Home What's Brewing? “Hacking Seattle News” Breaks News (Can It Fix What Is Broken?)

“Hacking Seattle News” Breaks News (Can It Fix What Is Broken?)

Our news media is failing us –socially and civically —  and most surprisingly it is doing so in an era, and in a medium, that is as pervasive and instantaneous as the Internet.  Can technology solve the problem?  A group of  Seattle developers came together this weekend for “Hacking Seattle News” to see if more innovative technical prowess might proffer a solution. A winner made headlines. But were the right questions asked?  Can a real answer be read between the lines of computer code?

“The Fourth Estate” is the name anointing the free press and for an important reason.  It has long been recognized that the media has a historic role and duty in parliamentary society.  The press serves as the eyes and the ears of the people, (in effect, a fourth branch of government). Journalists are not just accountable for, but responsible for upholding a  higher code of ethics.  It is not simply enough to describe or narrate current events at face value. The media’s role  is to discern the underling truth, to inform us about what is real.  Too often, reporters abdicate this responsibility by chronicling that there are two sides to every story. (Just two? There are more ways to “spin a story” than Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, but, of course, we already knew that).  The essential function which news reporting must perform is to tell us which version of the “story” is the accurate one, not the most popular, nor the most provocative, nor the most expedient, but the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us all.

The six projects undertaken at the Seattle News Hackathon this weekend came at the problem in a largely curatorial fashion.

“Local on Local” set out to connect readers with local happenings in the community–arts, culture, food, and events through a map functionality, that was then  filtered by category.

“Report Now” allowed Netizens to  report local event-based info based on event type and location. A user could click on either a hazard, alert or FYI button before submitting the info.

“State of the Article”  searched for people who are linking (tweeting or using other social networks) to connect to content with local domains as means o getting to the source of the news development.

“Curated News,”
enables people to curate news from blogs and social media into places and stories. A user can watch stories emerge in real time from multiple sources.

“Dimensions” empowered the people reporting the news with enhanced controls.  Users can see visual filters of news (pulled in through RSS feeds). The content is filtered and ranked by social groups. Users can also add new filters.

Finally, “City Story,” enables people to share personal stories about what’s happening in their neighborhood via audio messages.

After two days of diligent prototyping and programming, a winner was named. It was “Dimensions,” developed by a five-person team committed to “making you the editor.” Congratulations to Becker, Mohammad Almalkawi (@SocialWebGeek), Leon Wong (@LeonWong71), Luis, Adam Loving (@AdamLoving) Jeff Hendrickson who wweerree awardrd a prize of $10,000.

While each of these approaches facilitated novel solutions for collaborating and disseminating the news, our editors at Seattle24x7, are struck by the grand disparity which remains unanswered in an age where between real news poses as “Faux News.” We believe the seminal question is how to authenticate what is true as opposed to promulgating the facts. Could it be that technology needs to present us with a window on the primary news source,direct and non-stop?

To our way of thinking one of the very  few bastions of  journalism left in American media that can still speak truth to power, and tell it like it is, is “60 Minutes.” Let’s hope our present and future Seattle hackers can aspire to this caliber of information gathering.

Hacking Seattle News was organized by Mark Briggs, director of digital media, KING 5 @markbriggs , Shauna Causey, Digital Communication Lead, Hacking Seattle News  @shaunacausey , Evonne Benedict, social media manager, KING 5 @evonnebenedict and Adam Loving, developer, Big Door @adamloving  Sponsors for the event included Adobe Seattle and Amazon Web Services. [24×7]