Open Source in the newsroom

How open source software is transforming modern newsrooms

In the ever-evolving landscape of journalism, newsrooms are increasingly turning to open source tools and platforms to streamline workflows, enhance collaboration, and adapt to the digital age. We delve into industry examples that highlight the benefits of this trend.

Since its inception, attitudes towards open source software have undergone a transformative shift. Initially met with scepticism, open source faced doubts about its security and viability, however over time, the collaborative and transparent nature of open source development has proven its worth. As major projects flourished – including the Linux operating system and Apache web server – confidence in open source has grown tremendously, and forward-thinking enterprises and individuals alike now embrace it for its cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and community-driven innovation.

Collaboration and communication

Open source tools play a crucial role in fostering collaboration and communication within newsrooms, enabling journalists to work seamlessly across different locations. A prime example is Rocket Chat – the world’s largest open source communications platform – which is currently used by over 12 million people across 150 countries. Thanks to its 1000+ contributors, the solution offers an exceptional level of data privacy, making it the platform of choice for organisations with high level security concerns as well as writers, reporters and editors.

Today, open source is not merely accepted, but celebrated, symbolising a dynamic, inclusive approach to technology that has become integral to modern software development and industry practices. Relied on by almost every sector, the media and publishing sector is a notable champion, with major brands such as The Times, TechCrunch and CNN leveraging open source to reach wider online audiences.

Content management

As the most popular platform for news websites, WordPress has evolved from a simple blogging tool into a powerful CMS that’s utilised by a huge number of enterprise organisations. Titles including The Times and The Sunday Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, TechCrunch, Time Magazine, Vogue, and Al Jazeera all currently create and publish content via the open source platform, which offers outstanding flexibility, scalability, and a user-friendly interface. The extensibility of WordPress also means it can be easily integrated with external systems, and enhanced with custom functionality to significantly streamline workflows and speed up the publishing process.

Many content management features, such as the Collage Creator developed for the New York Post, also utilise Kubernetes – an open-source container orchestration system for automating software deployment, scaling, and management.

Data visualisation

Open source tools for data analysis and visualisation have become indispensable for journalists that need to uncover insights and present information in compelling ways. Jupyter Notebooks is a particularly popular solution for interactive data analysis, and is currently in use at mainstream media brands such as Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times.


In an era where cybersecurity is paramount, open source solutions provide transparency and security for a wide range of organisations, with OpenSSL being the most notable example. Used by over one million websites worldwide, the toolkit is often relied on by news websites to encrypt data transmitted between servers and users.

The open source intrusion and detection system, Suricata, also helps newsrooms to bolster security by analysing network traffic and detecting malicious activities in real-time to protect networks from cyber threats.

Artificial Intelligence

More recently, a growing number of organisations are exploring the possibilities of utilising AI to increase automation and save time across editorial teams. GPT-J, as an open-source alternative to ChatGPT, enables news organisations to leverage powerful language models for tasks such as content generation, summarisation, and even assisting journalists in their research processes. 

In the era of fake news and misinformation, open source AI tools can also contribute to the development of fact-checking and verification systems. Projects like ClaimReview allow news organisations to markup and present fact-check information in a standardised way, enhancing transparency and credibility.

A huge number of organisations are also utilising open source tools such as LangChain – a framework for the development of applications using large language models. Titles including the New York Times are also sharing AI training data via Hugging Face, which is an open source data science and machine learning platform designed to facilitate AI collaboration. 

In addition to technical advantages, the rise of open source has also notably impacted attitudes to software and product development across the industry, with organisations openly sharing ideas, insights and solutions with peers and competitors. This is perfectly exemplified by NewsKit – the open source, themeable design system for media brands released by News Corp in 2020. 

Although this can be largely regarded as benevolent, the wider adoption and advancement of open source software undoubtedly delivers much more in return to countless brands and publishers across the globe. A recent report* published by Harvard estimates that the supply-side value of widely used open source software is approximately worth $4.15 billion, with the demand-side hitting a staggering value of around $8.8 trillion. The same research also suggests that firms would need to spend 3.5 times more on software than they currently do if open source software didn’t exist, highlighting the significant economic impact of sharing code.

As a result, the transformative impact of open source software on modern newsrooms is undeniable, and as the media landscape evolves, its increasing utilisation demonstrates a growing commitment to innovation, flexibility, and community-driven progress. With a myriad of options already available and a growing number of brands advocating code sharing through platforms such as WordPress, we can expect even greater uptake in the coming years, further reinforcing the pivotal role of open source in the future of journalism.

WordPress in the newsroom:
Scaling up editorial production

For more on how media organisations are leveraging open source tech, download your free copy of WordPress in the newsroom.

*Hoffmann, Manuel and Nagle, Frank and Zhou, Yanuo, The Value of Open Source Software (January 1, 2024). Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 24-038, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4693148 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4693148

Interested in learning more about enterprise WordPress?
Get in touch with the team today