Five teams of students will begin work on developing technology platforms and apps to address journalism challenges for the 2018 RJI Student Competition.
Working alongside one of the teams is a Truman State University student — the first non-University of Missouri student to participate in the 11-year-old competition at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.
The five finalist teams are MindFlow, Chute, VeriPixel, Jouraph and Transparen, announced Ebony Reed, RJI’s director of innovation and the Futures Lab. The four- to five-person teams are made up of students majoring in journalism, engineering and business.
Reed says the students are exploring the following ideas:
- Verification of news with pop-ups in videos that will provide additional viewer content.
- Verification of images in news.
- A source reference pool to allow journalists to determine how often a source is referenced.
- A platform to expand community engagement, making it easier for citizens to submit ideas for journalism coverage.
- A tool that allows photojournalists to notarize their images for authenticity.
The 11th annual competition, a collaboration between RJI, the Missouri School of Journalism, MU College of Engineering and Trulaske College of Business, added a new component to the program this year: The competition was open to any high school or college student as long as they were at least 18 years old and participated in the TigerHacks hackathon this fall.
The hackathon, hosted by the College of Engineering, attracted students from across the country and gave them 36 hours to develop products and apps that could address journalism challenges.
“The 2018 RJI Student Competition participants submitted an array of excellent ideas to solve news industry problems with technology,” says Reed. “For the first time, we had non-MU students join the competition and saw a greater interest among business students to partner with journalism and computer science students. It’s an exciting time for the news industry, and students in the competition are demonstrating that excitement and evolution with their ideas.”
Competition attracts students from outside MU
Five students from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, and Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri, were among the eight teams that submitted project ideas.
Among the finalists is William Fries of Team VeriPixel at Truman State University. He participated in TigerHacks, but he did not meet his MU team members until a couple days later.
“I have participated in competitions similar to this here at Truman State,” he says. “I usually find them fun and interesting, and I learn something along the way. I’m hoping to learn more about the project itself, the technology involved and the journalism side of this project. As a computer science student, I have limited experience, but there’s a lot of other fields of expertise I can learn from.”
Members of MindFlow, an MU team that won last year’s competition with an intelligent mobile search tool, Informator, are also among the finalists.
The next steps
Now through April, the teams will meet with mentors from MU and RJI regularly to flesh out ideas and gain assistance on the many facets of development and marketing. Seminar sessions about various subjects, intended to help students develop their presentation, marketing, legal and business strategy skills, will also be available.
Students will pitch their final products to a judging panel, which will be made up of media and technology leaders, on April 23, 2018. A grand prize winner will be announced the following day. In May, winners will receive a trip to visit media and technology executives. In the past, winners have traveled to California to demonstrate products to companies such as Google and Apple.
Beyond the competition
Some past participants have launched their products into the marketplaces and created startups.
Recordly, the 2016 grand prize winner, launched its transcription and interviewing app in the Apple Store this summer.
Maply, which received the special Technical Merit Award during the 2016 competition, recently launched its location-based event app for use by University of Missouri students.
The safety app SafeTrek won the 2013 competition and went on to become a successful startup that raised $3.2 million this year.
Meet the teams
- Team Chute: Natalie Edelstein, convergence journalism, political science; and Joseph Frank, Nathan Schlechte and Ian Smith, computer science.
- Team Jouraph: Christian Cmehil-Warn, computer science, statistics; Megan Hill, strategic communication; Derek Howard and Jonah Zukosky, computer science; and Caroline Watkins, convergence journalism.
- Team MindFlow: Christopher Mitchell, Evan Teters and Lydia Snyder, computer science; and Millicent Wood, business administration, international studies.
- Team Transparen: Tristan Day and Carter Landis, computer science; Yasmeen Taranissi, accountancy, economics; and Annabel Thorpe, journalism.
- Team VeriPixel: William Fries, computer science, business administration at Truman State University; Zechang Fu and Rachel Thomas, convergence journalism; Alex Johar, electrical engineering; and Meiying Wu, convergence photojournalism.