Friday (or locals in Reno), there will be a kick-off mixer from 6 pm to 8 pm at Reno Collective collaborative workspace. The networking event will be a great way for Hackathon participants to meet up and get to know each other. Light snacks and non-alcoholic drinks will be provided.

Reno Collective
100 N. Arlington Ave.
Suite 100
Reno, NV 89501

Google Map location



    Friday, February 24

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm: Networking mixer at Reno Collective, 100 N. Arlington Ave., Suite 100, Reno, NV 89501
Snacks and non-alcoholic drinks; dinner out afterwards on your own.

    Saturday, February 25

Innevation Center, Stage 3, 2nd Floor

8:00 a.m. – Light breakfast
8:30 a.m. – Kickoff
Welcoming Remarks: Mignon Fogarty, University of Nevada
Rules and logistics: Mark Glaser, MediaShift
9:00 a.m. – Speaker Session 1 – Human-Centered Design: Amara Aguilar, USC Annenberg
9:30 a.m. – WORK
12:30 p.m. – Lunch
1:00 p.m. – Speaker Session 2 – Bots Marketplace: Colin Loretz, Reno Collective
1:30 p.m. – WORK
6:00 p.m. – Dinner
6:30 p.m. – Speaker Session 3 – Marketing and Your Business Plan: Celeste LeCompte, ProPublica
7:00 p.m. – Mentors and facilitators meet up Siena Hotel bar; teams continue to work with students only

Siena Hotel: 1 Lake St, Reno, NV 89501

10 p.m. – Night program ends

    Sunday, February 26

Innevation Center, Stage 3, 2nd Floor

8:30 a.m. – Light breakfast
9 a.m. – Speaker session 4 – How to Pitch Your Startup: Dusty Wunderlich, Bristlecone Holdings
9:30 a.m. – WORK on presentations
11:30 a.m. – Lunch for judges
Noon – Lunch for everyone; team presentations
1:30 p.m. – Judging in chambers
2 p.m. – Announcement of winners and closing remarks

Tweet about your experience with #jschoolhackathon on Twitter!

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