PRX gets some fuel to incubate public-media journalism tools

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With $2.5 million from the Knight Foundation, Public Radio Exchange will rev up a new Public Media Accelerator next year to assist new public-media journalism projects with seed money, mentoring and help in finding funds and investors.

Knight stresses the mentoring. After experience with more than 200 media projects, Knight has found that the most successful have been “nurtured through outside advice and expertise,” said foundation veep Michael Maness.

PRX hasn’t set priorities for projects, chief exec Jake Shapiro told Current, but he expects they will tend to develop software tools, especially mobile apps.

Shapiro sees benefits for public media organizations that get their hands geeky with the tech side, as PRX did, instead of outsourcing the work, he wrote on PBS MediaShift’s Idea Lab. He warns that public media has a developer gap, citing a “loose estimate” of just 100 full-time coders in a public broadcasting workforce of perhaps 15,000.

In-house web/mobile developers, he writes, will be vital human assets who can “inform strategic decision-making, provide a reality check in the midst of tech churn and hype, keep vendors and contractors honest, connect with other communities of interest, and attract new talent seeking experience and mentorship.” For a field that pioneered in broadcast technology, Shapiro wonders, “Is it OK to outsource the infrastructure for our own connection to the public?”

Knight announced the PRX grant Wednesday (Dec. 8). The Public Media Accelerator’s freshly coded site, doesn’t have much to say yet, but Shapiro says PRX will name a director and advisory board early in the year and discuss detailed plans at the Integrated Media Association event during South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in March.

For now, the project’s team includes Shapiro, founding head of PRX; John Bracken, Knight’s director of media innovation and former MacArthur Foundation program officer; and Maness, Knight’s v.p. of innovation and design.

The project will tweet from @PublicMediaX.

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