Open-Source Repositories as Trust-Building Journalism Infrastructure: Examining the Use of GitHub by News Outlets to Promote Transparency, Innovation, and Collaboration


This study incorporates the concepts of transparency, innovation, and collaboration within a broader analytic lens of trust-building infrastructure and applies that lens to an examination of the use of GitHub by 124 prominent news outlets over more than a decade. It finds that (a) their use of GitHub is not widespread but several outlets do actively use it; (b) they use GitHub to open-source a mixture of technologies and journalistic materials; (c) their introductory project documentation routinely includes at least partial amounts of both ambient and disclosure forms of transparency, but rarely exhibits participatory transparency; (d) collaboration is almost non-existent in the vast majority of their repositories; and (e) there has been a decline in their use of GitHub and the collaboration affordances within their repositories in recent years. The study extends the transparency literature by adapting key concepts to journalism-adjacent infrastructure and offers empirical evidence about the innovativeness of open-source technologies originating from prominent news organizations and the amount of collaboration that occurs around them. This builds to an intervention that raises some questions about the direct impact of open-source repositories as trust-building infrastructure while drawing attention to less-considered but nevertheless useful performative functions that such infrastructure enables.

Digital Journalism
Rodrigo Zamith
Rodrigo Zamith
Associate Professor

My research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of journalism and technology, with a focus on the reconfiguration of journalism in a changing media environment and the development of digital research methods for social scientists.