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Knight News Innovation Lab wins Online Journalism Award

The Knight News Innovation Lab, a collaboration between the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the computer science faculty in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, won an Online Journalism Award this past weekend from the Online News Association in the planned news events category for small sites. The honor is one of the most prestigious in online news.


Congressional Primaries, a suite of technological tools created by the Knight Lab to help news organizations around Illinois cover congressional primaries, won the award. The project has been used to augment political coverage after redistricting left many Illinois residents with candidates they knew little about. News outlets used data from the Knight Lab in various ways, including sharing profiles of candidates who have a social media footprint, allowing users to figure out what congressional district they live in and who is donating to the candidates.

“The ONA award helps validate the effort and teamwork that went into imagining what was needed, gathering and finding a way to cohesively present it,” said Jeremy Gilbert, assistant professor at Medill. Gilbert teaches classes on interactive storytelling, Web and print design tools and techniques.

Michael Silver, former executive director of the Knight Lab, headed the project. Gilbert was part of the project team along with:

• Katie Park, undergraduate alumna, Medill
• Cary Lee, undergraduate alumnus, McCormick
• Shawn O’Banion, doctoral student, McCormick
• Patrick McNally, doctoral student, McCormick
• Jenny Wilson, developer, Knight Lab
• Scott Bradley, developer, Knight Lab

The Knight Lab tapped into social media and other publicly available information to create the tools and curated the information available in a useful way. 

"It was almost shocking how much data was available to the Congressional Primaries project. That meant crafting the right user experience was critical,” Gilbert said.

Elements of the project, used either as complete pages or widgets, were incorporated into a number of news websites during their coverage of primaries. All of the processes were automated, so every element was regularly updated without the need for human input. Public access to the project is available at CongressionalPrimaries.org.

The Online News Association is the world’s largest association of online journalists. ONA’s mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public.

A joint initiative between Medill and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Knight News Innovation Lab’s mission is to accelerate the transformation of the way news is discovered, analyzed, presented and delivered by introducing smart and practical technology innovation.