Oh, the places you'll go, Hacker Journalists!

My, how far we've come.

We, meaning the OpenNews community.

A little over a year ago, I was sitting in Berlin with 20 amazing, talented individuals — five of whom were to be the first OpenNews fellows — and five of the best news organizations in the world. Gunner, Michelle Thorne, Mark Surman, Ryan Merkley, Dan Sinker (and his beard) were all in attendance.

We called our event #hacktoberfest, and it was the penultimate stage in the Knight-Mozilla news fellowship selection process in 2011.

Oh, yeah, "OpenNews" wasn't a thing last October. It was "MoJo" (Mozilla + journalism) and 2011 was the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership's inaugural year.

I have a difficult time describing #hacktoberfest so suffice it to say that it was one of the most inspiring, unreal and cool things I have done. The people that I met were some of the best and brightest, the conversations I had ranged from silly to philosophical, abstract to technical. At the end of it all, we swore we'd stay in touch and be best friends forever. We had high hopes for "where from here" initiatives, like follow-up collaboration, monthly sessions of shared learning over G+, developer match-making … We (the 20) didn't live up to our ambitions, technically.

We had high-level ideas of how to push forward with the code-in-journalism thing. But we really didn't know what to do exactly. It's not like there was a blueprint for the best way to continue remote collaboration or build this community or keep the conversation going.

So some of that fell off. But here we are, a year later, with many of us from #hacktoberfest reunited at #MozFest 2012. We have @opennews and we have @source. We have the same high-level energy in an equally amazing pool of incredible talent, passionate about source code for journalism and helping the industry find its place on the open web. We have eight new insanely cool OpenNews fellows going to eight of the best news organizations that push journalism forward on a daily basis.

This is my first MozFest. So I can't speak about how the event itself or how the journalism part of it has improved or grown from last year. But having been a part of Knight-Mozilla (now OpenNews) from its beginning stages, it's absolutely amazing how much the program and community has grown in just a year.

We discussed election coverage with a crowd of 70+ people representing so many renowned international news outlets. We broke out into sessions and tried to solve the issues of mobile design, "slow politics," redundancy in maps and results lists, citizen voices and political context. We're taking that step towards building the next web solutions to problems in news.

And we're only getting started.

About the author

Katie Zhu

Undergraduate Fellow

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