In a room above the Newseum, with views of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, journalism’s online innovators convened on Thursday morning to share tactics for revitalizing journalism. And to pick up their trophies and checks.

The Knight-Batten Symposium for Innovations in Journalism awarded seven prizes to honor news companies who have found inventive ways to engage readers. The New York Times won the $10,000 Grand Prize, but six other $1000 prizes were also awarded. Although the coolness factor certainly pervaded the demonstrations, each of the winning entries aimed to promote a relationship with readers – by increasing transparency and accessibility in online news.

“Transparency is the new objectivity – transparency can bring us to reliability the way objectivity used to,” said Ellen Miller, co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization. Miller spoke about the role of technology in improving transparency. “Technology is not a slice of the pie, it’s the pan.”

Technological advances allow news companies to expand and augment their reach on the web, whether collecting or providing data. Online at the New York Times’, for example, readers provide all the content for One Word, while the Document Reader gives readers a chance to explore background documents.

“The data is really only the jumping-off point – you take it and you try to figure out what it all means,” said Dante Chinni, Project Director of Christian Science Monitor’s Patchwork Nation. Patchwork Nation, shared with NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, provides county-level information on communities so readers can analyze data themselves. Reporters from other news organizations also gain a powerful tool for both generating and anchoring stories.

In a collaborative spirit not often associated with journalism, many of the winning ideas are replicable and shareable. ProPublica’s Change Tracker not only provides a tool that captures changes in specified websites, it helps anyone create their own personal tracker, separate from ProPublica. The for-profit company Apture partners with a range of news organizations like and Reuters. Their free plugin gives readers a chance to explore outside sources without leaving a news site.

Journalism technology has wholeheartedly embraced the two-way street between reader and content provider. But some attendees at the symposium would like to see technology successfully tackle journalism’s other pressing issues, like sustainability and support of in-depth projects.

“At times we feel like monks in the Middle Ages with our illuminated manuscripts and you all are offering Guttenberg presses,” said David Kaplan, the director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism for the Center for Public Integrity. Kaplan works with a virtual team of international journalists. Although he uses and appreciates the advances in technology, he also voiced concern about how technology could promote investigative journalism.

As journalism grows into its new symbiotic relationship with technology, growing pains are to be expected. Readers and reporters alike are growing accustomed to the look and feel of technophilic journalism. Morning coffee goes just as well with a screen as with a broadsheet.

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