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Wilborn P. Nobles III, Aryanna Prasad, Elbis BoltonThree LSU students plan to build an app to help the public hold police accountable, one of eight projects in the Social Media News Challenge.

knight-logo-300Jerry Ceppos, dean of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, chose seven projects Friday to receive mini-grants under the school’s Social Media News Challenge grant from the Knight Foundation. The first project, focused on encouraging voting by students in this fall’s elections, was approved Oct. 15, to allow the students to start immediately on the election-related project.

Wilborn P. Nobles III, Aryanna Prasad and Elbis Bolton plan to develop a mobile app people can use to document and report police behavior — misconduct or acts of courtesy or heroism.

To complete the project successfully, the students will need to address significant challenges of verification, promotion and technology, Ceppos said. “But I look forward to seeing how they meet those challenges. This is exactly the kind of ambitious project we hoped students would pursue with these grants.”

Other student projects approved address social issues, entertainment, news at Louisiana State University and social media response to LSU sporting events. “We’re pleased with the variety of topics the students have proposed and their creative approaches to engaging the community,” Ceppos said.

Students submitted 16 applications for the grants, then made presentations Thursday evening to Ceppos and a panel of community advisers who questioned the applicants and made recommendations to the dean. Community response to the applications in social media and in comments on the application posts on this blog, also were a factor in the dean’s decisions.

Other projects approved:

  • Logan Anderson and Sydney Blanchard will receive a grant for their project, Call It Out LSU, focused on giving students an outlet to report and address incidents of bigotry on campus.
  • Cody Sibley will receive a grant for Closet Stories, a YouTube channel where students with diverse sexual identities can tell their stories.
  • Rebekah Phillips will receive a grant for BR on a Budget, a plan to sample Baton Rouge entertainment weekly on a modest student budget and report on her experiences using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.
  • Taylor Curet, Rachel Richlinski and Morgan Beard will receive a grant for their plan to use Storify to curate the social-media conversation about LSU sports. The students originally submitted two separate, similar applications, but then agreed to collaborate.
  • Preston Guy and Alyssa Perot-Heltz will receive a grant to use online polls and social media to engage the community and gather data on community opinions in a project they call Kneaux LSU.
  • Jac Bedrossian will receive a grant for her #WeeklyVote webcast, which will invite students to vote on topics of weekly webcasts about interesting things happening at LSU.
  • In the project given early approval, Andrew Abad and Robyn Stiles will use the #TigersVote hashtag to encourage student participation in the November and December elections.

The community advisers helping with selection of the grant winners were Chris Branton, a research scientist at LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology, Beth Colvin, assistant features editor and books editor for The Advocate, and Chelsey Laborde, social media director for Fuse.

The social media grants are funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts.

Alyssa Perot-Heltz, Preston Guy, Cody Sibley, Logan Alexander, Sydney Blanchard, Jac Bedrossian, Taylor Curet, Rachel Richlinski, Morgan Beard, Rebekah Phillips