An Internship In Review

Today wraps up my summer internship with INN. I started May 7, according to the folder of daily journals I started for this internship. That day, I wrote my job description:

  • Improve documentation of Largo for end users and developers
  • Contribute to Project Largo
  • Contribute to member projects
  • Other duties as assigned

It's actually a pretty good summary of what I've done.

I worked on improving the documentation for the Largo Project WordPress theme, before I started working on the Largo Project.

I learned that GitHub project wikis are secretly git repos that you can push to, and that it's possible to keep a GitHub repo for collaboratively working on the wiki.

I started a browser-based version of INN News Apps Developer Ryan Nagle's responsive table creation Python script, and brought it to a stable working version. Play with it on GitHub Pages.

I wrote a custom WordPress page template for an INN member. It uses custom post metadata to choose a category of posts and a title for that category, and renders those with some other posts in a page designed to be embedded in an iframe. It uses NPR's pym.js to make sure the iframe is the right size. I learned about pym.js from the responsive table project.

For a different INN member, I built a widget that queries the Sunlight Foundation Political Party Time API for fundraising events in their state. It shows a list of events and politicians benefiting from them, and stories written by the member about those events. The query response is cached to prevent hammering the API, and the widget itself is cached, to cut the number of times the expensive rendering operation has to run.

In between, I contributed CSS fixes to Largo and to INN member websites, tested the INN deploy-tools repository, and learned a lot of things about PHP and JavaScript.

If a paid internship learning web development tools and techniques while helping non-profit news organizations perform investigative journalism is your sort of thing, you should apply for INN's fall and spring internships. It doesn't really matter where you live or work from, as long as you have an internet connection and are willing to learn.

Next week, I'm moving to Idaho, to write for the Progressive Dairyman website for the semester. Follow my adventures on Twitter @benlkeith, or my occasionally-updated blog

Hire Us! Announcing New Consulting Services From INN’s Technology Team

INN's technology team is focused on helping our now 100+ member organizations any way we can.

We now provide free hosting and support to over 30 member websites on our Largo platform and a significant portion of what we do involves improving the platform and supporting members so they can take maximum advantage of the tools we build.

We've made a lot of headway in the past couple of years reducing costs for members, eliminating duplication of effort and getting members onto a stable platform that looks great and works well across devices.

But it's hard for us to help every member individually and there are many member (and non-member) organizations who would like us to do more and have expressed the willingness to pay for our services.

Specifically, we’ve heard from a number of INN members that they:

  • Have a hard time finding vendors/contractors who “get” what they’re trying to do and often wind up working with local agencies or freelancers who focus mostly on internet marketing or building small business sites so they don’t understand the other considerations unique to news and content sites or nonprofits
  • Are often unhappy with the vendors/contractors they do have and/or are overpaying for subpar services
  • Would, in a number of cases, rather work with INN's tech team directly rather than with an outside vendor. Given our current staffing and workload we typically haven't been able to do this if the request goes above and beyond what we’re able to do for "free" as a benefit of INN membership.

We also frequently hear from non-members that they:

  • Want to use the tools we have built (particularly Largo) but may require some help setting them up or customizing them to suit their needs
  • In some case may require additional custom development to add functionality that we have not yet built
  • Would be willing to pay (provided our rates are competitive) for our services and even (potentially) pay us to host their sites in the same way we host sites for members.

Until now we’ve just been referring people to outside contractors and freelancers but as we continue to grow our technology team we now have the capability to take on some of this work ourselves.

For INN members we will subsidize the cost of these services to keep them very affordable (see the rates section below for details), but we will also, from time to time, take on work from non-members as well (at regular market rates).

Some examples of the services we may offer include:

  • Content migration, design customization and custom development for members using our Largo platform beyond what we're able to do for "free" as a benefit of INN membership
  • Assistance with editorial design and development for news apps, data projects or special series
  • Ongoing or project-based support, training and assistance with story production
  • Design and development of microsites or other special projects

Taking on this additional paid work will allow us to:

  • Offset a portion of our costs and make our team more sustainable for the long-term by being less reliant on grants and other less-predictable sources of funding
  • Expand our technology team faster than would otherwise be possible and offer competitive compensation packages to help us recruit the best talent
  • Provide better service to members at lower rates than what they’re often getting now
  • Assist non-members with the adoption of tools we build (particularly our Largo platform)

We hope that this new program will be a win-win for members and for INN and that we'll now be able to provide an even higher level of support at very reasonable cost.

