It all started with a conversation about the newsstand – or, rather, how the newsstand could be redesigned.

Earlier this year, Joaquin Alvarado, CEO of The Center for Investigative Reporting, wondered aloud to our colleagues at California College of the Arts: How could we rethink this physical gateway for the news in our communities? As media organizations turn their ambitions to digital and local newspapers downsize and disappear, the concept of the newsstand could use some rejuvenating. What are new ways to take it beyond just a place to get the news and make it a place to contribute to the news as well?

The thought got our partners at the college’s Center for Art and Public Life excited. How could innovative design invigorate citizen participation in the news and help serve local information needs? And how could students help figure that out?  

CIR Senior Editor Amy Pyle (top left) listens to ideas from Phumelele Mthimunye (top right) and her TechRaking team.
Credit: /CIR

techraking – Amy Pyle

CIR Senior Editor Amy Pyle (top left) listens to ideas from Phumelele Mthimunye (top right) and her TechRaking team.


And so the concept for the seventh installment of TechRaking, CIR’s ongoing conference series dedicated to the intersection of journalism and technology, was born. This particular spin on the series provided our first chance to work exclusively with a college, bringing fresh perspectives from students on how journalism can function.

For the event, our partners at the Center for Art and Public Life enlisted a diverse group of 50 student participants, including undergraduates studying everything from illustration to glass and MBA students in the design strategy program. In order to offer students a range of topics to tackle, we enlisted colleagues from two of our local media partners, Bruce Koon of KQED and Martin Reynolds of the Bay Area News Group, to help us craft three main challenges:

    • How might CIR create new ways for people to communicate about the role of guns in their neighborhoods while also helping to identify root causes and potential solutions?
    • How might the Bay Area News Group create a more participatory coverage model for its newsroom that empowers local residents to communicate about issues that may have been overlooked?
    • How might KQED create new ways for people across the San Francisco Bay Area to communicate about the growth of tech organizations and the economic repercussions on their daily lives?

With the prompts set and the students in place, CIR and California College of the Arts co-hosted TechRaking 7 last weekend at the college’s San Francisco campus. The students were organized into small groups, each assigned the goal of creating a viable solution for its particular challenge. At the end of the design sprint, each group delivered a five-minute presentation on its solution, which was evaluated based on criteria including: accessibility to diverse communities, ability to encourage and facilitate citizen participation, and viability for the media partner.

A panel of nine judges picked a winning team and runner-up that received awards of $1,500 and $500, respectively, to help prototype their ideas. Our judges included:

      • Sarah Bonk, Apple senior manager of interaction design and Team Democracy co-founder
      • Cindy Butner, The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa marketing director
      • David Cohn, AJ+ executive producer
      • Cole Goins, CIR distribution and engagement manager
      • Allen Meyer, New America Media creative director
      • Erin Polgreen, Symbolia co-founder
      • Martin Reynolds, Bay Area News Group senior editor of community engagement
      • Jessica Watson, Facebook product design manager
      • Colleen Wilson, KQED executive director

After introductions and ground rules were set Saturday morning, the teams got to work. Students received help from design mentors and local media experts before being turned loose to develop their concepts. Several teams worked late into the night, scrawling mind maps on the walls and arranging multicolored Post-it notes around their ideas.

As part of the design process, students drew mind maps, sketched ideas and brainstormed concepts on the walls at TechRaking 7: Designing the News.
Credit: /CIR

techraking – post-its

As part of the design process, students drew mind maps, sketched ideas and brainstormed concepts on the walls at TechRaking 7: Designing the News.


At noon Sunday, it was time for the students to present their design solutions. Each of the 12 presentations displayed unique and imaginative opportunities for citizens to have a more active role in the news: from refurbished food trucks that would let people share and listen to stories on a particular theme to mobile apps that would allow residents to explore emerging issues and contribute their own insights.

After a tough review and debate, the judges picked a winner: “Story of the Gun,” a concept for CIR that would employ guerrilla-marketing tactics to drive local residents to a website displaying “six degrees of conversation” that portray varying perspectives on guns. Users could contribute their own gun-related insights while interacting with law enforcement, local officials and residents who have been directly affected. You can check out the team’s full presentation here.

The runner-up: “Gossip Box,” a physical box that the Bay Area News Group could place in locations throughout a particular community, allowing people to submit responses to a set of prompts. The written responses would be collected by the newsroom. View that team’s presentation here.

A presentation slide from the team behind TechRaking 7’s winning concept, Story of the Gun.
Credit: California College of the Arts design team

techraking – story of the gun

A presentation slide from the team behind TechRaking 7’s winning concept, Story of the Gun.


Both CIR and the Bay Area News Group will work with students from the winning and runner-up teams to prototype their ideas. We’ll post updates on our progress, so stay tuned to see the collaboration grow.

We’re thrilled to have worked with California College of the Arts on such a fruitful, inspiring installment of TechRaking, and we’re excited about the future of this great collaboration. If you’d like to learn more or want to get involved with our TechRaking series, contact Kristin Belden at For more on California College of the Arts or the Center for Art and Public Life, contact Megan Clark at

Cole Goins can be reached at, and Kristin Belden can be reached at Follow them on Twitter: @colegoins and @KNBelden.

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Cole Goins is the director of community engagement for Reveal, where he cultivates partnerships that blend in-depth journalism and creative public engagement. He has built and supported distribution networks, spearheaded arts-based initiatives such as the Off/Page Project, led social media and audience strategy, and facilitated statewide media collaborations. He was a senior fellow in the 2015 USC Annenberg Health Journalism Fellowships, mentoring five journalists on approaches to community engagement. Previously, Goins was the engagement editor at the Center for Public Integrity, where he led audience development initiatives and multimedia features for award-winning investigative projects. He earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he worked as music director for WXYC, the student-run radio station. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Kristin Belden is the chief of staff for The Center for Investigative Reporting, managing diverse programs, projects and strategic initiatives across the organization. Previously, Belden served as CIR’s director of events, focusing on audience engagement and highlighting the work of Reveal's reporters and producers. She has a background in arts and business, earning her bachelor's degree in art and design, working in art galleries in Spain and San Francisco, and subsequently taking on a role in the media and entertainment sector at McKinsey & Co. During her time at McKinsey, she worked with the group that eventually would launch The Bay Citizen, a nonprofit journalism organization that merged with CIR in 2012. Belden helped build The Bay Citizen's infrastructure and launched its first event series in 2010. Belden is based in Sacramento.