Ohio University

OHIO journalism graduate student team named finalist in national innovation competition

Published: December 18, 2020 Author: Staff reports

Three Ohio University journalism graduate students have been named finalists in the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s 2020 Student Innovation Competition. 

The team includes Bharbi Hazarika, BSJ ’19, Delaney Murray, BSJ ’20, and Theo Peck-Suzuki. 

“It’s a huge honor to be selected as a finalist, and we’re thrilled to be able to carry this project forward,” Peck-Suzuki said. 

For the competition, the students had to team up with a local news organization and come up with an idea to help them engage the community. 

Murray, a graduate of the Honors Tutorial College, was previously a freelance writer for The Athens News, so the students saw an opportunity to partner with the local newspaper.

“We were extremely grateful that The Athens News agreed and are equally excited (for the project),” Hazarika said. 

The idea for the overall project started last summer. Hazarika thought of creating a timeline template for stories after being bombarded with news notifications and being unable to pinpoint the history of articles or developing stories. She also noticed that the advanced search features on many news websites seemed to fall short. 

“These search functions returned a very weak list of stories related to the specific topic—either the dates would be jumbled or the specific stories that I am looking for would be sandwiched between unrelated articles. This frustration, which stemmed from the desire to find out everything about a certain topic with ease, landed me the idea,” Hazarika said. 

Hazarika turned to E.W. Scripps School of Journalism associate professors Dr. Victoria LaPoe and Dr. Hans Meyer for support with her timeline idea, just like she would do when she was an undergraduate student.

“I spoke to Dr. Victoria LaPoe about this when I first came up with the idea and I always do whenever I am thinking of a project or an idea. She unfailingly motivates me every time and makes sure I know nothing is impossible,” Hazarika said. “I also reached out to Dr. Hans Meyer, who is absolutely brilliant, especially when it comes to online journalism tools. He helped me narrow down my focus and was an immense help when I was building my pitch. His expertise and advice have been invaluable.” 

“Bharbi mentioned the idea to me this summer when we were working on other research and we brainstormed ideas organically across several conversations. I encouraged her to apply for funding and to keep moving forward on it,” LaPoe said. “It is an example of how an idea—and department teamwork—can turn into something tangible and terrific.”

Hazarika, Murray and Peck-Suzuki worked together to research, write and help pitch the proposal for the project. 

Now selected as finalists, the team is aiming to set up the timeline tool with The Athens News in January and then monitor it for a month before presenting the findings online at the Innovation Challenge conference on Feb. 26, 2021. The first-place winning team will receive $10,000. 

While the team is excited to move forward and potentially win overall, they also hope that the tool they create will benefit The Athens News beyond the project timeline. 

“I’d love to see this tool become integrated into how The Athens News shares stories even after the competition ends. I think it has that potential,” Peck-Suzuki said.

“I just hope our project gets good feedback, and also that we are able to give The Athens News a helpful, functional tool that they can possibly use the future as well,” Murray said. “Each of us have worked to contribute our own strength, connections, and creativity to make this project what it is, and I couldn’t be more proud of the results.”