If you're interested in working with us, we'd love to discuss your needs and how we can help. Get in touch with us here to learn more.

We've also assembled an FAQ to provide more detail on the program.


For INN members, what is free and what do we have to pay for?

As a benefit of your INN membership you receive free hosting for your main website if you use our Largo platform (if you have more complex needs, multiple sites, etc. we may need to pass some of our infrastructure costs through to you). In addition, we will provide a reasonable amount of support to help you migrate to the platform and customize the look and feel of your site.

If you require more assistance, extensive design customization, custom functionality, etc. or ongoing support then this is typically what we would ask you to pay for.

Weren't you doing this for free? Why do we have to pay now?

This new program does not affect any of the benefits we currently offer to members as part of their regular INN membership.

We will continue, for the foreseeable future, to cover hosting costs for members using our Largo WordPress platform and will continue our work to improve the platform itself as well as help members where possible with migration, on-boarding and basic customization.

The reason we're starting to do paid work is that we now have a lot of requests that are very specific to one particular member that we don't believe would necessarily benefit others in the network.

Our team is focused on tackling problems we believe can best be solved at a network level and given our size and funding level we will never be a complete replacement for investment in technology at the member level.

We also hope that by reducing duplication of effort, building common platforms and tools, etc. we free up resources that members can (and should!) re-invest in technology at their organization to best serve their audience, try new things and innovate further faster.

Why should we pay you instead of a local freelancer/agency?

In short, our aim is provide better services at a lower cost.

In the past when members came to us with one-off needs we would refer them to outside contractor or in some cases helped them recruit and hire a full-time tech staff.

Sometimes this works out well but many members have told us they have had bad experiences with contractors or had a hard time finding good help at all that was reasonably priced and understood what they were trying to do.

Other members may want to eventually hire a full-time staff member focused on technology but aren't quite at that point yet and have a need for ongoing help in the meantime.

The way we're hoping to solve this problem is to form a sort of "co-op" comprised of the best news technologists, designers and support staff we can possibly find who will be focused full-time on meeting the needs of nonprofit news organizations. Members will then be able to tap into this team as needed on a project-by-project basis and/or use us for ongoing support, training, etc.

What are the rates? How do you structure your contracts?

As of January 2015 our rates are as follows*:

  • For INN member organizations we offer a further discounted hourly rate of $85 per hour. This is actually slightly below our cost and is subsidized by the other consulting work we do for non-members and by INN's general operating funds (grants we receive from foundations, member dues, etc.)
  • For non-member non-profit organizations we offer a substantially reduced hourly rate of $125 per hour.
  • For non-member, for-profit organizations our regular hourly rate is $175 per hour.

*rates are subject to change but once we agree to an hourly rate we will honor it per the terms of your contract.

Contracts will typically be project-based and we will bill twice monthly for the actual hours worked during the preceding two week period. Under certain circumstances we may agree to do fixed bid contracts but we believe it's typically more fair for both parties to charge for actual hours worked.

I have ongoing tech needs but we're not ready to hire a full-time staff member yet, can you help?

If you have ongoing needs, we've talked to a few members about doing a retainer-based support agreements where you would essentially be sharing a full-time headcount on our team with a number of other INN members. The advantage would be that you would be guaranteed a certain percentage of that person's time without having to recruit and manage them.

If this is something that you would be interested in, contact us and we can discuss your particular needs and how we might best help you.

Project Largo Goes International

Recently INN member Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPIPR) debuted a new website, the first INN member to translate our open source Project Largo WordPress theme into Spanish.

The new Centro de Periodismo Investigativo website is the first to translate INN's Largo WordPress theme into Spanish.
The new Centro de Periodismo Investigativo website is the first to translate INN's Largo WordPress theme into Spanish.

