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September 26, 2014

Rockville startup creates platform and app for journalists

As reported by ALLYSON JACOB on WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2014 

Openreporter, a new platform built in Rockville, Md., for journalists, citizens and subject matter experts to collaborate on news, has soft launched. CEO Misha Vinokur says he is pushing to build out the new mobile app for Openreporter, called the Bulletin, for the beginning of October.

Right now, Vinokur explains, “the platform is basic. It’s a social network, like LinkedIn for journalists. The Bulletin will allow journalists to engage with the community—with individuals—to report newsworthy events.”

Ordinary citizens who witness something newsworthy can post tips to the Bulletin. Journalists can contact tipsters directly for more information and post additional questions, in case other people know more and are willing to share what they know. Then, journalists can reach out to experts to verify the information they’ve received.

For example, if voters see election officials mishandling ballots at a polling place, or passersby witness law enforcement officials overstepping their bounds, they could post what they see on the Bulletin. At this point, tips are not anonymous–citizens must create an account to post–but Vinokur says he hopes that feature is coming soon.

“There are a number of security functions that we have not implemented to ensure that people are safe from retribution, surveillance, and so on,” he says. “We plan to build out those security features later on but they simply require more capital.”

Vinokur wants to “help journalists produce better stories, help experts gain exposure and allow citizens to collaborate and contribute [to news stories].” He says that though Twitter is a popular platform for news stories, “it’s hard to get your message across.”

Right now, roughly 300 journalists are on Openreporter. “We screen every journalist before we give them access [to the platform],” Vinokur says. Journalists must either have a degree in the field or must have a certain level of experience before they can join the network. “We want to filter out bloggers. I have mixed feelings about them.”

Vinokur himself is not a journalist; he has a degree in international politics. As an immigrant to the United States from the former Soviet Union, however, he “takes free speech very seriously. If I can help with [free speech and journalism], I thought, why not try?”

Click here to be notified when the Bulletin goes live.



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