Job Post: OpenBlock, Django and Community Newspapers

Request for Proposals:
Specifications for Community News Tool Using Python and Django.

The School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with funding from the McCormick Foundation, is developing business models and editorial products to help community newspapers transition to the digital age.

We are seeking someone who has experience with Python and the Django Web development framework to install a Django application called OpenBlock on a Web server and write a report that details the technical challenges, specifications and scope required for integrating OpenBlock into newspaper websites hosted by The report would also propose potential alternatives that would be more efficient than using OpenBlock.

In order to write the report, the person we hire will need to perform these tasks:
1. Install the OpenBlock application on a server, and become familiar with its codebase.

2. Identify technical specifications for transforming data formats given to students by city and county government into geo-coded data formats optimized for use in OpenBlock. (See These technical specs might include the technical specs for building a site scraper (See to retrieve the data, a feed parser or a program to impute the latitude and longitude of data types that are vaguely described in their original format from the government.

3. Identify high-level technical specifications for integrating an OpenBlock installation with the CSS styles, site navigation and URL structure of the news organizations so that users and search engines perceive the content and the OpenBlock content as a single site.

4. Contribute findings back to the OpenBlock project developers wiki at
We intend to select a candidate by December 1. The project would start immediately upon selection.

Please e-mail your proposals – including a proposed timeline, cost bid, resume, cover-letter and three references — to Christine Shia at shia AT email DOT unc DOT edu. Please include “Proposal – OpenBlock RFP” in your subject line.

Questions about this RFP can be addressed to Assistant Professor Ryan Thornburg at 919-962-4080 or ryan DOT thornburg AT unc DOT edu. Please include: “Query – OpenBlock RFP” in your subject line.

Sex With Me and Porn on YouTube

I met yesterday with two old friends who work at two news organizations in Washington, D.C., where the Online News Association annual conference is being held. I asked both about what had been their big online stories and what was driving traffic to their sites. One said that the biggest story of their year was about porn on YouTube. The other said his site’s most trafficked story was about “sex with me”.

So what?

To me, it highlights two trends — the audience is control and is much more difficult to force feeds its civic vegetables. And that having a well-designed homepage, while important, isn’t as important as writing water cooler stories.

One of the news organizations said that they had noticed a lot of traffic on stories about pot. And that definitely played in to their conversations about what to cover.

As the news environment gets more and more competitive and news organizations get more sophisticated, the pressure to cover sex, drugs and rock and roll is only going to increase.

How is your organization balancing that with journalistic ethics? How are you teaching the ethics of these situations?