Author Archive: Daniel Pacheco

Drones kick off new Digital Edge Journalism seminar series

S.I. Newhouse students return to class on Monday, just in time to RSVP for our new Digital Edge Seminar series hosted by Journalism Innovation Chair Dan Pacheco. The first in the series is about inexpensive flying camera drones, which will allow journalists to get aerial footage that previously was only possible by renting a helicopter. Here are more details about the event, for which you can RSVP on Eventbrite. (Be sure to do that if you to partake of food.)



Download this PDF flyer to print and share.

Unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with cameras aren’t just for the military anymore. Thanks to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, they’re coming to newsrooms like 60 Minutes and CNN Money, TV and film studios, and even your back yard.

Learn about new opportunities as well as the legal and ethical considerations of camera drones from Professor Dan Pacheco, the S.I. Newhouse school’s Chair of Journalism Innovation.

As a bonus, get the opportunity to fly the A.R. Parrot 2.0 drone, and learn about our upcoming contest to win a drone of your own.

When: Wednesday, January 23, noon-1:30 p.m.
Where: Newhouse 3, room 432
Light snacks will be provided with your RSVP.

Innovative coverage of superstorm Sandy

First of all, we hope you are safe and that your loved ones are safe. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy.

A PATH station in Hoboken, N.J. flooded in the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)

Natural disasters bring out many of the cliches of traditional media (reporters standing in the middle of a storm surge, photos of empty store shelves, and so on). But they also bring out some of the best and most useful work journalists perform for the public: keeping people informed about what’s happening in real time, helping them find local assistance, identifying dangerous areas to avoid, and telling those who aren’t in harm’s way how they can help.

With that in mind, we’ve been looking for the most innovative digital coverage of Hurricane Sandy. Here’s what we’ve found so far. Found something else? Post a comment below.

Local Resources and Grass Roots Media

  • Jersey Shore Hurricane News: Operating completely on Facebook, this “bottom-up, two-way news outlet” is posting photos, videos and critically important aid information to people on the New Jersey coastline and many others who are looking for ways to help. It’s also serving as a community hub for people who are looking for missing people and lost pets. The site launched after Hurricane Irene in 2011 with 27,00 followers, and is already up to over 140,000.
  • MTA on Flickr: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority that’s responsible for the New York subways and buses is posting photos of the transportation damage on its Flickr feed.
  • The Hurricane Hackers group, a project of the MIT Media Lab that software programmers and data geeks are using to create new tools to assist during the aftermath of the storm.
  • CNN iReport Sandy Damage Open Story: CNN-curated user videos of hurricane damage zones. Every video shows its location on a map to the side, and you can navigate through the map to find videos of specific areas. Users can also upload to the page, or from the iReport app.

Maps and Mapping APIs

    • New York Times’ Power Outage Map: Shows power outages in and around New York City, with time graphs showing how many customers are without power. Updated every 15 minutes.
    • The Guardian’s Sandy Map: The Guardian’s Data Blog is tracking and mapping verifiable events in Sandy’s aftermath. Every event includes a link to more info, and the ability to download full data as a Google Fusion table. (Thanks to our friends at the Center for Innovation in College Media for sharing this).
    • Google’s Hurricane #Sandy map showed the most recent hurricane cone prediction as it  approached land, but also has other information layers — such as storm surge probability.

Live Coverage, Curation and Aggregation

  • DigitalFirst Media’s Hurricane Sandy News: This topical aggregation page was going all day and night featuring the latest news from affected areas. It took wire reports, local reports, and combined them into one site.
  • New York Times’ Sandy Webcam:  The New York Times put a webcam on top of its roof and posted an updated picture every minute — now compiled into an animation. It provides a time-lapsed view of the storm over three days.
  • Buffy’s World: Buffy Andrews of the York Record created several interesting and well-done slideshows on her blog using photos found via social media.

Data Visualization and Infographics

  •’s Wind Map: A beautiful visualization of surface wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database, revised once per hour. Note that while the map uses real data, it should not be used for navigation, flight planning or anything mission-critical.
  • New York Times Infographics: The Times also posted some good interactive infographics the morning after the storm.
  • WNYC Flood Gauge: WNYC in New York had a real-time flood gauge, allowing people to see exactly how high the New York City rivers were in real time.

Creative Use of APIs, Data

The Inlet section of Atlantic City, N.J. is flooded as Hurricane Sandy makes it approach on Monday Oct. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/6abc Action News, Dann Cuellar.

  • Instacane: Instagram is growing in popularity as a news source in breaking news, as people are using it to share and post photos they take (rather than Flickr, Facebook or Twitter). This app allows users to create galleries of Instagram photos.
  • The IRE News blog has a great post about how data journalists spread information about the storm.
  • #NJopen Twitter Feed: Sometimes the best innovations are also the simplest. is using the Twitter API to pull in live tweets hashtagged #njopen and #njgas so residents can quickly find out where to get food, and where to get gas.

