University of Nevada, Reno

University of Nevada, Reno

Adapting Digital Reporting Tools for an Immigration-Focused Student Newsroom

University of Nevada, Reno is one of the 2017 winners of the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. See all 10 winners.


  • Gi Woong Yun, Associate Professor, Director of Center for Advanced Media Studies, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Alan Stavitsky, Dean and Professor, Fred W. Smith Chair, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Donica Mensing, Associate Dean and Associate Professor, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Caesar Andrews, Leonard Distinguished Professor in Ethics and Writing, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Nico Colombant, Lecturer, Digital Media, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Vanessa Vancour, Editor, Noticiero Móvil, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Michelle Billman, News Director, KUNR
  • An Xiao Mina, Director of Product, Meedan
  • Tom Trewinnard, Director of Business Development, Meedan
  • Ed Bice, CEO, Meedan

Visit the Noticiero Móvil page where project links are published here. Additional links are at the end of this post.

Describe your project

We’re going to test a set of verification and translation tools to strengthen local reporting on immigration issues and build trust among immigrant audiences. Working in northern Nevada, a linguistically diverse community, we plan to build a pipeline for newsgathering, translation and verification that augments our existing efforts to engage the community on the ground and on media. Short term, this project will help surface underreported stories about the impact of national and local policies on immigrant communities. Long term, it will generate a database of vetted, translated reports and foster greater trust and engagement between local media and immigrant residents.

What is your live news experiment?

We plan to conduct the experiment in three phases:

Phase I: Building on contacts and relationships developed with Latino communities and with the Northern Nevada International Center, we will engage in a human-centered design process with community representatives to surface the information needs of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in northern Nevada, as well as the information needs of people working with these communities. We will partner with a graduate of the Stanford Knight Fellows program to consult on this phase of the experiment. The goal of this phase is to identify key focuses for our live news experiment.

Phase II: Building on the focuses developed in Phase I, we will work with Meedan — whose Check and Bridge platforms are designed for collaborative verification, translation and annotation of news — to help us curate and design a process for news creation, production and distribution that builds in consideration of diverse perspectives. Drawing on their history of working in a variety of multilingual breaking news contexts with partners like ProPublica, First Draft, Full Fact and the University of Hong Kong, Meedan will help design core newsgathering, verification and translation strategies relevant to a student newsroom focused on immigration issues.

Phase III: We will incorporate the tools and processes developed in Phase II into the work of a student newsroom, as well as pilot these tools with our public radio partner, KUNR. We will regularly assess how the process is working and consult with Meedan to adjust and adapt where necessary.

If the experiment works, what do you think might happen?

The ultimate goal of the project is to foster diversity in news sources, news subjects and news understanding. By working directly with immigrant communities in a multilingual and digital setting for broadcasting content production, we hope the project fosters greater trust in local news media while deepening reporting and setting the broader context of the ongoing impact of local and federal immigration policies. In terms of educational and journalistic outcomes, we expect a process that combines the affordances of digital, which can help streamline newsgathering, verification and translation in a collaborative setting, with the affordances of local news, which can build trust and engagement through highly specific reporting. This multilingual collaboration can even extend across the U.S.-Mexico border, helping show the broad, interconnected impacts of policies.

We expect to see a more diverse range of local news stories produced by students and aired on KUNR, as well as more diversity of stories in other local media. We expect to see stronger educational outcomes for students in terms of news literacy and engagement, as well as in the strength of their reporting, news editing and collaboration skills. We hope to see more engagement by immigrants in the news produced by this project. And, we hope to see other newsrooms interested in exploring and adapting the tools and news pipeline produced as part of this project.

How is this project unique and innovative?

Given the volatile political environment, developing quicker and more reliable ways to verify social media posts and vet rumors online is of critical importance. When it comes to contentious issues such as immigration, and the vulnerability of immigrant communities to rumors and misinformation, journalists must do better. In our view, this requires improving our verification processes, as well as improving the ability to access and share information in multiple languages. Improving translation capacity not only casts a wider net for information gathering, it provides a more accessible way for community members to understand and share vetted information.

A full set of verification tools also requires journalists to improve their ability to build stories with community members; to be co-producers of stories that are rich and diverse in such a way that information is not only accurate, but diverse and authentic. We hope to train and challenge our students to better represent those in our community who have little access to information in their own languages. We hope to use and adapt more systematic tools for translation and verification in such a way that students and key community members become more literate and critical in their use of information. We hope to provide tools that will enable students and community members to co-produce and build relevant and authentic stories in Reno. We hope people in our community will see themselves as key agents in filling a news pipeline that is reliable, responsible and rewarding.

What technology platforms will you use?

Stories will live on the RSJ class website and social media channels, along with a student media news magazine. Selected quality stories will be broadcast on KUNR’s online and radio presence. To streamline the newsgathering and verification process, we will utilize Meedan’s suite of collaborative tools for journalists — specifically, this will include Check, a collaborative platform for verification and annotation of digital media, and Bridge, a collaborative platform for translation on social media and chat app messages. During the ideation process, we may also find additional tools that will be relevant to the process. For instance, an intake form for tips might be handled with Screendoor or Google Forms. Depending on the best solution, some basic integrations with Check and Bridge may be necessary in that regard.

If it works, how might this experiment change teaching at your school or media practices in your partner’s newsroom?

If successful, we will incorporate use of these reporting techniques into our beginning journalism classes. Providing students with more systematic and thorough processes for information gathering and verification will benefit them in multiple ways. We also believe that incorporating the capacity for translation into the reporting process will expand how students think about information sourcing and who should be considered as story ideas are developed, produced and distributed.

In addition, we hope that our media partner will adopt some of these processes and tools into its own workflow, and will find the steps for verification, translation and co-production valuable enough to practice on a regular basis. Thinking broadly, we hope that the results of our work will be shared widely enough that they may influence other journalism schools and newsrooms to consider adapting for their own uses.

The University of Nevada, Reno team provided an update on its project in a March 2018 report.

Update: What have you discovered?

As a result of our recent workshop, we realize we need to devote more time to building networks among the immigrant population and listening to their various needs. Because many immigrants are hesitant to participate in publicly visible events or media stories due to their or their family members’ immigration status, we have had some difficulties organizing and sharing immigrant stories. We have also observed a fairly weak community network within the immigration population. We believe our recent community workshop is a good first step to building more bridges between the various agencies, businesses and interest groups that work with local immigrants. Participants at the workshop were keen to continue meeting in person, and one of the attendees volunteered his office as a site for our next meeting.

Students enrolled in the Noticiero Móvil course, which is focused on this project, have spent the semester learning more about issues related to immigration and in getting to know members of the Latino community. Now they have been trained in Meedan’s Check software and will be practicing use of this technology over the rest of the semester. Fall classes will also implement Meedan’s software in their production. In addition, KUNR has hired two bilingual interns from the Reynolds School to cover immigration issues. These interns were at the training sessions and workshop and will implement the software in their content production for KUNR. In addition, our graduate student, Ruben Kimmelman, was hired to work on this project. He helped plan the workshop, attended all sessions and is a full participant on the leadership team.

A few project links:

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