With the launch of their new site, CPIPR joins over 20 INN members and 50 other sites around the globe who are now using INN's Project Largo, including sites in Danish, French, Spanish, Portuguese and even Korean. A complete list of the sites using Largo can be found on the Project Largo website.

While many of these sites publish in different languages, the CPIPR site marks the first time we worked with a member to translate the Largo theme itself so that all of the interface elements are now available in Spanish for any other site by simply selecting "Spanish" as their language preference when they install WordPress.

For more details on how WordPress language support works, see this article from their official documentation.

The updated translation files are available now on github and if you'd like to help us translate Largo into other languages, get in touch and we'd be happy to walk you through the process.

Largo Project Sites Tweet Like The NY Times With New WordPress Plugin

Last week the New York Times rolled out a new feature to make it easier for readers to share notable quotes to Twitter from their story about auditioning for Saturday Night Live. This generated a fair amount of interest in news design circles.

A new WordPress plugin makes it easy to tweet selected excepts from stories.
A new WordPress plugin makes it easy to tweet selected excepts from stories.

Joshua Benton of Nieman Lab liked what he saw and uncovered a WordPress plugin that does something very similar. After modifying it a bit for use on the Nieman Lab site, Yuri Victor of the Washington Post contributed some additional features and this afternoon I thought I would customize it just a bit further and make it available to all of INN's Largo Project sites.

A quick sidenote: If you're not familiar with Project Largo, it's INN's responsive WordPress framework we've developed to help our members quickly get up and running with top-notch websites powered by WordPress that look great on any device. It's fully open source so even if you're not a member of INN you can grab the code here or get in touch if you would like to learn more.

For the Largo sites that INN hosts, this new tweetable text feature is already active on your site. If you use Largo but host elsewhere you can grab our custom version of the plugin here.

The basic usage is as follows:

Schardt says that [tweetable]finding creative journalists with an awareness of what technologies are available to them is half the battle.[/tweetable] The advancements themselves outpace the average newsroom's awareness and ability, but funding continues to be overwhelmingly aimed at furthering these platforms — while journalists struggle to keep up.

Optionally, you can include an alt tag in the shortcode if you want the text of the tweet to be different than the exact text you're highlighting:

Schardt says that [tweetable alt="This is actually the text that will show up in the tweet."]finding creative journalists with an awareness of what technologies are available to them is half the battle.[/tweetable] The advancements themselves outpace the average newsroom's awareness and ability, but funding continues to be overwhelmingly aimed at furthering these platforms — while journalists struggle to keep up.

You can also add hashtags to the tweet:

Schardt says that [tweetable hashtag="#journalism #publicmedia"]finding creative journalists with an awareness of what technologies are available to them is half the battle.[/tweetable] The advancements themselves outpace the average newsroom's awareness and ability, but funding continues to be overwhelmingly aimed at furthering these platforms — while journalists struggle to keep up.

Or add an @username to use as the "via" source of the tweet:

Schardt says that [tweetable via="INN"]finding creative journalists with an awareness of what technologies are available to them is half the battle.[/tweetable] The advancements themselves outpace the average newsroom's awareness and ability, but funding continues to be overwhelmingly aimed at furthering these platforms — while journalists struggle to keep up.

(For sites using Largo this will automatically populate with your organization's Twitter @username if you have added it on the Appearance > Theme Options page.)

And the result looks like this .

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

New Orleans’ The Lens Latest INN Member to Launch Largo Powered Site

We're excited to announce the launch of the latest INN member site using our Largo platform: The Lens in New Orleans.

From their announcement:

The new site automatically adjusts to fit screens, whether you’re using an iPad, an Android tablet, an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S III. If you’re reading this on a computer, resize your browser window to see how it reacts.

We’ve used larger type, a clean, distraction-free layout and an added ability to highlight important facts and figures within stories.

The Lens’ Charter School Reporting Corps has become the pre-eminent source of information about the charter schools in New Orleans: For the past two years, we’ve covered nearly every meeting of the more than 40 charter boards in the city. No other news source comes close. This coverage has been integrated into the rest of the site and given more prominence on the home page. The individual school pages have been redesigned to provide essential information on each school. And readers can continue to subscribe to email alerts for one or many schools.