Fact Checking

  • Poynter’s Fake Photo Tips: There were plenty of photos posted yesterday that were fakes, either new or recycled from other disasters. Poynter provided some good tips on how to spot a fake.
  • The Atlantic also did its best to fact-check  them and clearly label the fakes.

Noteworthy New Tools

  • SeeClickFix: This app for iOS and Android lets you post problems that need to be fixed. The startup made its platform available for free to any media in hurricane affected areas to create widgets.

All photos on the main page linking to this post are courtesy of the Associated Press.

– Dan Pacheco & Brian Moritz.

Dan Pacheco at Communications and Society Class

Dan Pacheco, our Chair of Journalism Innovation, recently spoke to a Newhouse Communications and Society class about the history of participatory media in journalism, and where things are headed next. Here’s a Storify of real-time reactions to his presentation and some additional commentary. a New Model for Networked Journalism

My favorite innovations are the ones that are so easy and obvious that you hit yourself in the head every morning asking yourself, “why didn’t I think of that?” is in that camp.

Repost.Us’ founder John Pettitt, also co-founder of e-commerce company Cybersource and career networking company, calls Repost.Us “Syndication in the 21st century.” He explains it this way: “If you see an article and want to repost it on another site, you have to find a human being and find out if you can do it. And that’s so last-century … there’s a better way. The video world has the embed. Why can’t you embed an entire article?”


He has a point. A huge part of the blogosphere consists of sloppy rewrites and citations of other peoples’ content, usually (but not always) followed by a link to the full story on the originating site. These links are helpful to the content creators because it helps their SEO in Google, and also gets them a few more ad impressions for people who click through, but the click-through to those links is not terribly high.

As a result, a whole generation of content companies have emerged in recent years to aggregate, curate and make money off content that they simply found, but didn’t pay to create. For investigative journalism this is particularly problematic because the cost of those stories is never covered by the ads to the few readers who click into the original story.

This is where RepostUs shines. When you go to a site that carries the RepostUs code and try to copy a chunk of text, you see a friendly popup telling you that you can embed the entire article — a prospect that is actually better and easier than simply including a quote in your own post. You copy the embed code just like in YouTube, plop it into your blogging software and the entire contents of the article are included on your own site with branding of the originating site.

But the real power is that it also carries the advertising and analytics code of the originating site. This is where I smack myself on the head every time. Of course! This is a total game-changer for the hard-working journalist or blogger in many ways. (I know that Jeff Jarvis at CUNY, who exitedly told me about RepostUs the minute I saw him at the Online News Association conference, agrees).

  • First, it provides a financial incentive for them to encourage people to “rip off” their content. Why? Because it increases the audience for their advertisers.
  • Second, it also increases the total traffic to their site, because now they’re getting credit for the other places where their article appears.
  • Third — and this is the most interesting part — it redefines the entire nature of brands online. If embedding articles becomes more common than linking to them (which is not hard to imagine, given the prevalence of embedded YouTube videos), what is a site anymore? And could you even go so far as to say “who cares about your web site?” What matters is that people are reading your content, and you’re getting credit and ad revenue from it. Does it really matter where people are reading it?

I’m so excited about RepostUs that I’ve enabled it on this site, so if you want to see how it works you can do it right now. Copy any chunk of text in this article and see what happens, then embed the content into your own site. You can see examples where I’ve done this on my personal blog at

Now if you excuse me, I need to go repost this article on a dozen of my other sites!

-Dan Pacheco, Chair of Journalism Innovation, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications


Spotlight on Nonny de la Peña, Immersive Journalist


I first met Nonny de la Peña a few years ago through the Knight News Challenge. She’d just started her project Stroome, a collaborative video editing tool, and I was about to spin off my KNC project Printcasting into BookBrewer. Nonny is still running Stroome on the side, but has meanwhile taken up residence at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg as a fellow at the Cinematic Arts School.

[youtube][/youtube]I ran into her at the Online News Association conference in San Francisco and was happy to see that she’s still plugging along, but even I couldn’t predict how incredibly cool her latest project is. Using virtual reality goggles, she can project you into a news story with audio from the actual event, and an incredibly realistic virtual environment and avatars that move around you in real time. You can get a sense for how it works in the 5-minute video above, but you really have to experience it to understand how transformative it is. Rather than reading about an event, or watching it on a monitor, you’re actually in it and reacting along with the other virtual witnesses around you.

Nonny has big plans for this technology, including theaters where people can buy a ticket to “ride” through a news story. After entering her first immersive project, which is about a food bank that was running out of food while an elderly man suffered a diabetic seizure, I give a high probability of success to her assertion that enterprising journalists will make a lot of money off traveling immersive VR shows.

