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30 June 2011

MJ Alumnus Wins International Digital Media Innovation Prize

A team led by JMSC alumni Jonathan Stray was awarded a Knight Foundation Knight News Challenge Prize worth $475,000 on June 22.

Jonathan Stray (MJ, 2010)

Jonathan Stray (MJ, 2010)

Stray, who works as the Interactive Newsroom Technology Manager for the Associated Press (AP) in New York, graduated from the JMSC with a Master of Journalism in 2010.

The Knight News Challenge was designed to “push the future of news and information.” A total of US$4.7 million was handed out to 16 innovative projects involving digital news that informs and engages the community.

Stray’s team came up with a tool called Overview.

“Overview is a tool to help journalists find stories in large amounts of data by cleaning, visualising and interactively exploring large document and data sets,” wrote Stray.

“Whether from government transparency initiatives, leaks or freedom of information requests, journalists are drowning in more documents than they can ever hope to read. There are good tools for searching within large document sets for names and key words, but that doesn’t help find stories journalists are not looking for.

“Overview will display relationships among topics, people, places and dates to help journalists to answer the question, ‘What’s in there?’ The goal is an interactive system where computers do the visualisation, while a human guides the exploration -– plus documentation and training to make this capability available to anyone who needs it.”

In the Wikileaks era such a tool could be incredibly useful to journalists facing reams of documents and evidence to plough through looking for stories.

Other prize winning ideas included a mobile platform that will enable residents of a city in India to learn when water is available, a tool that aggregates user-generated content from social media during big news events, a new platform that allows journalists to more effectively use text messaging to inform and engage rural communities and a platform that displays state codes, court decisions and information from legislative tracking services to make government more understandable to the average citizen.