Field Notes
Hacks & Hackers

d.media

Journalists Meet Technologists 

Burt Herman, a student at the d.school in 2008, didn’t set out to redesign the way journalists and technologists work together. But somewhere along the way, he found himself compelled to do it. 

The result was Hacks/Hackers, a worldwide collaboration between journalists (“hacks”) and technologists (“hackers”) to change the face of journalism in the age of new media.

After he left Stanford, Burt was heavily invested in the changing landscape of news. To begin the hard work of setting up his first journalism startup (Storify, which was ultimately acquired by Adobe) Burt quit a steady gig at the Associated Press.

His experience at the d.school gave him the confidence to leave his prestigious job and get started on his own terms.

“[The d.school helped me see] it’s not as crazy as it seems to leave your job and start something. It’s not about a random spark of genius. There is a way to make it work: you go through cycles and figure it out. You see what works along the way. I would have been freaked out otherwise.”

It was during this journey from the AP to startup that Burt changed the way journalists and technologists work together. One of the d.school’s core tenets, “radical collaboration” stuck with him. 

 A Hacks/Hackers meet up in NYC. 

A Hacks/Hackers meet up in NYC. 

Innovation requires collaboration among people with different perspectives on the world. I wasn’t seeing that in journalism. I needed to make that happen.
— Burt Herman

Burt had first-hand knowledge of the ways journalism was splintering in the age of new media. He witnessed journalists engage technology and fail because they weren’t connecting with users or collaborating well with engineers.

He decided to do something about it and organized the first Hacks/Hackers gathering. It showed promise. Soon, he teamed up with journalists at Northwestern and the New York Times and Hacks/ Hackers was officially born.

Hacks/Hackers quickly took on a life of its own. The team set up an infrastructure to support the self-initiated chapters that began popping up across the US, and then around the world. They had started a movement. 

With new support from Google, Burt still travels the world to run Hacks/Hackers events and incubate ideas, demo work, and host experts. It continues to grow organically and now has upwards of 50,000 members in 70 global chapters in places as diverse as Amman, Cape Town, Melbourne, La Paz, and Hong Kong. 

 Burt Herman 

Burt Herman 

Burt Herman is a journalist and founder of Storify and Hacks/Hackers. While at Stanford, he participated in three d.school classes.