By Al Johri.
Journalists around the country are doing ever more important work under ever tighter budgets and more uncertain conditions. As we collectively navigate COVID-19, the work that local news organizations do could not be more vital to the communities they serve. Local newsrooms need every advantage they can get to focus on the work at hand. While large national newsrooms often employ a team of data scientists who produce insights and products to optimize audience engagement and drive subscriptions that ultimately help ensure their sustainability and survival, local newsrooms are often left stretching their limited resources in every direction.
That’s why, under the auspices of the Columbia Journalism’s Local News Initiative, I’m excited to announce I’ll be leading a new team, the Local News Lab, aimed at creating data-driven tools to assist local newsrooms improve audience engagement and sustain their business. And I am even more excited to announce that we’re hiring! But first, a little more about us.
The Local News Lab is a new team of engineers, designers, and data scientists working to build AI-powered, open-source, products to help support local news. We aim to help newsrooms overcome the barriers to unleashing these powerful technologies in support of their work. As a Senior Data scientist at the Washington Post, I have seen the transformative power of machine learning projects when deployed to assist news organizations in achieving their editorial and business goals. On the editorial side, I have led the development of successful machine learning projects for automated reporting and personalized newsletter generation. And in pursuit of the business’ goals, I have also helped redesign the Washington Post’s content classification engine and user subscription propensity prediction algorithms. All of these projects, developed completely in-house, helped both drive subscriptions and revenue growth, and also assisted journalists by allowing them to focus on the important work that they do.
But local news organizations don’t always have teams like the one with had at the Post. And while out-of-the-box tools do exist for achieving these goals, they don’t always cater to the needs of local news organizations, are prohibitively expensive, or difficult to deploy.
That’s where we come in.
Our first project aims to help local news organizations deploy a “smart paywall” that adapts to the needs of each newsroom and their audience, is attentive to journalistic ethics and helps to drive subscriptions. We’re also looking to conduct a needs assessment and kick off a second project that deploys machine learning to meet the most urgent needs of local newsrooms.
In pursuit of these goals, we are looking to hire three additional members onto the team: A News Partnerships Lead, a Front-End Developer/Designer, and a Product Designer.
News Partnerships Lead
The News Partnerships Lead is primarily responsible for maintaining our relationships with newsrooms and finding local newsrooms we should connect with. This includes keeping our advisory board abreast of what we are working on and finding “development partner” newsrooms that benefit from the products we are building and help shape the products in the process.
We are looking for a contractor or design firm that can help further refine our smart paywall and help us understand newsrooms’ audience needs for a second project in the audience engagement space which they will help design from the ground up.
The designer should have deep knowledge of user and product research techniques and be comfortable performing a competitive analysis, conducting user interviews, and able to deploy design skills like persona creation and journey mapping to help the team best understand the needs of local newsrooms and their readers.
If you’re as passionate about bringing these powerful tools to local news, or have any questions about these listings, please email firstname.lastname@example.org!