Phillip Smith

Hey Newsrooms! Get your voices heard: Send a 'message-in-a-bottle' to the #MozNewsLab.

Message in the bottle by on Flickr
Creative commons photo courtesy of on Flickr

So, we’re five days into the #MozNewsLab experiment and things are exploding (in a good way, of course).

But we’re not in the clear yet…

In the development of this entire Knight-Mozilla program, we received a lot of great feedback from people working in newsrooms – both news-app developers and editorial staff. Some voices were louder than other (coughDerek Williscough), but we heard those voices loud-and-clear and want to work to address as many of the concerns as possible, such as:

  • The challenge of incremental change vs. wholesale change in established news organization;

  • The idea that ‘news apps’ are not just about technology, they are pieces of journalism too (and what that means practically);

  • How does a new software product or tool make its way into a newsroom? What are the entry points?

  • Where are the opportunities to ‘Hack at the core’ of news.

I want to inject as many of these ideas into the thinking that is happening in the #MozNewsLab, but I need your help to make that happen (and it’s in your interest to help!).

So, I had an idea the other day about how to do this, and I would like to try it out on all of you, if you’re willing.

I wrote about the lab’s objectives earlier this week on PBS MediaShift Idealab – and in that post I referenced the idea of a “message in a bottle.

Well, I’d like you to give it a shot. :)

The concept is simple: people working in newsrooms, or with newsrooms, or who have worked in newsrooms (you get the point), send a short video message into our learning lab. Once received, Alex and I will assign it as “homework.”

These video messages should try to communicate:

  • The realities of working in a busy news environment, i.e., the hurdles that fellows might face when they arrive at Al Jazeera English, BBC,, Guardian, or Zeit Online this year (and perhaps your news organization next year);

  • The challenges that reporters are facing today, i.e., tools they really wish they had to report or present news;

  • The challenges that news users are facing today, i.e., how news could be better delivered to people who read, use, and re-mix it;

  • The failed state of corporate IT, and corporate CMSs, in many large newsrooms, and how to route around that;

… And so on.

Basically, these would be a reality check from those people “in the know” – like you.

So, your mission – should you choose to accept it – would be to:

  1. Create a short (~3 minute) web-cam video that boils down your experience into one clear call-to-action for our lab participants, e.g.: “If you’re going to know one thing about trying to work with reporters, and editors, and technology it’s ….” and one clear question for participants, e.g.: “So, given what I’ve just told you, how will you work around that?

  2. Upload that video to YouTube and tag it with #MozNewsLab (or upload it anywhere and send me a link; YouTube just saves me a step or two.)

  3. Keep your eye on your Twitter @ replies, and – as time permits – engage with the participants that respond.

This is your chance to get your idea, experience, and opinion in front of sixty-three smart people that are hurtling toward the opportunity to spend one year building software in a newsroom.

Let’s not let the #MozNewsLab particiapnts go in blind! :)


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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