Workshop: Augmenting New and Old. Open-Source in Radio and Newsrooms

By Gerhard Schneibel and Eira Martens

On Day 2  of the FoME 2011 Symposium, participants joined workshop sessions for a more in-depth look at specific topics. Adam Thomas, of Prag-based Sourcefabric shared with participants some strategies for implementing open source software in their newsrooms.

When implemented the right way, open source software can give news outlets a powerful edge. That’s the key message Adam Thomas conveyed in his workshop “Augmenting New and Old Social Media and Open-Source in Radio and Newsrooms” at Deutsche Welle headquarters in Bonn.

Africa Democracy Radio: Augmenting new and old

Thomas demonstrated to participants the inner workings of his organization’s content management systems, Newscoop and Airtime. He also showed how a Dakar-based West Africa Democracy Radio successfully implemented the software to give their journalism an up-to-date platform on the internet: What was an archaic website showing only the daily news has become a “centralized repository” of current and past articles and radio programs, Thomas pointed out.

Now the news delivered by West Africa Democracy Radio is a bit less ephemeral – it is not gone at the end of the day, but stays on the record and is easily accessed by users. It is also directly linked to social media networks like Twitter and Facebook, making the amplification of a news item easy. “We decided we needed to improve the workflow before we improved the way the website looked,” Thomas said of the project.

Experts debate open source model

Participants in the workshop included Justin Arenstein, of the Association of Independent Publishers and Rest of the World Media, and Brenda Burrell of Freedom Fone. Both have media experience inAfricaand seemed keen to learn more about the project.

One common strain in the questioning was about open source – a model of software development which gives anyone with programming skills the opportunity to tinker with and improve software packages.

Arenstein asked about the durability and accessibility of Newscoop, and whether there were any hidden costs of implementation. Thomas answered that one advantage of the software is that even its previous versions can be used indefinitely, making it an economical and robust choice for media organizations in the developing world.