By Stefanie Phillips, RSJ ’18

The Digital News Innovation Challenge

The Ryerson School of Journalism, in partnership with Facebook and the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) presents the Digital News Innovation Challenge. Photo by: Stefanie Phillips

This week, Ryerson’s school of journalism announced the Digital News Innovation Challenge to drive innovation for Canadian journalism and news organizations, in a three-way partnership with the Facebook Journalism Project and the Digital Media Zone (DMZ).  

The challenge will give five chosen startups up to $100,000 in non-dilutive seed capital, as well as a $50,000 Facebook marketing budget. They will also receive a five-month residency at DMZ Sandbox, growth mentorship and will be able to attend workshops on digital news and media in Toronto.

Participating startups need to have plans that tackle a compelling issue within Canadian digital news. They will be chosen based on their innovative digital news and storytelling ideas, business model and leadership team.

RSJ graduate program director, Asmaa Malik, is part of the steering committee for the challenge. She said that they are looking for a group that has “passion” and “commitment” to solve a problem in Canadian digital news.

“The hope is that the companies that emerge from [the five-month incubation] will be investment worthy companies that will be sustainable. We want them to be able to stand on their own legs,” she said.

Malik said the school of journalism will play a role in ensuring the journalistic integrity of the project.

“It’s our job to share research on journalism, our insider perspectives on journalism. All of us here have industry backgrounds, industry connections and are aware of the challenges at Canadian news organizations, so it’s really our role to bring the context in,” she said.

Malik also hopes the challenge will expose journalism students to more job possibilities within the industry and offer guidance as to where the industry is headed next.

In a written statement, executive Director of the DMZ at Ryerson, Abdullah Snobar, said he hopes the Canada-wide program will develop a more “sustainable news ecosystem” by combining the tech and news industries.

Kevin Chan, the head of public policy at Facebook Canada said in a press release that Facebook values quality journalism. 

The Facebook community values sharing and discussing ideas and news, which is why it is critical for us to partner with leading organizations like the DMZ and Ryerson School of Journalism to support the Canadian news ecosystem and help these startups succeed.”

The Facebook Journalism Project was created in January 2017. It was established to work with journalists in creating new journalism products and improving the public’s ability to decipher real from fake news.

The application for startup participants opens on Jan. 25, 2018. A closing date has yet to be set.