Is data journalism ‘time consuming’ or ‘resource intensive’? The excuse – and I think it is an excuse – seems to come up at an increasing number of events whenever data journalism is discussed. “It’s OK for the New York Times/Guardian/BBC,” goes the argument. “But how can our small team justify the resources – especially in a time of cutbacks?”
The idea that data journalism inherently requires extra resources is flawed – but understandable. Spectacular interactives, large scale datasets and investigative projects are the headliners of data journalism’s recent history. We have oohed and aahed over what has been achieved by programmer-journalists and data sleuths…
Journalism.co.uk have a list of this year’s “leading innovators in journalism and media”. I have some additions. You may too.
I brought Nick in to work with me on Help Me Investigate, a project for which he doesn’t get nearly enough credit. It’s his understanding of and connections with local communities that lie behind most of the successful investigations on the site. In addition, Nick helped spread the idea of the social media surgery, where social media savvy citizens help others find their online voice. The idea has spread as far as Australia and Africa.
Information is changing. The news industry was born in a time of information scarcity – and any understanding of the laws of supply and demand will tell you that that made information valuable.
But the past 30 years have seen that the erosion of that scarcity. Not only have the barriers to publishing, broadcast and distribution been lowered by desktop publishing, satellite and digital technologies, and the web – but a booming PR industry has grown up to provide these news organisations with ‘cheap’ news.
Information is changing. Increasingly, we are not seeking information out – instead, it finds us. The scarcity is not in information, but in our time to wade through it, make meaning of it, and act on it.
The site (also a blog – notice a pattern here?) is releasing a range of public data and inviting people to mash them up, or come up with ideas to do so. In their words:
The UK Government wants to hear your ideas for new products that could improve the way public information is communicated. The Power of Information Taskforce is running a competition on the Government’s behalf, and we have a £20,000 prize fund to develop the best ideas to the next level. You can see the type of thing we are are looking for here. Continue reading →
Recently my attention has been drawn to the Dutch news website www.en.nl. Wilbert Baan, interaction designer for the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, told me he wants to see “what we can do with news, social networks, wikis and more.
“I think you might like the experiment we are doing,” he wrote.