This past October, Assistant Professor Jillian Bauer took nine journalism students from Temple to MediaShift's third annual Journalism School Hackathon in Athens, Georgia. Two Temple students, Anh Nguyen and Brianna Spause, along with three students from other universities, were on the team that placed first in the competition.
Temple students Brittany Salerno, Jon Dowding, Steph Hirsch, Albert Hong, Alexa Monteleone, Erin Moran and EJ Smith also participated in the Hackathon, all of whom took either design, multimedia, data or user experience classes with Bauer.
"I could tell that they were full of ideas and that they would be really enthusiastic," Bauer said.
The Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia hosts the two-day tournament, in which graduate and undergraduate students come together to create a startup business idea centered on data verification for digital media. Each team at the Hackathon was tasked with verifying a different type of media, including photo, video, social media and data. The teams included students with diverse backgrounds and skills needed to collaborate in the design of a successful media product.
Throughout the Hackathon, professionals in media and other industries spoke to the students about current trends in data verification.
Nguyen and Spause worked with students from the University of Georgia and the University of British Columbia to design the application Veridex, which lets news organizations locate and vet user-generated data that manifests during breaking news events. The app can be tailored to fit any kind of news or media organization.
"I think that individually, each of us may not have had the skills to do this," Spause said, "but together we all brought different skills to the table."
The group worked arduously over the course of 24 hours to try to come up with a viable idea. Professors and professionals supervised the teams and were available to answer questions, but were not allowed to give them ideas. Spause, Nguyen and their teammates worked collaboratively to execute the final product.
"The idea kind of sparked when the woman from the weather channel came and talked about the problems with user-generated data," Nguyen said, "and how one user marked a flooding road in the middle of the ocean, and nobody fixed that for 72 hours."
The group's idea could not have come at a better time, considering the prevalence of fake news on social media.
Each team presented their idea in front of a panel of judges, along with prototypes to demonstrate how their product would function.
Brittany Salerno's team won second place for creating Pippin, an application that lets users know when a publication uses a photo that they took. Through the app, photographers can disapprove of a photo's use and get in touch with the publication to have it removed. Salerno was approached with a job opportunity after she and her group pitched the app.
"I think it's really fun how Professor Bauer brought us all together," Nguyen said. "I talked to her last spring and told her that I was interested in data and technology, and she remembered."
Temple journalism students clearly have their fingers on the pulse of innovative media products in an age when digital journalism needs verification the most.