The Art and Science of Data-Driven Journalism

Open Data and Raw Data

Building capacity in data journalism is directly connected to the role the Fourth Estate plays in democracies around the world. There are important stories buried in that explosion of data from government, industry, media, universities, sensors, and devices that aren’t being told because the perspective and skills required to do it properly aren’t widespread in the journalism industry. The need for data-driven journalism comes at a time, unfortunately, when the news organizations that have housed them over the past centuries are contracting.As that’s happening, the demand for information about government is growing, in the areas of service, performance, and spending. Every day, more citizens turn to the Internet for government information,290services. Research on community information systems from the Pew Internet and Life Project shows strong citizen interest in online resources for government and civic information.291citizens are both aware of government information being released and can find it, open government policies can lead to higher levels of community satisfaction.292budgets and technical ability will make opening data difficult. This situation may grow worse as more local newspapers close. That trend was one of the drivers for the landmark Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.293empowering citizens to be more informed about their communities includes a recommendation to create local online hubs based upon open government data.294platforms have grown around the globe, including in a number of big cities, providing more raw material for data journalism.295government movement is happening. We must be ready to receive and process open data, and then tell all the stories hidden in data sets that now may seem raw or distant. To begin with, it would be useful to have data on open contracts, statements of assets, and salaries of public officials, ways to follow the money and compare, so people can help monitor government accountability. Although we dream in open data formats, we love PDFs against receiving print copies.The rewards that cities like New York have reaped from adopting a platform strategy are no longer theoretical, given that public open government data feeds become critical infrastructure during natural disasters.296faced heavy demand when residents went to its hurricane evacuation finder in advance of Hurricane Sandy, residents could also go and consult WYNC’s lightweight, mobile device-friendly evacuation map. WNYC data news editor John Keefe was responsible for the map, which put the city’s open government data in action.297Map]“We estimate that collectively we served and informed 10 times as many individuals by embracing an open strategy,” wrote Rachel Haot, then New York City’s chief digital officer, in a blog post for the Open Government Partnership.298of people.”If the evolutionary descendants of EveryBlock are ever going to be a meaningful replacement for local newspapers, however, they’ll need to be sustainable, independent from government’s influence, deliver a valuable information product and be interesting. They’ll have to feature compelling storytelling that’s citizen-centric, uses adaptive design, and provides information that’s relevant to what people need to know, now. That’s a tall order but there’s hope: Hundreds of entrepreneurial journalists are working on creating versions of that future today, with more to come.