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Medill junior wins technology scholarship from Online News Association

When Entertainment Weekly published an article recently about developments in the “second screen” technology trend, Tyler Fisher (BSJ14) didn’t need to read it.

He is already ahead of the trend. Fisher was announced as a winner of the Online News Association’s AP-Google Journalism and Technology Scholarship for his idea to develop a second screen application for broadcast news, called TelePrompt. Fisher, who is almost entirely self-taught in computer programming, is one of six recipients who will receive a scholarship worth $20,000.

Over the course of the next year, as a condition of winning the scholarship, Fisher will develop his idea into a usable product. His goal is to create a program that will enable television stations to personalize their programming. For instance, his product could prioritize broadcast news related to where a viewer is from, showing local weather and traffic alerts.

“It means a lot [to win the scholarship] and I hope that it allows me to be seen as someone who's doing the right things in this field and hopefully pushing journalism forward,” Fisher said.

The idea for the project came at a conference Fisher attended through the Northwestern University Knight Lab, where he is an undergraduate fellow.

A Medill student was also one of last year's winners of the scholarship, the first year it was offered. Katie Zhu (BSJ13) was one of six winners in 2012. She also works with the Knight Lab.

Assistant Professor Jeremy Gilbert has served as a mentor for Fisher and wrote his letter of recommendation for the application. The two met when Fisher took Gilbert’s advanced interactive design class.

They have continued to work together at the Knight Lab and Fisher has helped with Gilbert’s web producing and interactive design class.

“He is very attentive and good at teaching the things he has learned to other students,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert sees Fisher’s TelePrompt idea as meeting a need in the broadcast field. The current model is “broken,” because it works as a one-size-fits-all model, rather than being tailored to individual needs and interests.

“Broadcast news is extremely linear and time driven,” Gilbert said. “The importance order isn’t based on the viewer.”

Fisher believes that the level of ambition his idea demonstrates and its variety of applications put him over the top. The projects he has already completed, which show that he has the ability to follow through with his ideas, were also stand-out components of his application.

While working at the Knight Lab, Fisher developed SoundCite, a program that embeds sound clips into articles to enhance the reading experience. For instance, in a music review that references a certain section of the music, a SoundCite user could put an excerpt of that section of music.

Fisher is the webmaster for North by Northwestern, a daily online news magazine by Northwestern students, and is a member of Northwestern’s Online News Association chapter. He is a member of the Northwestern Marching Band and is designer and developer of The Chicago Bureau website.

Fisher has interned for Pitchfork, The AV Club and with the Chicago Tribune news application team. This summer, Fisher is interning at the Gannett Company, working with their content team and building news applications.