She debuted her first project at the Sundance Film Festival, where she had 3-hour waiting lines and put 1,000 people through the experience. With interest like that, it’s not far-fetched to imagine a subset paying $10 each. Not only would that fund further development, but it would show that people will pay to walk a mile in someone else’s virtual shoes.

Newspaper sites are putting up paywalls in the hopes of getting people to pay for news, with limited success. Should they be setting up virtual news centers in shopping malls and selling tickets instead?

– Dan Pacheco

Spotlight on Mark S. Luckie, Manager of Journalism and News for Twitter

We caught up with Mark S. Luckie at the Online News Association conference in San Francisco and asked him our standard five questions. Mark just signed on as Twitter’s first Manager of Journalism and News and is busy putting out all kinds of tips, research and data to help journalists use Twitter to enhance their work.  Here’s what he told us.



About Dan Pacheco

Dan Pacheco, Peter A. Horvitz Endowed Chair in Journalism Innovation.

Executive Editor, Journovation Journal
Peter A. Horvitz Endowed Chair in Journalism Innovation
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Syracuse University 

Dan Pacheco is a digital journalist with 18 years of experience in news and information startups and new product development. After a year as a feature writer for The Denver Post, he joined the launch team for in 1994, where he produced its first business, technology and community sections. He later spent six years at America Online launching and managing user-contributed content services.

In 2004, he joined The Bakersfield Californian, where he launched Bakotopia, the first social networking service for a local newspaper, and multiple web-print niche products. His work there earned a Newspaper Association of America “20 Under 40” award and two Knight-Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism. The home-grown Bakomatic platform that powered these sites was purchased by the Arizona Republic and Sacramento Bee.

In 2007, Pacheco was awarded an $837,000 Knight News Challenge grant to run Printcasting, an experiment in cloud-based magazine creation. The service evolved into BookBrewer, an eBook and Print on Demand startup that is used by journalists, news organizations and self-published authors.

About the Journovation Journal

Welcome to the Journovation Journal, a publication about innovation in journalism. We operate out of the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University with support from the Peter A. Horvitz Chair in Journalism Innovation. I’m Dan Pacheco and, with a lot of help from research assistant Brian Moritz, I’m behind this site.

Why focus on journalism innovators? Technology has turned the traditional news business model on its head, but it’s also creating a renaissance in how journalists inform and connect with their audiences. The purpose of the Journovation Journal is to to put a bright spotlight on the future of news, from innovative projects in existing newsrooms, to journalism startups, to entrepreneurially-minded freelance journalists.

It’s our overarching belief that the future for journalists is bright as long as they focus on how best to meet the needs of the audiences they seek to inform. Individual success stories abound, but they are often drowned out by the larger discussion about how to save the news industry and practices of the last century

While we think that discussion is important, we also feel that it’s well reported elsewhere. Our goal with the Journovation Journal is not to figure out how to fix the past, but to focus on the future and the opportunity it presents. The lessons learned here can inform both legacy news organizations looking to improve their digital game, and “entrepreneurial journalists” who are doing it on their own.

Here are just  few ways that the future is bright for journalists who take advantage of everything the digital ecosystem has to offer.

1. Curation is King. Networked digital devices such as the personal computer and mobile devices have led to an explosion in information and opinion. People have more access to instant information at any time in history, but as that sea of information grows deeper, how can they be sure what they’re receiving is true, accurate and balanced? Far from killing opportunity, digital publishing and social media create an even bigger need for journalists to help people separate the wheat from the chaff.

2. New Business Models Abound. Digital publishing creates new ways for journalists to fund their important work. In the past, only a few privileged organizations could afford to print, distribute or broadcast the same message to millions, and as a result those companies could charge a premium to advertisers.

Today, millions of people can publish highly targeted messages directly to each other, and the advertisers have more choices than they know how to leverage. This fundamental disruption in supply and demand makes it exceedingly difficult for legacy news organizations to adapt, but there is a silver lining. Smart journalists and news organizations are now free to create entirely new products and relationships with advertisers, and explore new ways of funding their activities.

This isn’t just an idea or a theory, but a reality. The Journovation Journal will highlight entrepreneurial journalists who take novel approaches to funding their work, and are willing to share what works for them so others can follow in their footsteps.

3. The Journalist is the Brand. Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Pinterest make it possible for journalists to aggregate audiences that are many orders of magnitude larger than any they were able to reach through old media forms. But more than that, they’re able to directly reach their followers without spending a penny.

In the past, writers got a name through the media outlets they wrote for, but that’s no longer the only path to growing an audience. The definition of who qualifies as a journalist is also expanding through blogs and citizen media. We will highlight journalists who are creating a name for themselves or their organizations in the social sphere and using their newfound power for civic good.

The future of journalism is bright if you know where to look. We look forward to telling the stories of journovation that are all around us.

– Dan Pacheco, Peter A. Horvitz Endowed Chair in Journalism Innovation