Journalism School Hackathon at Arizona State

Weekend Hackathon Puts Focus on Reaching Underserved, Diverse Audiences

cronkite school

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 second annual Journalism School Hackathon on the February 27-March 1, 2015 weekend, co-produced and hosted by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in Phoenix. We’re convening a group of top students, faculty and professionals for the weekend Hackathon, with a real-world mission of creating sustainable media projects that reach underserved populations. Students will have a chance to collaborate on diverse teams of students with faculty and pro facilitators. And they will be able to create media projects in one of three threads: data, gaming or audience engagement.

Register now!

We have chosen 10 students in need to receive Travel Scholarships for the Hackathon. Many thanks to the Ford Foundation for providing funding for the scholarships!

Key Speakers


Retha Hill is the executive director of the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.  Retha is a 2012 AEJMC/Knight Innovations Award grant winner and a 2010 Knight News Challenge winner for creating SeedSpeak, a platform for location-based collaboration, and a 2010 J-Lab Women Entrepreneurs grant winner for a mobile app that uses Augmented Reality to find black history in cities across the country. Hill is a Fellow for the ASU Center for Games and Impact, where she is helping to develop news game modules for the news industry. Hill joined the ASU faculty in 2007 after eight years at BET, where she was vice president for content for BET Interactive. Follow her on Twitter @rethahill.

mike alonzo headshot
Mike Alonzo is a founding partner at User10, helping entrepreneurs take the right action through idea development, concept validation, and MVP development. Mike also serves as the Chief Operating Officer at Storybyte, a mobile platform that automatically turns the photos already on your phone into beautiful web stories. Passionate about the PHX entrepreneurial community, Mike continues to give back with other projects including PHXMADE and #yesphx. Follow him on Twitter @mikealonzo.

alan lobock headshotAlan Lobock is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor best known for co-founding SkyMall. He contributes to WSJ Accelerator and other publications. Alan previously was co-founder of Convrrt, Inc., a SaaS focused on quick and economical landing page creation and optimization to improve conversion of leads into sales. He has served as an advisory board member for several startups and has mentored startups through Seed Spot and Arizona State University’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group. Follow him on Twitter @alanlobock.


Elizabeth Mays is the assistant director for the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at the Cronkite School. In that capacity and in her previous role as Outreach Director for the Cronkite School, she has been an intrapreneur leading special digital projects, marketing and sales efforts. Mays is an alum of Cronkite, with her mid-career master’s degree in Digital Media Entrepreneurship. Prior to Cronkite, she was the executive editor of a lifestyles magazine and the owner of a business providing editorial services to custom and consumer publications. In her spare time, she is a writer and self-published author who is passionate about content marketing and self-publishing, particularly in the digital space.

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 solutions 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, which will be featured in PBS MediaShift. Judging will be weighted most heavily on teams coming up with viable business solutions to reach underserved communities — e.g. disabled, elderly, non-English speakers, rural areas, economically disadvantaged people.

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 to serve as facilitators and resources for the students — helping them stay on track and making sure all the students participate on the team.

Host School

The hackathon will be hosted by ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix. The school is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier professional journalism programs. Rooted in the time-honored values that characterize its namesake — accuracy, responsibility, objectivity, integrity — the school is a leader in journalism education with its innovative use of the teaching hospital model, for which it has received international acclaim. The school’s full-immersion professional programs give students opportunities to practice what they’ve learned in intensive real-world settings under the guidance of top-flight professionals.

The school also has a Public Insight Network bureau and a New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, which will send faculty and students to participate in the hackathon. The intention for the hackathon this year is to build on the success of last year’s 1st Annual J-School Hackathon at University of North Carolina, and include students from various schools around the country.

winners 1st hackathon

Winners from the first annual J-School Hackathon at UNC

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. The following schools will be represented at the Hackathon this year:

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State

University of North Carolina’s Reese News Lab

American University School of Communication

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Northern Arizona University

University of Florida

Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University

University of Nevada-Reno

University of Nevada-Las Vegas

Biola University

Point Loma Nazarene University

University of Missouri

University of Maryland

Columbia University

New York University

Tufts University

Bennett College

University of Oregon

Texas Tech University


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

Please go to this Eventbrite page to register now!

Travel Info

Travel and housing costs are up to participants, but we have secured a special discount rate at the nearby Hotel San Carlos. Go to our travel information page for more information!

Here’s more detailed information on
getting to Cronkite School and parking there.


Friday, February 27 to Sunday, March 1, 2015

Plan to arrive Friday, Feb. 27, in the evening by 6 pm for our kick-off mixer (details below), with an official start early Saturday morning and ending Sunday afternoon at 2 pm with plenty of travel time.


Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
555 N. Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ, 85004
Google Map location


If you are interested in sponsoring the Hackathon, please contact MediaShift sponsorship manager Scott Raynovich at scott [at] rayno [dot] com.

Kick-Off Mixer!

For those arriving early enough on Friday (or locals at ASU), there will be a kick-off mixer at Co-Hoots in Phoenix, located just 5 minutes’ drive or 3 light rail stops away from ASU. 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. Space is limited so please RSVP for the mixer!

1027 E Washington St. #107
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Google Map location


View the final agenda here

Friday, February 27th

Saturday, February 28th

  • 8:00 – Light breakfast/gathering
  • 8:30 – Kickoff
    • Welcome: Explain rules and logistics; presentation of challenge
    • 9:00 – Speaker Session 1 – Design Thinking & Brainstorming
    • 9:30 – Work on teams
    • 12:30 – Lunch: Speaker Session 2 – Turning an Idea into a Product or Service
    • 1:30 – Work on teams
    • 6:00 – Dinner: Speaker Session 3 – Venture Capitalism and Funding Media
    • 7:00 – Work on teams; facilitators out for social hour
    • 10:00 – Day one ends.

Sunday, March 1st

  • 8:00 – Light breakfast: Speaker Session 4 – Pitching Your Idea
  • 9:00 – Work on presentation
  • 11:30 – Lunch for judges
  • 12:00 – Deadline for project submissions; lunch and team pitches (4 mins each)
    • Judging
    • Announcement of winners

Official end of Hackathon: 2 pm

  • Who We Are

    MediaShift is the premier destination for insight and analysis at the intersection of media and technology. The MediaShift network includes MediaShift, EducationShift, MetricShift and Idea Lab, as well as workshops and weekend hackathons, email newsletters, a weekly podcast and a series of DigitalEd online trainings.

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