A proposal and road trips

by Andy Boyle.

While chatting with a friend yesterday, I decided that I want to ride my bike across the United States. I mean, not now. Not even soon. But just someday — I want to dip a tire in one ocean and then in another. Quite a goal, obviously, and not one I plan on doing until years and years from now.

This led me to thinking about road trips. And how I’ve never really had a full week off since graduating college. And what I would do with such time. And my ever-expanding dreams of evangelizing newsrooms with my general nerdery and web-centricness.

Slowly I came up with an idea of a spending a few weeks during my vacation driving to and from smaller newsrooms around the United States, attempting to teach them the very, very basics about how they could get into the web development game and augment their daily journalism with tools they build themselves.

You know, like Caine in “Kung Fu.” Drive from place to place, meet newsrooms, get into adventures.

I’m not sure how receptive newsrooms would be to this idea, but it’s something I’d like to do. I’m sure other people would love to do something similar. So what I’m proposing is maybe finding 40-50 newsrooms in different parts of the country. Section them off by general area — the Midwest, the South, New England, the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, etc. And then find someone willing to take a week of their vacation time and spend a day at each organization, attempting to get them up to speed on a few things.

This is incredibly daunting, I know. You can’t build an entire culture in a day, and most newsrooms would probably be quite busy with the standard operations of a daily news organization. But I think you could at least help a newsroom get set up with cloud hosting on Amazon Web Services or Rackspace, maybe set up a server or two for them (using Fabric or something similar, of course). Maybe even have a handful of tools — think the jQuery before-and-after slider — you could set them up with.

A lot of ground to cover in a day, I know. Or maybe one would spend two days at an organization. I don’t know. This is just an idea, but I’m wondering if others would be interested in doing it? Of course, it’d be nice if the news organizations would provide food and lodging, maybe a per diem to help pay for gas and your time. But I see this more as a nice service to spread the ideas of making your news organization more autonomous.

What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

7 comments on ‘A proposal and road trips’

  1. Angela says:

    This sounds like a cool idea! Also difficult. But I support you in your plan.

    There are a lot of people who need help–unfortunately they are quite short-staffed at the moment, probably meaning that a seminar approach would probably be more feasible, though less immersive/transformative.

    Good luck to you!

  2. Chris Keller says:

    Andy – I’m very keen on this idea of a roadshow, and if you get to the point of booking dates and venues, let me know… I’ve got a bunch of people here in Wisco who’d love to hear what you and others have to share.

    Chris K.

  3. I’m down to help… in fact one of the things I’m looking into is renting a desk in a newsroom so I can be available to answer questions.

    I think the difficulty with everything associated with the newsroom is getting buy-in. Unless there’s buy-in, simply setting things up means they’re going to get abandoned as soon as you leave (or you become their on-going volunteer tech support). There’s certainly an opportunity for education though.

  4. Also, if you end up biking across the US, you should listen to this first. :)

  5. Chris Keller says:

    Daniel – I think buy-in for something like this is crucial. Otherwise why spend the time.

    For what I have in mind here — DRY with data — buy-in is something I’d work to arrange beforehand… We need a better — read open-source and configurable — solution than third-party vendor…

  6. [...] when Andy Boyle brings up the idea of starting a roadshow of journalists who’ll take their knowledge to other newsrooms as a kind of traveling [...]

  7. Ace says:

    It’d be great, and probably help build a real relationship among these newsrooms that couldn’t afford to send someone to a conference. And yeah, it’s difficult, but anything worth doing is. As the saying goes, “90 percent of success is showing up.”

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