Journalism School Hackathon at University of North Texas

Weekend Hackathon Puts Focus on Sports + Health

University of North Texas. Frank & Sue Mayborn School of Journalism. Photo: Junebug Clark

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 fifth Journalism School Hackathon on the weekend of October 20-22, 2017, co-produced by the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas (near Dallas-Fort Worth). 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 in the sports and health areas. 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.

Register Now!

Travel Scholarships

Thanks to the Ford Foundation, we offered travel scholarships for up to $500 for students who can’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.

The application for Travel Scholarships is now closed.

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

Mike Orren is a lifelong media entrepreneur, from having turned his high school newspaper into a profitable semi-weekly to serving as a founder of Speakeasy, and now is president of Belo Business Intelligence for A.H. Belo. He founded Pegasus News, which grew into the largest single-market pureplay news and entertainment site in the US, with a proprietary content and ad customization engine called The Daily You™. He shepherded the company through two acquisitions, and it is now owned by The Dallas Morning News. Prior to that, Mike has led relaunches and turnarounds at D Magazine and American Lawyer Media’s Texas Lawyer. He is a regular writer and speaker on local media, advertising, marketing and social media, having appeared recently at SXSW, BIA / Kelsey, Online News Association and Ignite. You can follow him on Twitter @mikeorren.

Ron Jenkins is the owner of RJenkins Consulting, providing business development and strategic marketing counsel to nonprofits and companies. Previously he served as Managing Partner at the world’s largest marketing communications firm, JWT, where Ron was responsible for directing client teams, developing client relationships, and mentoring talent. His talent for innovation and new ideas was further nurtured at Southern Methodist University where he served as Chief of Staff for the leading video game development graduate program in the world. His responsibilities included operations, strategy, brand management, national media relations, digital media, and development. He has a Master of Liberal Studies from SMU and a B.S. in Ag Journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Regina (Gin) Presley received a Bachelor of Science in Human Performance & Sport from Metropolitan State University of Denver and a M.S. in Sport Administration from the University of Northern Colorado. She has a background in small business development, and event and entertainment management. Gin has been involved in several new start-up opportunities which include: health and fitness, sport and retail. Gin currently teaches Sport Entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville assisting students in developing entrepreneurial innovation and seeking opportunities for new venture success. Follow her on Twitter @PresleyGin.

Retha Hill is the Executive Director of the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab and Professor of Practice at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She joined the Cronkite faculty in the summer of 2007 after nearly eight years at BET, where she was vice president for content for BET Interactive, the online unit of Black Entertainment Television and the most visited site specializing in African-American content on the internet. Before joining BET, Hill was executive producer for special projects at, developing new products for the Washington Post’s website. She joined the Post’s early online operations in 1995 as the editor for local news, arts and entertainment. You can follow her on Twitter @rethahill.

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.

Juli James is a lecturer for applied design and game design at the UNT Mayborn School of Journalism and the Director for Denton, Texas, with the Women Who Code Dallas Network. Before joining the Mayborn team, she worked at the ASU Center for Games & Impact where she developed and lead a collaborative innovation initiative to bring together journalism and game design. In 2015, Juli won a Knight Prototype Fund Grant to design and test a narrative game engine for journalists. After the release of the engine prototype, she and her partners founded the design firm Playable Media to continue to build games and innovative tools for journalism.

Host School

The Hackathon will be hosted by the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. The school has been a major provider of professionals & academics for all forms of media, profit & non-profit communication organizations since 1945. The late Frank W. Mayborn and his wife Sue Mayborn lend their name to the school. The family is one of Texas’ top publishing families as publisher of the Temple Daily Telegram and the Killeen Daily Herald. The school is committed to providing students with the latest technology required to succeed in the fast-paced journalism profession. Learn more here.


The Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity partners with the University of North Texas faculty, staff and the entire campus community to create an inclusive environment that prepares and promotes UNT student success in a global marketplace. At UNT, all members of our community value, support and respect each other and the educational benefits of diversity. The division is comprised of two entities: the Office of Equal Opportunity and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. Go here to learn more.

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 J-School Hackathon at University of Nevada-Reno

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.


Registration fees help cover the cost of food and drinks, as well as producing the weekend Hackathon. Early Bird Registration costs $49 for students and $99 for professionals, and the deadline is September 18, 2017. Thereafter, regular 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. The school is located within a 30 minutes drive of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interntional Airport. Learn more about travel, parking and hotels on our Special Travel Page!


Friday, October 20 to Sunday, October 22, 2017

Plan to arrive Friday, Oct. 20, 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.


UNT Gateway Center
801 North Texas Blvd.
Denton, TX 76201

Google Map location

Kick-Off Mixer!

For those arriving early enough on Friday (or locals in Denton), there will be a kick-off mixer from 6 pm to 8 pm at Stoke 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.

608 E Hickory St #128
Denton, TX 76205

Google Map location



    Friday, October 20

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm: Networking mixer at Stoke, 608 E Hickory St #128, Denton, TX 76205.
Snacks and non-alcoholic drinks; dinner out afterwards on your own.

    Saturday, October 21

UNT Gateway Center

8:00 a.m. – Light breakfast
8:30 a.m. – Kickoff
Welcoming Remarks
Rules and logistics: Mark Glaser, MediaShift
9:00 a.m. – Speaker Session 1 – Human-Centered Design: Retha Hill, ASU
9:30 a.m. – WORK
12:30 p.m. – Lunch
1:00 p.m. – Speaker Session 2 – Sports + Health Marketplace: Regina (Gin) Presley, University of Louisville
1:30 p.m. – WORK
6:00 p.m. – Dinner
6:30 p.m. – Speaker Session 3 – Your Business and Marketing Plan: Mike Orren, A.H. Belo
7:00 p.m. – Mentors and facilitators out for drinks; teams continue to work with students only

10 p.m. – Night program ends

    Sunday, October 22

UNT Gateway Center

8:30 a.m. – Light breakfast
9 a.m. – Speaker session 4 – How to Pitch Your Startup: Ron Jenkins, RJenkins Consulting
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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