Newsroom tech: Sharing and a call for help

I regularly experiment with open source scripts and programs for possible features in Sun.Star Cebu‘s Cybercafe page. At times, I’d find programs that can be used to improve a newsroom’s system or the way a journalist works with the PC.

During a recent chat in an online course I’m taking, we discussed the open source philosophy. I told the group that I recently set up a newsroom intranet (which I’ll write about later) using a discarded PC and different open source programs. Two of my classmates, Ederic Eder and Chooi Yew Tzen, asked me how I did it and expressed interest in setting one up for themselves.

I’ve decided to write about these programs and scripts as a small contribution to the open source community. I cannot write programs even if my life depended on it. What I lack in these skills I try to make up with an almost obsessive impulse to experiment in an effort to understand how the components work. The open source community is the largest collection of the world’s best programmers. Lesser mortals can help the community through documentations and writing.

I decided to write about these programs to help community journalists who come from papers and media organizations with limited funds. I am lucky because the company i work for is the biggest community newspaper in the country. Other community journalists, especially in smaller cities or towns, have to work with limited if not outdated equipment.

Let’s share

I also decided to write about these programs to get feedback from other journalists. Is the software or script you’re using better? Let’s share it with other community journalists.

I think community papers should look into open source software for their technology solutions. Not only are the software free, they come with a huge community of users and developers — a community you can tap whenever you encounter problems.

I will be posting in the newsroom tech category:

1. Articles on software and scripts released in an open source license or as freeware. Most community papers cannot afford proprietary solutions. Most community papers do not have IT departments that can deal with problems of proprietary software.

By using open source programs, community papers need not worry about hiring tech companies to deal with their problems — they can just browse frequently asked questions or website forums of the open source program they use. In my experience, the solution to a problem you encounter in using an open source program is already available in the program’s site or forum. Many of the solutions are submitted by users.

2.Technical articles that are easy to understand.

I keep a blog to help improve my writing. Covering more news events and writing more stories are out of the question since I am assigned to the copy desk – editing stories and preparing the next day’s pages. Keeping this blog not only allows me to jot down my thoughts in a more convenient way — my handwriting is atrocious and I keep on losing notes written on paper — but also offers me the chance to keep on writing and improve my skills.

I’ve just finished an online course on IT reporting and I want to practice the skills I learned from an industry pioneer to help community journalists use technology to improve their craft.

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