DW Research & Cooperation Projects 2017: Our Year in Journo Tech

Another year in the world of digital media research and news innovation is coming to an end–and those of us still at the office decided to look back on personal highlights. Here's what seemed important in 2017.

Wilfried Runde: 2017 saw a string of remarkable achievements, encounters and experiences that only a profoundly dedicated team can pull-off. For sure the success story of Truly Media had the biggest impact–a result of working hard with the right people on the right topic at the right time. Seeing Amnesty International working with "our" tool is as good as it gets. Of course there were many other reasons to rejoice, e.g. hosting (and partying with) the EBU Digital Storytelling Labs at the Global Media Forum here in Bonn, walking into the 1000+ attendees event Media Fast Forward organised by our peers at VRT Innovation in Brussels (on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon), or enjoying the "Auswärtsspiel" (= away match) with the Research and Cooperation (ReCo) team. I also got to meet Jan Boček, Jan Cibulka, Petr Kočí and Marcel Šulek in a small and crowded no-frills, very „male" office at Czech Radio in early September. They're the real hard(!) & soul of data journalism, and their work is stunning. Quote: "My new project? I'm quantifying life in prison. Luckily, I know a convicted murderer."

Jochen Spangenberg: I'm pleased and grateful to have worked with a very committed and skilled team on a variety of projects this year. Without my colleagues, nothing would have been possible. I found it highly rewarding, in particular, to focus on issues related to the so-called "misinformation ecosystem". The topic isn't new to me, but it has finally gotten the attention it deserves. And I feel we have achieved a lot in that space. This is especially true in the context of Truly Media–a first for most of us: developing and launching a commercial platform for collaborative verification, and doing so as a team inside a public service broadcaster was quite a task; one we could only pull off with our dedicated partners at ATC (Athens Technology Centre) and strong organizational backing. Playing my part in contributing to the fight against misinformation gives me a feeling of satisfaction both personally and as a media professional. Amnesty International is now using Truly Media to detect and document human rights violations–a deal secured with Sam Dubberley and his team at Amnesty's Digital Verification Corps. I could not have asked for a better end of the year.

Julia Bayer: My highlights 2017 are all related to a special one named Truly.Media. Truly.Media is a collaborative verification platform that we developed together in an amazing team–and Amnesty International is our first customer! Collaboration is an important part in journalism nowadays. Journalists have the chance to share their expertise and to make sure that their audience consumes authentic information and can create their opinion based on that. To practice your verification skills whether you are a journalist or just wanna know how to identify a fake picture I started a weekly verification quiz on Twitter. By now we are a team who creates daily quizzes–we verify together and share our expertise. This all combined is my year 2017: Sharing is caring–and living it! See you @ #MondayQuiz

Birgit Gray: For me, 2017 was a lot about new tools that make the work of journalists faster and easier: newsstream developed special big data tools for journalists, euBusinessGraph recently came up with a prototype tool dedicated do business storytelling, and the Bloomen consortium is currently working on a tool that supports photo journalists and other creators with blockchain technology. In an era with a strong focus on visual media, I was also pleased to see that audio is making some sort of a comeback: Audio services on voice platforms have become quite popular, there's social audio, new mobile audio apps, and a new generation of podcasts.

Eva Lopez: I remember a conversation about Amazon's Alexa in which a friend told me that the smart speaker is now "a part of the family". I find that remarkable: AI in a plastic box as a brother, a sister, a roommate. And I always thought it was weird to love my first MacBook! Another important, albeit totally different thing was the establishment of a data-driven journalism team here at DW. It's headed by Gianna Grün, and I'm really happy to be a part of it. Especially because we're free to tell stories from all over the world–the perks of working for an international broadcaster. We've just started out, but expect some exclusive stories in 2018!

Mirko Lorenz: The (continuing) rise of populism and misinformation were among journalism's biggest challenges this year. A big question for us was how to help tackle them–through research, development, education. Truly Media provided a really good answer. I wasn't directly involved in the project, but it made me proud of our team as a whole: The ReCos (once again) proved that it's possible to develop meaningful software. Another concern of mine has been–you guessed it–data-driven journalism. If done right, DDJ holds the promise of deeper and better information for all kinds of audiences. At DW, there has been encouraging progress: We now have a (small) data team. We still have a long way to go, but everybody is moving forward. Step by step. Finally, there is Bloomen: Kicked-off just a couple of months ago, this project will address the not-so-easy question if we can use blockchain tech (and what it will become after the crypto currency craze) to manage media assets–and thus secure the intellectual property and revenues of the creative class. Something big to work in 2018.

Alexander Plaum: First and foremost, I really enjoyed completing my first year at DW, working with the incredibly nice and smart ReCos. Thanks again for having me! As for highlights in my area of expertise: It was great to see Fader grow from a rather spartan web application into a powerful VR/360 storytelling platform with a solid collection of international stories (the Euronews report on the effects of climate change in Europe is probably my favorite one so far). I was also excited about the EBU's VR/360 workshop in Paris in October. Lots of enthusiastic media people attended, and it seems like the medium has a promising future at almost every major broadcaster in Europe now. Not as an overhyped, "ultimate empathy machine", but as a new way to tell stories that rely on a combination of the following principles: Go where you can't go. Walk a mile in someone else's shoes. Delve deeper into the story and behold.

Tilman Wagner: I stumbled upon this app by the Guardian Mobile Lab called LabRdr this year, while researching examples of personalised news offers for our new project CPN. I immediately loved both the idea ("an experimental offline news app that knows you") and the setup of the experiment: Create a "simple but fine prototype", distribute it, see wether it flies or not, receive immediate feedback.–that's brilliant, fun, hands on. I'm looking forward to applying a similar approach to our own project and see where it will lead us next year.

P.S.: We all hope you have a perfect start into 2018!

Photo: Global Media Forum (River Cruise) 2017

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