Prague-based developers are supporting journalists in the information war

Journalists breaking stories around the world are being helped by a team of designers and developers in Prague.

William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 14.02.2023 17:43:00 (updated on 14.02.2023) Reading time: 4 minutes

Journalists have to be more than just writers and researchers in the internet age. Running a media organization today requires a host of skill sets, from visual design and content management to prowess with digital technologies.

It’s even more demanding for journalists reporting in countries which are hostile to free media. This has always been the mission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a global news organization headquartered in Prague. RFE/RL has a history going back to the start of the Cold War, when it brought uncensored news to audiences behind the Iron Curtain.

Operating across 27 languages, RFE/RL is a huge operation, and the company is at the cutting edge of technological developments. But how does it keep one step ahead? Pangea is a team of dedicated developers and designers helping journalists get their stories out there.

RFE/RL is seeking more talented IT professionals to join Pangea. If you are keen to work for an organization that makes a real difference in the world, find out more below.

Powering global journalism

Pangea powers all of RFE/RL’s digital content, and it now also supports journalists at Voice of America and Radio TV Martí, a US-based broadcaster providing news for Cuban audiences. It’s a Prague-based project with a truly global reach.

Pangea hosts, designs and develops public-facing news sites and content platforms for different languages, currently providing 110 sites in 58 languages. The breadth of its service is unmatched even by the BBC, which publishes in 27 languages online. From websites to TV, podcasts and social media livestreams, Pangea is a one-stop shop for publishing groundbreaking journalism.

“Pangea is a team of people, and it’s a content management system. It’s a design and development shop embedded within RFE/RL, and it’s a bit like a mini-Google, with around 50 people in the team. Our main goal is to create a content management system and bespoke digital experiences for our audience and users,” says Kim Conger, Director of Pangea Digital.

“We developed and designed the content management system as well as the frontend websites. We’ve also created apps and OTT platforms. We’re responsible for design and branding too, and this aspect of our work is another exciting challenge.”

Fighting censorship

Broadcasting in countries where local authorities are hostile to international scrutiny has always been central to RFE/RL’s work. Pangea is now at the heart of this effort to hold the powerful accountable and shed light on stories which others want to keep hidden.

“Our target markets are countries that don’t want us to be there, so in addition to all the language requirements, we deal with blocking. It’s challenging, but also very rewarding. People on the team are super creative, trying to solve problems that most tech people would never have to consider,” says Conger.

RFE/RL is blocked in a number of states, including Russia, where it is deemed to be a foreign agent, as well as Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries where RFE/RL’s sites can only be accessed through proxy servers.

Pangea also faces the challenge of poor-quality IT infrastructure in many target countries. Less reliable networks together with older devices, slower operating systems, and the possible need to use proxy servers, can all slow down load times. Pangea has responded by developing a lightweight codebase which can deliver even in unfavorable environments.

This flexibility is key given the rapidly evolving nature of digital news. According to Conger, mobile phones are a key driver of change; podcasts are booming in popularity, while social media platforms are also increasingly important news tools. Pangea coordinates content across digital platforms, helping journalists get stories in the public domain more quickly.

Join the team

Pangea is a team of IT designers and developers sitting at the core of RFE/RL’s operations.  More skilled professionals are now wanted to join the team and help drive Pangea’s future innovations in news publishing. Talented people are invited to apply from a variety of backgrounds, including frontend and backend development, DevOps, test automation, design, customer care, and more.

Joining Pangea means working on a range of remarkably interesting and worthwhile projects. The team’s current priorities are migration to a hybrid cloud environment and modularization of the tech stack to enable agile development with Tanzu orchestration. Developers are also revamping public-facing news sites, making them faster and easier to navigate, while boosting the performance of streaming and upload services.

The Pangea team is bound together by a strong sense of purpose and also friendship. They came together for Hackathon events, held in Prague (2019, 2021) and Tbilisi (2021). These events involved leaders in development, journalism, and data engineering working intensively together for a 48-hour period, innovating and developing new ways to promote data freedom and free access to independent media around the world.

“We are a compact and agile team,” says Conger. “We’re looking for people that are curious and eager to solve complex problems, and always open to learn more. Working as part of Pangea is unique; it’s for good, not for profit. We help people who don’t have access to free media.”

This article was written in cooperation with Radio Free Europe | Radio Liberty Inc. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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