Hack day computers hands
Credit: Image by mozillaeu on Flickr. Creative commons licence. Some rights reserved

Journalists, designers and developers gathered in London last week to take part in The News Industry Accelerator, a two-day hackathon organised by the BBC and the Global Editors Network (GEN).

The teams tackled the challenge of creating an app, platform or tool that would improve the news industry for UK and global publishers.

There were several categories to choose from, such as journalism in a social age, video in explanatory journalism, using and sharing live video and connecting the news. Here are three ideas developed at BBC NewsHack:


These days, people are unlikely to have a medium of choice when it comes to keeping up with the news and their preferences can vary according to their mood, the amount of time they have available and the place they are in.

OneStory, created by a team from The Times, aims to provide a "seamless cross-media content experience" for the user, who they dubbed an 'experientist' – someone who simultaneously consumes content in various forms, such as text and audio.

A person can start off by reading an article and end up downloading the remaining paragraphs as a podcast to listen to on their commute.

"The key advantage of OneStory is that it heightens the emotional experience of the story, through the journalist's narration and the use of audio quotes," said Pietro Passarelli, one of the project's developers.

Screengrab from OneStory, showing text and audio quotes

OneStory could also be beneficial for journalists, enabling them to save time by turning an article into audio, without creating a separate, bespoke piece of content.

For the purpose of the hackathon, the platform was built around the concept of a "custom, fully-integrated CMS", Passarelli said, but in the future OneStory could become a tool that can be integrated into an existing newsroom CMS.

As Matthew Taylor, digital production editor at The Times, explained, the next step consists of building a backend service for the podcast, as well as a fully-automated transcription and narration option.

The idea won first prize, a place in the GEN's final hackathon, which takes place later this month in Barcelona. The team is also looking to expand the available formats to cover video and multimedia.


The Trinity Mirror team wanted to develop a different news aggregator. Perspex is a prototype app that collates a number of stories and ranks them based on their perspective on a topic or event, rather than on popularity.

For the hackathon, the team focused on a feature that allows readers to switch between the neutral, left and right wing political perspective of the same story using the BBC's Juicer API. The Juicer is a software that collects online content created by news organisations and tags it with the names of people, companies and places mentioned.

Screengrab from Perspex, showing a right wing perspective on a story

During the competition, the team curated stories about house prices, the European Union and immigration, but in the future, Perspex could also include the audience in the curation process.

Users would be able to vote on which category they think a news story should fall into and the app would then categorise the stories accordingly.

Some events are covered differently by local and national media, so in the future, Perspex could also expand to include local and national perspectives on a story.

"If there was a football match, the user might switch between national coverage, and local reports from the cities where each team were based. We also thought there was potential around international events, such as Eurovision or the UN Summit to switch between different countries' media", said Daniel Landes, business analyst at Trinity Mirror.

The Journalist Toolbox

Developed by The Sunday Times team, The Journalist Toolbox is a searchable index of resources, which aims to help journalists find the right tool to enhance their story with multimedia or interactive elements.

New journalistic apps and tools are developed every day, many of them open source. But, as pointed out by Chris Hutchinson, newsroom developer at The Sunday Times, journalists with no coding background often find it difficult to read through the 'how to' documentation or sift through lines of code on GitHub.

"The Journalist Toolbox presents tools in a much more visually attractive way, and will help journalists discover new tools to enhance their storytelling," Hutchinson said.

"We also see a particular benefit for independent and freelance journalists, plus small newsrooms who don't have the resource to create tools themselves."

The Journalist Toolbox
Screengrab of The Journalist Toolbox

On The Journalist Toolbox, people can type the name of what they are trying to make, such as a video, and the website would suggest a number of suitable tools. Resources can also be explored by category, from images to maps and charts. In the future, users will also be able to filter results by language, category, ease of use and more.

The platform is also a community where journalists and developers can collaborate and learn from each other, as well as curate the material.

"We hope to have a simple-to-use submission form to allow developers to submit their apps, and may look to introduce a new file that developers can include in their GitHub repos to make this process even faster," Hutchinson added.

The Journalist Toolbox won the BBC News Labs & Goldsmiths University Prize at the hackathon and they will be working on releasing an initial version of the platform this summer.

Other projects developed during the competition included Pythagoras, a tool that gives journalists suggestions on how to take a story further, by looking at data from different sources; Voxpopper, an app that allows members of the public to record and upload vox pops on their mobiles and make them available to a bigger community; and Vinion, a searchable database for thousands of hours of news video which automatically tags newsworthy individuals.

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