Students Create New Ways to Use Existing Content

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On March 5, the Tow Center and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation hosted the MINDS Innovation Challenge at Columbia Journalism School. Columbia students from different disciplines, including journalism, data science, and statistics, came together for a day-long hackathon examining the central question: how can news agencies find new uses for their content? 

The previous evening Jim Kennedy, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Enterprise Development at The Associated Press (AP), gave a seminar on the contemporary challenges facing news agencies, setting up the problems for the students to tackle the following day.

In four teams, the participants worked with text, photo and video APIs made accessible from the Press Association to prototype new products and tools. Francesco Marconi and Lucy Sun from AP joined to give the teams feedback on their ideas and process.

The students came to the hackathon with familiarity with a wide range of news display formats. “People love graphics. They want something to play with,” said Yicheng Wang, graduate student in Columbia’s Department of Statistics.

At the conclusion of the hackathon, groups gave a short pitch with mock ups and prototypes, and fielded questions from the judging panel which included Pete Brown (Senior Research Fellow, Tow Center), Aine Kerr (for Managing Editor, Storyful) Eric Carvin (Social Media Editor, AP) and Lucy Sun (Business Development, AP). The judges evaluated the pitches on criteria including: use of data, practical application for news agencies, originality, and scalability.

With the pitch presentation, the students were challenged to clearly articulate the problem they identified and demonstrate the value of their proposed solution for new agencies and consumers. The students brought a diversity of background, skills, and approaches to problem solving, highlighting the opportunities for further interdisciplinary collaboration.

“One of the goals of the agencies is to find innovation. What better place to find those ideas than at a university, working with students who are exposed to new technologies, new platforms, and new ways of thinking about problems,” said Francesco Marconi, Manager of Strategy and Development at AP. “I was very impressed by the quality of work the students delivered in such a short period of time and their understanding of the challenges news agencies face.”

MINDS Innovation Challenge Pitches:

National to Local News 

Description: use tags to surface locally relevant stories on the article a user is currently reading.

Team Members: Stephan Bisaha, Daniela Cruzat, Julie Joseph, Jing Qui, Yuhan Sun, Yueying Teng

Quotation Tool

Description: quote database that can be used for analysis, visualization, social publication, and chat-based news apps.

Team Members: Josh Furtado, Bernat Ivancsics,  Kevin Mei, Sarah Salvadore, Ilgin Yorulmaz

News Relevancy

Description: search tool displaying news stories by relevance to any selected location.

Team Members: Amir Imani, Aram Chung, Jianghanhan Li, Xavier Gonzalez, Woojin Kim

News Archive Databases

Description: use news archive to generate databases which can inform future stories.

Team Members: Daitong Li, Devansh Mehta, Mandeep Singh, Yicheng Wang

The Quotation Tool emerged as the highest scoring pitch, and the judges commended the team on their understanding of market trends in journalism. Teams will continue to refine their projects working with mentors from Columbia and AP. Teams will give their final presentations at the MINDS Conference on April 15 at the AP, where MINDS members will select an overall winner.

MINDS International is a global network of leading news agencies collaborating in new media business on a top executive level. The aim of MINDS is to support the digital development of news agencies and the media industry in general.

MINDS Innovation Challenge


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