Inside UNC's Reese News Lab

By Lilly Knoepp
Reese News Lab

When describing Reese News Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, we often struggle to define exactly what it is that we do.

We often end up throwing around a lot of buzzwords like innovation, mobile-first and digital media.

This is a problem for many new media programs that are now being included in prominent journalism schools. All these new media labs are trying to pull together the different aspects that make a successful media product together into one process.

Some programs focus on the idea of an incubator or media product development while others focus on solving the problems of the changing world of journalism or by changing the enterprise entirely.

At Reese News Lab, we work with these same issues but are different in our focus on the process of developing a viable media product instead of on developing the product itself.

This has been our project this summer.

The Reese News Lab Summer Start-up team of eight full-time undergraduate interns was given 81 days to establish the viability of two media products – one focused on North Carolina politics and one focused on "news."

This is another difference in the summer start-up program. We began the summer without a specific product to build.

The first two weeks of the summer were spent learning what makes a viable media product and brainstorming what we would focus on for the rest of the summer.

This process was intensely documented through notes, debriefing sessions and through Lab reports written reflections on each week.

These lab reports represent the Reese News Lab focus on how we are making these projects instead of just making them.

After these weeks the two products, Capitol Hound and NewsLing were born.

Capitol Hound is a transcription and alert service that will provide searchable access to the North Carolina General Assembly legislative session and committee meetings as our North Carolina politics product.

NewsLing is our news media product that works as a mobile app to provide simultaneous Spanish translation of local news broadcasts to give Spanish speakers better access to local news.

The rest of the summer has been spent testing the viability of both products through market research, prototype building, analysis of revenue and costs along with user testing.

Our summer culminates on Pitch Day on August 6 at 3 p.m. where we will present all of our research and recommendations for how to actually produce these products.

We invite everyone to come and see our final presentation and learn exactly what it is that we do at Reese News Lab.