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Newsmotion: Startup to Empower Independent Voices to Engage New Audiences

[ 0 ] September 11, 2012 |

With an eye on under-reported stories and under-represented communities, startup Newsmotion looks to spread the word via “Civic Media Storytelling”…

The Newsmotion team. Photo courtesy of the Newsmotion page.

By Malena Carollo

The latest in-the-works platform for journalism is a cutting edge interface that seeks to marry citizen journalism and documentary-style storytelling. The design found its beginnings as a rough sketch scribbled on a pad of paper in its founder’s kitchen. From there, a few lines of BIC pencil and a conglomerate of specialized minds evolved into the Newsmotion startup.

Currently in beta form, Newsmotion is aimed at “civic media storytelling,” capturing the stories around the world of what the organization sees as underrepresented people and under-reported topics.

“We’re covering stories that might be around breaking news,” said Founder Julian Rubinstein, adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Each story is original content and has at least one multimedia element, including audio, video, or photographs.

“Really the question is how we can use the new tech to change the standard of evidence we receive,” Natalie Jeremijenko, imaginative technologist for Newsmotion, said, “to reimagine and redesign ways of rethinking political [infrastructure] and now environmental and economic infrastructure.”

Current plans call for Newsmotion’s final product will be unique in several ways. At face value, the site will feature a real-time interface that divides news into three categories: official news from governments and international organizations, unofficial news from independent media organizations, and citizen journalism from bloggers and journalists.

The interface prototype, courtesy of

The idea is to provide diverse information simply.

Building on this, Newsmotion aims to break the fourth wall, of sorts, incorporating reader participation in a way traditional news aggregation sites do not. Jeremijenko, who is a professor of visual arts at New York University, looks at data-driven journalism and technology to accomplish this.

“If you want to structure participation,” she said, “if you want to exploit the capacity of contemporary media technology to change our relationship to the connection so it’s not a data spectatorship, if you will, [you must] posit it in a way that people can recognize the very specific role that they can play or use the information to do something no one else can do.”

This idea is manifested in Newsmotion’s badging system. Using open-source technology, the Newsmotion team plans to create bits of code that bloggers and users of social networking sites can embed on their pages like widgets.

“It’s about trying to tell compelling stories,” Matt Hockenberry, technology consultant for Newsmotion and founder of Sourcemap said. “It’s not about developing technology and then trying to find the storytelling match, it’s about thinking about what kinds of stories and narratives are interesting ways to capture what’s going on now and finding the right technology to suit that, or building, as the case may be, new technology that brings that out.”

These bits of code will do two things: Alert Newsmotion when a user has a story the site might like to aggregate, and help build credentials for citizen journalists to distinguish them from the rest of the internet.

“It’s a way of fingerprinting yourself,” Hockenberry said.

The organization got its start with a boost from crowd-funding site Kickstarter, surpassing a goal of $35,000 to reach $41,339. Though this initially helped get them off the ground, funding constraints have hindered progress in developing the planned badging technology.

Nevertheless, the team remains optimistic.

Courtesy of

“They’re engaging stories,” Rubinstein said. “We could engage those that are not consuming any straight news.”

While still in beta, Newsmotion stories have been picked up by various news syndicates. Their story featuring Congolese rappers by Agata Pietron has been featured on PBS and Guernica, and was given a page on Huffington Post.

Stories like this, where the reader knows who is producing the story and why, are part of the precedent the group hopes News Motion will set.

“I think it’s going to change the standard of evidence for public discourse,” Jeremijenko said. “We can change civic participation by increasing the legibility of why information is being produced.”

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Category: Ideas and Innovation

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