By: Lidia Abraha


After five months of learning about audience engagement, understanding the core principles of journalism and getting advice from influential digital strategists and journalism innovators, the teams in the Digital News Innovation Challenge have grown greatly and are that much closer to making a lasting impact on the media landscape.

All five teams selected for the challenge – a partnership between the Ryerson School of Journalism and the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) and Facebook Canada – collected $100,000 in seed money as well as $50,000 in Facebook ad credits.

The teams were shortlisted and then selected in May after pitching their proposals to work with the DMZ and the School of Journalism. They showed their progress during Demo Day on October 4.

Harleen Kaur is the CEO of Ground, a news aggregation app where consumers can subscribe to all news subscription services. The app is now trending in the Apple Store and has made partnerships with many top news organizations.

The former NASA engineer said one of her early challenges was understanding the ins and outs of the news industry although she doesn’t think her lack of background in media impeded her project.

“It’s almost a benefit not coming from [a media background] because we don’t bear the scars,” said Kaur. “It’s a funny thing to say, but I think our naive optimism is helping us right now because any [journalist] we talk to says ‘You kidding? Nobody is going to pay for news.’ But that’s the only way journalism can work because somebody has to pay for news, not ads.”

Asmaa Malik, the project coordinator and an assistant journalism professor, said that she aimed to coach the participants in professional journalistic practices. “There were issues we kept coming to again and again with multiple companies, things like how to verify sources, how to make sure the information that’s been shared is journalistically sound,” said Malik.

Armel Tchemeube is the founder of Trebble FM, a company that allows audio creators to streamline their content on various platforms. After completing the program, Tchemeube said he learned more about the journalistic standards.

“Journalists have a code of ethics and they have a mandate to bring information that is unbiased,” said Tchemeube. “[At Trebble FM] we put that in perspective so that the journalist and people in the media industry can actually leverage the platform to make that mission true.”

As a partner in the DNIC project, Facebook Canada assumed an arms-length role in the selection of the teams, as well as with their activities in the incubator.  Their support of the DNIC is part of a strategy to address the challenges faced by audiences and news organizations alike.

“It’s a question of ensuring we are able to foster and build an informed community on our platform,” said Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook Canada. “This is one example where we’re trying to think about how we [can] catalyze news innovation.”