For the second year, the ProPublica News Applications desk has a unique opening for a ten-month-long fellowship as part of the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews program. The OpenNews fellow sits with us in our newsroom and works on everything our full-time news apps developers do, from daily graphics to larger apps and open source projects.
But that's not all. OpenNews, in the words of Mike Tigas, our current fellow, is no less than a worldwide "epic team of awesome." What does that mean? In addition to working on ProPublica projects, OpenNews fellows, who come from such varied backgrounds as programming, statistics, censorship research, cybersecurity and satellite communications, are increasingly setting the agenda for what technology and software development in newsrooms should be. Each weekly community call, where fellows present what they're working on, is attended by journalists, academics and thought leaders in the field. Source, OpenNews' online journal, has become the first read for the growing community of newsroom developers and civic hackers. Fellows often work together on projects and also have the freedom to pursue their own interests.
If I haven't convinced you yet, let me make sure to mention that OpenNews fellows get flown all over the world to participate in conferences such as MozFest in London, the Hacks/Hackers Media Party in Buenos Aires, and the MIT Civic Media Conference in Cambridge, Mass. This year, I also ran into OpenNews fellows at NICAR in Louisville, Ky., IRE in San Antonio, Tex., and Malofiej in Pamplona, Spain. In other words, they are legion.
But here in New York, Tigas has worked on projects like our Nonprofit Explorer, an interactive database of hundreds of thousands of nonprofit IRS filings. He also contributed to Tabula, an open source app to grab structured data tables out of PDFs, alongside another OpenNews fellow, Manuel Aristarán (at La Nacion in Argentina) and our own Jeremy Merrill. Day in and out, he works on the same projects we all do -- just this week, he accidentally got our office’s IP address banned from Yelp briefly by scraping reviews of assisted living facilities as part of a project on that topic. And he's only halfway done with his fellowship!
The ProPublica news apps desk isn't a service desk. As a colleague of ours put it, we’re not the deli counter slicing meats to order for the rest of the newsroom. We work side by side with traditional reporters, and often write stories as well as code. We use our telephones as much as we do the command line. We answer to editors, and all our software needs to tell a story. We develop on deadline, meaning no long development cycles or Gantt charts. If you work in news, your code will be messy, but if it works, you'll deploy it. Sometimes you'll even have to correct it.
By way of example, just in the past year, our desk has:
Made a 3D map of New York City flood zones based on newly released FEMA data.
Created an app to let people see how their doctor's prescribing habits differ from their peers.
Created an experimental news game to show varying levels of heart attack care across the same city.
Wrote a web-scraping framework to abstract away the boilerplate of writing scrapers.
Created an award-winning open source webfont of state shapes that has been used by the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post and basically everyone else.
If what you're interested in is changing the world and making useful software that tells a story and kicks some ass, please join us.
The OpenNews fellow will be chosen by the OpenNews folks. Applications are due August 17, and the fellowship lasts 10 months. More details on the OpenNews site.