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March 3, 2017, 2:27 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: fieldguide.opennews.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Ricardo Bilton   |   March 3, 2017

OpenNews, which is on a quest to strengthen the relationship between journalism and code (and became an independent organization last month), wants to give more newsrooms a model for how to adopt or create open source projects themselves. The organization on Friday announced The Field Guide to Open Source in the Newsroom, a collaborative guidebook that takes news organizations through the many facets of the open source process, from the early steps of establishing buy-in among leadership to the later questions about what to consider when shutting down a project.

The guide is aimed specifically at developers in newsrooms, who often deal with their own set of unique cultural challenges. (This week, in conjunction with the annual NICAR conference, OpenNews published the results of its survey of “news nerds.”) Other chapters touch on topics such as documentation, managing releases, and working with developer communities.

OpenNews’ argument for increased adoption of open source projects is simple: the less time newsrooms spend on developing projects, the more time they can spend reporting stories. “When you’re using a tool that works and works well and you don’t have to build something from scratch, you can do the really important things,” said Ryan Pitts, code lead at Open News, who helped lead the project. “You avoid having to reinvent someone else’s wheel.” That dynamic also works in reverse: Producing code in the open and and collaborators to look at it makes that code better, said Pitts.

So far over 20 contributors (including newsroom developers and open source advocates) in the U.S. and around the world have contributed to the project, which is still a work in progress. OpenNews, is, for example, looking for more people to share their stories about cultural roadblocks to adopting open source projects, as well looking for some help on basic editorial suggestions and translations.

Alongside the guidebook’s launch, OpenNews has also released Open Project Linter, an open source project that newsrooms can use to develop good practices in documentation and code.

The guidebook is a first for OpenNews, which until this point had only applied its collaboration model to producing code. New additions and requests are all handled on GitHub, where there are 47 open issues as of time of writing. Case studies, in particular, are important to the project — even if they’re case studies of failure. “Bad experiences are also great to document,” said Pitts.

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