The Marshall Project has released the code for its custom-made content management system – EndRun. This development represents our investment in transparency and our desire to share the lessons we’ve learned with other news organizations trying to master their online publishing workflows.
“As a small, startup nonprofit newsroom, we’ve been able to experiment with better ways of publishing,” said deputy managing editor Tom Meagher. ”Using EndRun, we can quickly build, test and deploy new tools to make our journalism better and easier to produce. By releasing EndRun’s code, we hope developer-journalists in other newsrooms can learn from our experiences and be inspired to try new techniques in their systems.”
“Having just inherited this codebase from its principal author, Ivar Vong, I’ve enjoyed discovering its functionality,” said Gabe Isman, The Marshall Project director of technology. “The biggest takeaway for me is the flexibility -- to develop new tools, and try new initiatives -- that having a custom CMS brings.”
At its inception in 2014, The Marshall Project made a strategic decision to invest in a custom CMS rather than use an existing system like Wordpress. Having a system tailored to the needs of the newsroom enables a small team to create and publish truly innovative, interactive content, and gives the organization the freedom to combine graphics, photo, video, and text creatively.
EndRun, which is built using the popular Ruby on Rails framework, is the skeleton upon which The Marshall Project is constructed. The flexibility of EndRun’s design has enabled the creation of ambitious projects like Crime in Context, The Next to Die, a popular quiz tool, an interactive, nationwide database on the DOJ’s controversial 1033 military surplus program, along with striking graphics like those seen in our reporting on double solitary and the movement to halve the nation’s prison population. EndRun includes a curation tool that allows our reporters to tag the most interesting articles on the web for The Record, which also helps with the curation for our Opening Statement email. The functionality of EndRun contributed to The Marshall Project being named “World’s Best Designed Website” by the prestigious Society for News Design after only one year of publishing.
Beginning today, Endrun is available on Github. While EndRun was never designed to be a general purpose publishing platform, The Marshall Project believes that sharing our code will be useful and illuminating for other online news organizations.