A new navigation enables us to highlight our ongoing stories and investigations, which means users can spend less time looking for the stories and more time reading and sharing them.

We’re not done yet. We’ve placed new priority on giving people access to primary source documents. Upcoming changes will provide users even more access to documents, including public records that are harder to get than they should be.

The home page also features Muckreads, ProPublica’s selections of the best watchdog reporting from around the country.

The new site is the product of cooperation among nonprofits. It is based on Project Largo, a WordPress theme developed by the Investigative News Network. And that’s an extension of National Public Radio’s Project Argo. The Lens will work with the network to help improve the Largo theme and lower the costs of high-quality publishing for other sites. The Lens thanks the network for extensive technical guidance throughout the process, as well as Assembled, which designed the site and our new logo, and Carrollton Group, which coded everything.

The Lens is now one of nine sites to adopt Largo since we launched last fall including INN members Connecticut Health I-Team, Iowa Watch and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, and Pinetree Watchdog.

We'll be launching more sites very soon and we're excited about the next phase of work we're doing on the platform with our first public launch scheduled for late March or early April.

In the meantime, feel free to peruse our code on github and if you or your organization is interested in a demo or have any questions about Largo please get in touch using our contact form and we'd be happy to help you out.

Connecticut Health I-Team Launches First Site Using New INN WordPress Platform

The Investigative News Network is excited to announce the launch of the first website built as part of the Largo Project, a WordPress starter theme developed by INN for members with longform, investigative reporting in mind. This past Wednesday, the Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT) launched their new website at

INN’s Director of Technology Adam Schweigert developed the project, and has been working with C-HIT Editor Lynne DeLucia to move the organization’s site onto the new content management system.

Largo incorporates a number of features from NPR's Project Argo, while significantly expanding the project to make it easier to set up and manage, adding flexibility to better support the needs of a variety of news publishers. Some of Largo's features include a mobile-friendly responsive design, three pre-built homepage layouts, highly-configurable responsive navigation menus and sidebars, built-in support for receiving donations, social media links, custom bylines and author profiles, analytics and additional functionality that would otherwise require additional plugins.

“Adam really took the time to see our mission and then put a lot of thought into tailoring the site so it showcases our investigative work,” DeLucia said. “The feedback so far has been terrific.”

Presentation of longform journalism was a priority. Largo includes formatting for pull quotes and asides, responsive images, slideshows and videos, and support for a variety of other embedded content. Articles can be broken into multiple pages, and heading and body text are optimized for readability on desktop and mobile devices. Social media support is built in, including Open Graph, Twitter Card, and Google authorship markup to ensure optimal presentation of content when it’s shared on the web. Largo also includes a curated list of plugins for additional functionality, so that news organizations can further fit the theme to their specific needs.

“INN’s members create powerful journalism every day,” said Schweigert. “We hope to put powerful publishing tools into the hands of every INN member who wants them, and to continue to grow and develop the platform to make it easier for members to build a digital presence to highlight their work.”

INN members the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, and several others will also soon be launching websites with Largo.

Largo Project was funded in part by a generous grant from Karin Winner, board member at the Investigative Newsource.

"A great strength of INN is to help fledgling journalism nonprofits get off the ground by providing tools not only to do their job but to link members so they can learn from each other," said Winner. "A solid, interactive website will be essential to [journalism nonprofits'] ultimate success."

The code for Largo is open source, and available on Github. INN also offers assistance to its members interested in using it, and those considering a content management system or website update within the next year should contact Adam Schweigert at for a demonstration.

More information about the Largo Project is available at

Project Largo Beta Released

Project Largo is a WordPress framework developed for members of the Investigative News Network (INN) based on NPR's Project Argo.

As we wrap up work on the first public release of this framework we have made a beta version available on github. We will be working with a couple of INN members over the coming weeks to work out any kinks in this beta version but in the meantime we welcome your feedback.

If you would like more information or are interested in receiving updates about the project please leave a comment on this post, ask questions in our Q&A section or fork our code on github and help us make Project Largo even better.

We will also be updating and expanding this site in the coming weeks to include complete documentation for how to setup, customize and use the Largo framework for your site.