Entrepreneurs at ONA09

October 5, 2009 | By | Category: General News

By Jessica Estepa

The buzz word at ONA09 was entrepreneurship. Twitter CEO Evan Williams encouraged it. Tech Guy Leo Laporte said he believed it was the future. Several sessions discussed how to transition from the “journalist” role to the “entrepreneur” role.

The Student Newsroom sought out entrepreneurs at the conference, ranging from a Knight News Challenge winner to journalists diving into data visualization.


At first glance, Muckety maps look like flow charts. But hover over a line that connects a name to a company and a window will pop up, saying that this man serves as the company chairman.

Relationships are what the Internet startup is about, according to company co-founders John Decker and Laurie Bennett. Muckety takes data and creates a visualization of how the data is connected.

The staff analyzes different news stories on an issue and then sorts through the data in them. Currently, the service is free and people can suggest stories to the staff.

“When I look at maps with certain stories–let’s say the (Bernie) Madoff scam–an interactive map showing the relationships is so helpful to the user that you almost think, ‘How can you run a story without it?’ ” said Bennett, who works in Muckety’s New York office.

The idea for the company was born while Deck and Bennett were working for ePodunk, a startup that focuses on community profiles. Both were veteran journalists, having previously worked for the Detroit Free Press. After seeing art that illustrated relationships, the two decided to apply that same technique to data.

The company launched in 2006 and has since been recognized by news organizations, including The New York Times and Economist.com.

Eventually, Muckety aims to license the technology so third parties can either give Muckety data to visually analyze or license the server technology to others.



At first, it was just a class. Then it was a proposal. Now it’s a launch.

For Aleksandra Chojnacka and Adam Klawonn, the last year flew by. They met during a digital media class at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. After coming up with a concept for a hyperlocal news map that would focus on Phoenix’s new light rail system, the pair entered the Knight News Challenge and won a $95,000 grant for a project called The Daily Phoenix.

Chojnacka and Klawonn’s project, now called CityCircles, will premiere in Phoenix next week. City Circles will be a multimedia platform that will host information and stories about the communities connected by Phoenix’s new light rail system, which opened in December 2008. The main platform is a Google map of the system. Users can click on the different stops to learn about news, social networking and events in those areas.

“We saw that there was a lack of local information,” Chojnacka said. “There might be information on the Web, but none of it was organized.”

After the launch, Chojnacka expects different features of CityCircles to premier every month.


News Desk

Josh Wilson believes that decentralized is the way to go.

After working in various kinds of media, from SFGate.com to community radio, he was inspired by how artistic communities came together to provide information in a decentralized system. He believed that different sources could be created to provide local news for different communities.

With that, the idea for News Desk was born.

Currently, News Desk is best known for “News You Might Have Missed,” which centers around the idea that the site will write stories about news the mainstream media didn’t cover.

Wilson said he hopes the site will grow to cover different topics and regions.

“It could be Duluth.NewsDesk.org or Reno.NewsDesk.org,” Wilson said. “It could be Immigration.NewsDesk.org.”

NewsDesk recently won a $25,000 grant from the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation to continue to build its foundation.


Jessica Estepa is a senior journalism major at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is a member of the ONA09 student newsroom.

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