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Google News Initiative

Connecting newsrooms with local communities



Technology has changed the way that newsrooms reach their audiences and engage them with compelling stories. There are myriad new ways that consumers can access the news, including through their smartphones and now even through smart speakers like the Google Home.

But how do newsrooms connect with their communities and make sure they’re including everyone’s voice in their coverage? Often the quiet voices and those from isolated and remote communities are overlooked in mainstream media coverage - and it can be hard for them to find a journalist to tell their stories.

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The hackathon sought to help newsrooms connect with their communities and make sure they’re including everyone’s voice in their coverage.

That’s the problem that 40 journalists and coders from around Australia tried to solve at a hackathon organised by the Global Editors Network (GEN), the Walkley Foundation and Google News Lab. We gathered some of the best media innovators from Australia and New Zealand at Google Australia’s headquarters in Sydney over two days to develop innovative news prototypes around the theme of "Connecting with local communities".


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The Seven West Media team  at work on 'Newsroom Hotline'. 

The winning team was from Seven West Media, publisher of The West Australian, with their prototype Newsroom Hotline, a simple but ingenious tool that enables anyone to dial a phone number and leave a voice message that is converted to text using artificial intelligence and emailed to the newsroom.

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The Conversation team won the Public Choice vote. 

As Seven West’s team said: “It is too difficult for people to get tip offs to journalists. Many simply don’t know how who to contact or how. This is because we no longer have editorial assistants to receive calls, our reporters are often on the road and news editors in the office are managing breaking news and competing deadlines across multiple newspapers, websites and social media channels.”

“The structure of newsrooms are constantly evolving, which makes it confusing for people without media experience to navigate to say what they want to say. Emails get lost in the white noise of press releases and too many phone calls bounce around the office. We need to make the connection between our community and our journalists as easy as possible.”

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Teams from 10 different media organisations pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

The Seven West team will next head to Lisbon to compete in the global GEN Editor's Lab final over three days. Special mentions go to The Conversation for their prototype On the Ground, which received the Public Choice, and to Junkee for YarnBot, and we’re grateful to all the teams who came from around the nation to contribute their time and resources to the hackathon.

Each of the ideas that were pitched are valuable contributions to helping solve the problem of connecting communities with the newsrooms that can tell their stories, and we can wait to see how they evolve and grow over time.