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PR, journalism and computer science students come together on mobile technology

Keith Politte talks with University of Missouri students at Hearst Corporation headquarters in New York.

I can safely say that a decade ago, as a college journalism student, I never came into contact with any computer science students. At the time, lugging a digital video camera to an interview seemed like roughly the extent to which the media professionals of the 21st century would make use of technology.

Obviously, a lot has changed since then.

As revolutionary devices and platforms like the iPhone and Android redefine our expectations of mobile Web technology, today’s students in journalism, strategic communications and computer science are finding common ground and creating innovative approaches to information design, says Keith Politte, manager of the Technology Testing Center at the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s Reynolds Journalism Institute. Perhaps just as importantly, students from these disciplines are entering the workplace already speaking each other’s languages.

“These students will have to talk to each other when they graduate, so they might as well start now,” he says.

Under mentorship from leaders of Hearst Corporation’s Hearst Innovation program, five teams of Missouri students competed to design and build the most compelling application for the Android mobile operating system. The winning app, Media Moguls, allows users to create their own publication by selecting from the day’s headlines and compete for virtual viewership. Personally, I could see this sort of game-based take on news curation taking off and driving readership for news organizations.

The competition is in its fourth year and has previously engaged students in developing applications for Adobe Air and the iPhone. Politte says this year, the students adopted an agile development methodology of their own accord, electing to build against a design concept for a two-week sprint and revisit the premise as they went along.

I hope the interdisciplinary nature of the contest foreshadows more of this kind of collaboration between PR, marketing and editorial teams and their technical counterparts. The more students come out of college expecting to work closely with developers on Web and mobile apps, the more quickly information design will evolve.

“It’s the perfect marriage,” Politte said. “Their brains approach problems separately, but we can solve problems together.”

 

 

 

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