Crowdsourcing Hillary's Schedules

How do you read 11,000+ pages of a First Lady's schedules? Ask 11,000 friends to help! Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, that's exactly what we're going to do.

Hillary Clinton just released her schedules from her First Lady days, and we're going to ask listeners to pick the week of their birthday in any year of the schedules and look for things that are interesting or surprising ... and post the findings on a Brian Lehrer web page.

As WNYC reporter Andrea Bernstein pores through the pages, she'll also keep an eye on the web postings for gems listeners find. Let's see what this "professional-public" collaborative journalism project (or "pro-am" in journo jargon) can discover.

Designing the Next Newsroom

Really interesting conference shaping up about how to reimagine newsrooms in the digital age. What works? What doesn't?

Everything from how to shape a newsroom, how to reconsider management of news folks, and even whether a physical newsroom is necessary.

The second half of the conference is being shaped by a make-your-own workshop wiki page. Should be cool to see what emerges.

Back in Action

I hereby end the Silent Phase of design agitation.

Lots of interesting things have happened since last fall, not the least of which has been the development of WNYC's new morning show, The Takeaway with John Hockenberry & Adaora Udoji.

Watch for it to hit the airwaves in the coming weeks.

Design thinking has been a big part of the development, including areas such as:
  • Listener Participation
  • Hiring Staff
  • Super Tuesday Coverage
  • Workspace and Environment
  • The Launch Video
And lots, lots more.

In addition, WNYC's entire election coverage has been supported by design thinking principles.

And as we move into our brand new facility, other design elements are coming into play.

Details to come ...

Silent Agitation

While things have been quiet on this blog, lots has been going on under the surface. Once it becomes public, I hope to have a LOT to post here.

The skinny is that folks here at WNYC are working closely with the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (aka the to redesign public radio mornings. The show is a collaboration of WNYC and Public Radio International, with the BBC, the New York Times and WGBH. You can read more about it here.

So more to come on that. If you're interested, subscribe to the atom feed and you'll get more when it becomes available.

In the interim, I'll drop in occasionally to point out interesting things we and others are doing with design and human-centered processes.

Prototyping Disasters

Last week at a meeting of public radio news directors, I gave a presentation about the importance of prototyping for disaster planning -- getting off our chairs and actually trying out our plans. Here's a quick sketch of the speech, with documents included.

Key Principles

CONSIDER OPERATIONS AND SYSTEMS -- To do good journalism in moments of crisis, your systems and operations have to be ready at three levels: newsroom, station and a backup site in your city/region.

PROTOTYPE PROTOTYPE -- To find out if you're ready, try it, test it, simulate it, do it. And repeat. Don't just write emails. And don't get too complicated. Take a page from design thinking and keep it simple. Then you don't get too invested in the test, and are open to changing your ways.

Prototyping Newsroom Systems

Example 1 -- Crisis Information Flow
At WNYC, we used Post-It notes to simulate how information flows through our newsroom to air during a breaking news situation. "Facts" were represented by shapes, and we watched how they moved (or didn't) through the process. We learned a ton, which you can see in our full case study, including a 15-mininute movie. What we learned improved our coverage of a big news story that broke the very next day.

Example 2 -- Full Scale Drill
We've also done a full-scale crisis drill, simulating a dirty-bomb attack. This involved the entire news and technical staff, who responded to information (wire stories, witness information, etc.) sent to them roughly once a minute for an hour. Due to the sensitive nature of this drill, I have not posted our case study. If you are interested in learning more about it, please contact me.

Prototyping Station Preparedness

Example -- Blackout Plans
To test our backup power, we regularly cut power to our facility (usually late at night) and make sure it still works. During the day, we actually relocate hosts to our backup room, as they'd do in a real outage.l Just three weeks ago, two of us got out of our chairs, walked to a key breaker box, and took a new look at which switches we'd have to throw in a blackout. In the process, we realized there were no backup lights in that room, so we wouldn't have been able to see the switches! We solved this with a $15 power-failure light.

Prototyping Operations Elsewhere in Your City/Region

Example -- Make Other Arrangements
Be ready to move somewhere else; we've had to do it twice (once on 9/11, once during the northeast blackout of 2003). We've arranged with another local studio to be our backup facility, and we have key equipment and supplies in place there now. Our full news and technical staff will be visiting the facility to see, touch and feel what it's like to set up there. We're also installing our own set of phone lines so we can do live call-in programs -- which have been essential components of our crisis coverage.


Click here for a 2-page PDF of helpful tips and tricks for public radio stations.