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Northwestern Junior Wins $20,000 Scholarship from Google and Associated Press

Katherine Zhu envisions a future where journalists swap ideas like today’s computer programmers swap code. Thanks to that revolutionary concept, the Northwestern junior has won a $20,000 scholarship from Google and the Associated Press.

Zhu, a computer science and journalism double-major, is one of six students nationwide to win the AP-Google Journalism & Technology Scholarship. The program is administered by the Online News Association and supports students working at the intersection of journalism, computer science, and new media.

In her application, Zhu submitted a proposal for LedeHub, an open-source online portal that would allow journalists across disciplines to share work and collaborate on projects. (“Lede” is a journalism term for the first sentence of an article.)

The concept was based on GitHub, a social coding website that allows people to post and share code. “GitHub has done great things for the open-source community in terms of collaboration,” Zhu says. “I wanted to take that model of fostering collaboration and openness and apply it to journalism.”

For example, one journalist could compile and upload a data set in search of a collaborator with more number-crunching experience. A third digital-media journalist could create graphics to illustrate the article, and so on, Zhu says. Eventually a news organization could purchase and publish the finished product.

This type of collaboration is increasingly necessary to keep up with a constant demand for information, Zhu says.  “In the digital age people are getting information from numerous sources, not just by turning on the news at 6,” she says. “Journalists can be more productive and create a better product by working together.”

There are several challenges with this model, Zhu says, such as creating a front-end experience that is user-friendly for journalists. She will also look into varying privacy levels on the site to determine how to make LedeHub most effective in the competitive journalism industry.

Zhu plans to test a prototype of LedeHub next year with campus news organizations, such as the Daily Northwestern and North by Northwestern, where Zhu worked for two years.