December 12, 2007

More on data as journalism

Looking over some of my past Tweets reminded me about this whole issues of data as journalism, and journalism as data.

At The Flint Journal, I recently helped reporter Ron Fonger use Google maps to discover patterns in where the City of Flint was demolishing houses. The maps let you zoom in and out so that readers could get as close to the data as they wanted.

Whenever I think of this subject, I think of the presentations that Adrian Holovaty gives where he shows how easily we could take some "common everyday journalism" stories and present them in a more usable way with databases. Say crime stories or even weddings.

I also have to remember the outrage the Lansing (MI) State Journal faced when it published all of the salaries of state government employees in the state. (And, of course, I have to laugh at how much traffic dropped at the end of the work day.)

The Readership Institute in November explored the whole "data as journalism, journalism as data" thread in this post.
Rich Gordon sums up why Gannet has pushed the Information Center idea online:
  • Data is "evergreen" content.
  • Data can be personal.
  • Data can best be delivered in a medium without space constraints.
  • Data takes advantage of the way people actually use the Web
  • Data, once gathered, can be excerpted in print.
He also talks with folks at the Indianopolis Star, highlighting some of the newspaper's sucessful databases and telling how they were done. (He includes links to their Siren Calls work as well as how Colts player Peynton Manning does

He follows with suggestions of what every online news center should do, again with lots of ideas and examples. You really need to read the original post.

(As an aside, I loved how he pointed out how many of the people involved with "computer-assisted journalism" - a phrase I hated and shared in a Nov. 2 1991, piece for Editor & Publisher - are often the ones leading the databases online approach.)


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