And The Pittsburgh MediaThon Winners Are ….

PNA MediaThon Group SelfieIt’s a deceptively simple idea: Have your phone read you the news. If you can make people laugh, even better.

SpeechWire did both, creating a working prototype of their app, which lets users choose written news feeds, then listen to them via text-to-speech technology.

“Three hours I’m in the car commuting, looking for something to listen to,”  team member  Joshua Vaughn quipped while presenting at “Hack the News,” the MediaThon in Pittsburgh last week. “Right now I’m relegated to talk radio,” music, podcasts or books. But not news the way he really likes it — in written form.

The complementary promotional video he and his two teammates also made (available on this page, along with the other projects) had most of us laughing. The judges, and the majority of attendees, agreed SpeechWire deserved to win.

PNA MediaThon

Teri Henning (R.) and two of the three members of the SpeechWire team.

Teri Henning, president of our co-hosts, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, gave the team  the $1,000 prize.

She sounded impressed by each of the five submissions.

“I thought every single one of the teams had a topic that was worthy and worth exploring,” she said.  “It identified a problem, and tried to get at a solution.”

The Challenge

The challenge we gave was to produce media that show passion about what news media are and can be, and to promote news and newspapers.300x150xMediathonHackNewsMAIN-300x150

Team Nwsly created a website that aggregates stories around a central news topic — both aggregated and curated — often with a local angle.

“To see media coverage on something I was interested in, I had to visit 4-5 sites just to get a snapshot on one story,” their presenter said. And on those websites, “the stories get lost in the homepage clutter.”

Team BLIP conceived a way for news organizations and local bloggers to work cooperatively, each gaining benefits and creating a community around their efforts. lets users choose their preferences on a slider, and get influencers’ curated feeds on those topics.

And “impression” created a site geared to engaging younger people in the news with the promise of “your stories, your voice.”

We wrapped the day with delicious appetizers and treats (who knew that mini Beef Wellingtons exist?), and a wonderfully probing discussion about what news is and can be.
Are LOL cats news? The Kardashians? Jon Stewart? Well, yes, arguably.

Stay tuned for more. Or watch the video here.