With all the business projects and big names floating around the South by Southwest Interactive festival, it’s important to remember that students make a significant contribution each year too. At universities all over the world, students are researching, collaborating, and creating. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications received a gift from the estate of alumnus Reese Felts in 2009 which allowed the creation of the Reese Felts Digital News Project. The first student-run project, Reesenews, launched on November 1. The site is, top-to-bottom, inside-out, a student initiative. For that, Reesenews is nominated for a South by Southwest Interactive Award in the Student category.
UNC undergraduate and graduate students have completely built Reesenews. Utilizing students’ talents from all academic disciplines, the site was designed and programmed by students and they’re the ones who operate it. Currently there is a core staff, as well as freelancers and members of the community who contribute.
The content is built to align with the curriculum, but the site itself is experimental. Students participating in the project seek to answer questions about our definition of journalistic content and how it’s changing and evolving. What role does media play?
Audience research is a major part of Reesenews. Students study SEO and the role of social media. They analyze metrics and analytics, as well as the ways in which we communicate via social platforms and user experience with new and emerging technologies (think tablets). This study of audience behavior leads them to a better understanding of methodology and best practices for news gathering.
The site, while largely specific to UNC and Chapel Hill, includes news and tech pages, so anyone can experience this exploratory journalism at work.
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