The summer of 2017 is well underway here at the Reese News Lab, with our five innovation fellows already busy developing media products that aim to be desirable for local news audiences, and feasible and viable for local news organizations to sustain. The summer media innovation fellowship is just one of several new ways that UNC students are getting involved in product development at the Lab.
Our summer fellows are all newly minted UNC graduates who have already demonstrated success conceptualizing and building new media products here at the School of Media and Journalism. These fellowships in the Lab allow them to expand on the work they began as undergraduates here. Their diverse talents and projects are being overseen by the Lab’s chief innovation officer, Steven King.
Their work this summer is one of the many ways that the Lab is connecting with the school’s new Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media. Several of the fellows are working on products in close collaboration with North Carolina’s local news organizations that are participating in the year-long Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative aimed at helping achieve sustainable business models.
Alexis Barnes specializes in developing media products using virtual reality and 360-degree video. She’s bringing her experience working on ONA-award-winning visual stories to help see how local news organizations might incorporate innovative video forms into their businesses.
Kate Boyd and Lindsay Carbonell are continuing the Lab’s interest in developing AI chatbots for local news audiences. They are working with the Star News in Wilmington, N.C., which is one of the organizations participating in the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. Their project builds on a database of questions and answers that won the Star News a Knight-Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism way back in 2009 to see how it might play with modern AI systems like IBM’s Watson and scale quickly to other geographies.
Kate and Lindsay have used their front-end web development and data analysis skills on a variety of projects at the school that that range from public relations to community journalism and data reporting. This spring they were part of a group of journalism students that traveled to Cuba to produce an interactive documentary called Cuba’s New Wave. While Kate has been busy being awesome here in Chapel Hill, Lindsay is getting a slow start with us because she had to go be awesome at The New York Times’ Student Journalism Institute.
Robert Kinlaw was only 19 years old when he had his first feature length video documentary aired by North Carolina’s public television network, UNC-TV. He continues his innovative video storytelling this summer while working with Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative participant ABC11. The television station has given Robert only one rule to follow in his mission to reach new audiences with fresh online-only video content — it should look nothing like a traditional newscast. He says that will mean diving unapologetically into controversial issues and using new technologies like 360 video to put viewers right in the middle of the story.
Patrick Seelinger is continuing his work on deploying facial recognition in news and information augmented reality settings and also helping build a low-cost, easy-to-use white-label tool that small, rural newspapers could use to alert their customers to crime, weather and other breaking news events in their communities. His initial feasibility testing is being done with The News Reporter newspaper in Whiteville, N.C., — also a participant in the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative.