If you know a full-stack or front-end developer who cares about local news, please share this with them:
I mentioned a couple months ago that I’ve gotten the opportunity to lead a product team here at The Dallas Morning News in a complete rebuild of our digital properties leveraging The Washington Post’s Arc platform.
I softplayed it at the time, as there were still a few pieces in flux. So I may have buried the lede:
This is the exact thing that I’ve wanted to do my whole career.
You may remember that I started PegasusNews back in 2004, leveraging technology to make the local news business better. I pretty much bankrupted myself and wrecked my life (and probably several other people’s) so our team could pioneer a lot of then-seemingly insane things that seem commonplace today (user comments, content partners, user customization, local-aware apps, etc). I learned a lot, primarily how to navigate the difference between leading-edge and bleeding-edge.
I left that business behind in 2010, burnt-out, but believing that there was still an important place for the “product side” of news to drive innovation the next Next Thing that comes as local transitions to a truly digital-first business. Somehow, the digital platform we built lived on, even to this day (and after several acquisitions) powering GuideLive.com, although leveraging only the entertainment pieces of the original news functionality.
Even before then, as early as the 1990’s, I was building early local media websites (D Magazine) and trying to get digital local guides off the ground before anyone had heard of a Yelp or visited Nextdoor. And even after that, my career choices kept me close by, whether consulting for media companies or joining up with The Dallas Morning News and Slingshot on Speakeasy. (No way in hell I would have gotten into the agency business unless it was adjacent to local news and my friend Owen Hannay.)
Now, here we are, in a time when local news outlets are no longer just talking about digital first, and we’re getting a rare opportunity to do a hard reboot and do it right from scratch.
By leveraging the Post’s core CMS, it will free us from the infrastructure of the back-end workflow and day-to-day keeping the pipes flowing. That means that 100% of our resource can be leveraged towards innovating in UX and on features that go beyond storytelling basics.
What will those be? Part of that I want to see driven by our dev team. Many of the past innovations I’m proud of started with the data-driven constructs pioneered by Adrian Holovaty that were expanded upon by PegNews devs like Jeremy Dunck, David Gouldin, and Brett Hoerner. I want a dev team like the one that proactively convinced me on two week’s notice to launch the first local app in the Apple App Store on its first day — and then delivered while our team handed out branded water bottles in the iPhone line.
What I do know is that we are going to build a database platform (working title: LocalGraph) that will create interlinked data objects for local people, places, organizations and events that can then connect to and fuel news coverage. We’re looking to foundation partners and major platforms to help us in building and populating that database. We’re in close collaboration with our friends at The Philadelphia Inquirer, and will be looking to share these tools with other locals on Arc, but with an eye towards extensibility to other common news content management systems.
In other words, if you join our team, you’re building for Dallas / Fort Worth for sure, but maybe also for something even bigger.
We’re starting with React JS (which underlies what Arc delivers), Jira, Slack, and AWS. We’re going to be Agile so we can be agile. We have few other preconceptions.
Suffice to say, this is exciting work for any developer who also cares about the future of local news and information. We have a core team led by Sylvia Borowski as product director and Britton Peele as project manager and liaison to the newsroom. Now we need developers to code and influence the roadmap of the ones and zeroes. We’ve got Richard Lane, who’s been holding down the fort as our one in-house developer and will be a cornerstone of our future team(s).
We have multiple jobs listed in our corporate board, but just apply to any of them and we’ll sort it out. Or better yet, reach out to me or to Sylvia and start a conversation.
Finally, after nearly two decades of talk, and bleeding edge, it’s game on to build a viable platform for local news on top of a solid foundation. Come join us.