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Winners of two awards for their police accountability mobile app pose with judges of the Social News Challenge awards. From left are Beth Colvin, award winners Wilborn Nobles and Elbis Bolton, Manship School Dean Jerry Ceppos and Chris Branton.

Winners of two awards for their police accountability mobile app pose with judges of the Social News Challenge awards. From left are Beth Colvin, award winners Wilborn Nobles and Elbis Bolton, Manship School Dean Jerry Ceppos and Chris Branton.

The POWER app's "about" page

The POWER app’s “about” page

Wilborn Nobles III and Elbis Bolton swept both Social Media News Challenge awards for their police accountability mobile application.

The two students launched the Android version of their POWER (Police Officer Watchdog Events Reporter) application this week, so judges were able to examine how the app worked Wednesday night after students made presentations about seven nearly finished social media projects.

Judges were to choose two prize winners based on the presentations, one for the most successful project and one for the riskiest project. After considering multiple projects in both categories, they decided that Nobles and Bolton were double winners.

A third award for best reporting on a social media project, will be given after the students complete their work and submit their final projects April 30.

Nobles and Bolton, along with Aryanna Prasad, were among eight applicants approved last October for grants under the Social Media News Challenge. Prasad is studying abroad this semester, so Nobles and Bolton continued the project without her.

The students’ original application called for partnering with news media to publish photographs and videos collected through the app, as well as meeting with community groups to promote use of the app. Though development of the app took longer than the students anticipated, Nobles and Bolton said they would use the $3,000 prize money to continue the work of their project.

The students developed the app for citizens to use to record video and photographs of encounters between police and the public and report to the media about exemplary or abusive conduct by police. The controversial shooting in South Carolina of Walter Scott by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, captured on video by a citizen, underscores the importance of citizens in reporting on police misconduct, the students said in their presentation.

Nobles, from New Orleans, is scheduled to graduate May 15, and start an internship at the Washington Post. In addition to winning a Social Media News Challenge grant, he won a 2014 Scripps Howard Foundation Internship Grant and is a member of the 2015 Chips Quinn Scholars Program. He is the 2014-15 president of the Association of Black Communicators and the inaugural editor-in-chief of LSU Student Media’s digital staff (lsureveille.com).

Bolton, from Havana, Cuba, is scheduled to graduate this summer. He works at General Informatics and plans to continue working there after graduation and possibly open his own business someday. He has traveled to the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize, Honduras as well as within the United States.

Jay Shelledy served as faculty adviser for the project.

The Social Media News Challenge awards mini-grants for social media projects undertaken by students in the Manship School of Mass Communication. The grants are funded by a $150,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, awarded to the Manship School in 2013.

After the first round of projects awarded grants last fall, three more were approved in February.

Another round of grants for social media projects will be awarded next September. Students interested in applying for those grants are encouraged to contact Steve Buttry (stevebuttry@lsu.edu, 703-474-0382 or Journalism Building 117B) to discuss project possibilities. In another post, Will Glass shares advice for students interested in applying for grants.

The award winners were chosen by Manship School Dean Jerry Ceppos, Chris Branton of LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology and Beth Colvin of The Advocate.

The judges praised all the students who made presentations about their projects Wednesday night and said both decisions were difficult. Other students who discussed what they achieved and learned in their projects were:

  • Rachel Richlinski and Taylor Curet, who curated social media discussion of LSU Sports using Storify.
  • Jac Bedrossian, who used weekly polls to choose her subjects in a feature series about interesting achievements at LSU called Takes a Tiger.
  • Preston Guy and Alyssa Perot-Heltz, who used social media and quizzes to inform people about news and events at LSU in a project called #KneauxLSU.
  • Andrew Abad and Robyn Stiles, who encouraged voting in last year’s Senate race in their #TigersVote project.
  • Cody Sibley, who address LGBTQ issues in Louisiana in Closet Stories.
  • Madelyn Duhon, who partnered with the Louisiana Wildlife Federation to raise awareness of coastal restoration issues.

Other projects are continuing into the fall and the students will report on their work as they are completing those projects.

A slide from the winning presentation.

A slide from the winning presentation.