The Art and Science of Data-Driven Journalism

Mapping Power and Influence

Mapping the hidden or tacit connections between powerful figures in business and government has long been a focus of investigative journalism. Today, data, software, and interactive visualizations can enable people to understand those networks of power and influence in unprecedented ways. Reuters’ Connected China is a brilliant example of how technology can give life and meaning to data, giving visitors the ability to explore relationships in a way that simply isn’t possible on the printed page.178reporter Irene Jay Liu, Connected China was the outcome of 18 months of reporting, design, development, and research.179database that resulted includes tens of thousands of people, organizations, and events, more than 30,000between them, and some 1.5built on open standards, including HTML5, enabling people to use it on tablets, smartphones, laptops, or desktop computers alike.The project “represents a new approach for Reuters News,” wrote Liu, “a model to take the reporting we do every day about people, institutions, power, and relationships and put it in a format that gives it sustained significance over time.” She added:Adhering to Reuters’ high journalistic standards, we have structured inherently qualitative relationships”the connections between people (family, mentorship, rivalry, alliances), the importance of particular job roles, the power dynamic between the various institutions that govern China. By quantifying and categorizing these complex relationships, we break from the constraints of long-form text and allow new ways of communicating and interpreting this acquired knowledge.By harnessing the collective intelligence gathered by a global team of reporters and editors, we can derive deeper insight to the political, societal, and economic implications of these connections.Baseball has sabermetrics; we’re trying to develop the field of sinometrics.A few months before Connected China went live, Miguel Paz and his colleagues launched a similar data-driven approach to mapping Chile’s elite.1802011, when Paz was still the managing editor of El Mostrador, he won a Knight News Challenge to create an interactive platform that would map the relationships between a database of entities from investigations and crowdsourcing.181of the site went live and then grew, with support from Startup Chile and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). In the months since, Poderopedia (the platform’s name) has matured and grown beyond Chile, powering a voting platform in Panama.182Márquez said that to talk about ”investigative journalism’ is redundant, because he assumes that any form of journalism should be an investigative one,” said Paz in an interview. “The purpose of journalism is to show you what the powerful want to hide. It’s the same with any form of journalism.”Now the Poderopedia Foundation, in 2014 it announced plans to expand to Venezuela and Colombia in 2014.183