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May 6, 2014, 11:10 a.m.
Reporting & Production

The Brown Institute announced eight new Magic Grant winners today. The Institute, a joint operation between Columbia’s School of Journalism and Stanford’s School of Engineering, was founded in 2012 via a gift from David and Helen Gurley Brown, who was the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. Winning teams receive up to $150,000, or $300,000 if students from Stanford and Columbia are working together.

“Teams are not required to be bi-coastal, although we strongly encourage it because our mission is to combine the best of what both institutions have to offer, content and technology,” said Mark Hansen, the institute’s director, in an email. “The trick is how to encourage these kinds of collaborations, and I think we’re really learning a lot about what works and what doesn’t.”

Some of the winners will focus on arts coverage and integrating arts practices with journalism. Art++ plans to bring mobile augmented reality into the art world, while Reframe Iran focuses on bringing journalists and artists together:

Journalists can glean remarkable insights into the social and cultural tensions of a region by studying the lives and experiences of its artists. These insights are particularly important in countries whose cultures have been misconstrued by traditional reporting in mainstream media. Built on this notion, Reframe Iran will present 40 profiles of Iranian artists living both in Iran and abroad, using text, photo, and the innovative medium of immersive video.

Other projects have ambitious data analysis at their core. Cannabis Wire, for example, will take an interactive and data-driven approach to reporting on marijuana legalization. Another example:

Earnings Inspector: In direct response to criticisms of the rigor of business journalism, Earnings Inspector will provide business journalists a new tool to make the methods of forensic accounting more accessible. By sifting through a database of accounts of all public U.S. companies, Earnings Inspector will use fraud detection algorithms to report the likelihood of manipulated earnings.

While Earnings Inspector aims to improve business reporting, Science Surveyor takes a similar approach to science coverage by providing a backbone of contextual information for reporters covering breakthroughs and academic research. Additional projects include Visual Genome, which focuses on enhancing the process of crowd-sourcing images, and De-Glass, which will “reverse engineer ad-server algorithms.” One project, Widescope and Synapp, is receiving a second Magic Grant to expand on work begun last year around mechanisms for aggregation that treat social media as a space for participatory democracy.

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