French data journalist Nicolas Kayser-Bril (and former OJB contributor) gave the keynote speech at news:rewired. He used to work for OWNI, but since 2011 has been the CEO of Journalism++, a start-up that ‘accompanies newsrooms in their transitions towards the web of data’.
During his presentation he tried to explain the first steps that anyone interested in this area should follow to start producing stories, like building a datastore.
After the speech we had a quick chat with him about the importance of introducing data in newsrooms, the situation in France (where he feels data journalism is very dynamic - ”a lot of people are doing stuff, like in Liberátion or Le Monde”) and the skills that a journalist should have to get started. ”There are some stories nowadays that require the use of data intensely,” he says. “Especially when it comes into public policies.”
“As a data journalist you need curiosity and the ability to teach yourself: the basic skills of any journalist.”
The app allows you to filter the information by country and category, and also allows you to choose whether to limit results to incidents involving the deaths of wounding of civilians, allies or enemies.
Clicking on an individual incident bring up the raw text but also a mapping of the location and the details split into a more easy-to-read table. Continue reading
Past OJB contributor Nicolas Kayser-Bril is now in charge of datajournalism at Owni.fr, a recently launched news site that defines itself as an “open think-tank”.
“Acting as curators, selecting and presenting content taken deep in the immense and self-expanding vaults of the internet,” explains Nicolas, “the Owni team links to the best and does the rest.”
I asked Nicolas 2 simple questions on his work at Owni. Here are his responses:
What are you trying to do?
What we do is datajournalism. We want to use the whole power of online and computer technologies to bring journalism to a new height, to a whole new playing field. The definition remains vague because so little has been made until now, but we don’t want to limit ourselves to slideshows, online TV or even database journalism.
Take the video game industry, for instance. In the late 1970’s, a personal computer could be used to play Pong clones or text-based games. Since then, a number of genres have flourished, taking action games to 3D, building an ever-more intelligent AI for strategy games, etc. In the age of the social web, games were quick to use Facebook and even Twitter.
Take the news industry. In the late 1970’s, you could read news articles on your terminal. In the early 2010’s you can, well… read articles online! How innovative is that? (I’m not overlooking the innovations you’ll be quick to think of, but the fact remains that most online news content are articles.)
We want to enhance information with the power of computers and the web. Through software, databases, visualizations, social apps, games, whatever, we want to experiment with news in ways traditional and online media haven’t done yet.
What have you achieved?
We started to get serious about this in February, when I joined the mother company (22mars) full-time. In just a month, we have completed 2 projects
More importantly, we made a Facebook app, Where do I vote? There, users can find their polling station and their friends’ for the upcoming regional election in France.
It might sound underwhelming, but it required finding and locating the addresses of more than 35,000 polling stations.
On top of convincing a reluctant administration to hand over their files, we set up a large crowdsourcing effort to convert the documents from badly scanned PDFs to computer-readable data. More than 7,000 addresses have been treated that way.
Dozens of other ideas are in the works. Within Owni.fr, we want to keep the ratio of developers/non-developers to 1, so as to be able to go from idea to product very quickly. I code most of my ideas myself, relying on the team for help, ideas and design.
In the coming months, we’ll expand our datajournalism activities to include another designer, a journalist and a statistician. Expect more cool stuff from Owni.fr.
As traditional media outlets close down, the relative importance of non-market players becomes more important.
Governments around the world were quick to see the opportunities for their news agencies. From Xinhua (China) to ITAR-TASS (Russia), from AFP (half of its budget comes from state subscriptions) to Voice of America, governments are trying to shape the world’s public opinion.
The coverage of Gaza by Al Jazeera is a case in point. They produced quality journalism no other outlet could dream of. Now, viewers should keep in mind that money for such newsgathering comes straight from the pocket of the Emir of Qatar. Believe me, I’m sure Al Jazeera’s journalists keep that in mind too.
To help you measure the amount of government-funded journalism, I built this little app, I smell a government rat in my news. Just type in any query and you’ll see the share of articles produced with state funds. Continue reading
France is currently paralyzed by yet another strike. Unlike the ones you’re used to when visiting my country, usually from railway or airport staff, this one was launched by lawyers and judges alike, united against their government minister, Rachida Dati (read more here).
Traditional journalists have been covering the event as it unfolded. Google News brings you more than 300 bland and unsurprising articles.
The only place where you can read what’s going on in France’s judicial system is a blog. Maître Eolas, a lawyer who opened his blog 4 years ago, just published 64 testimonies from justice professionals. He even renamed his blog ‘Daily news from angry justice professionals’. Continue reading
As communism fell in Lithuania 19 years ago, existing dailies started to publish what they wanted. And what they wanted was money. The 2 main titles promptly became filled with advertorial paid for by politicians and industrialists.
The Lithuanian public quickly became disheartened with the printed press and turned to the internet instead. That’s why the audience of Lithuanian #1 website for news is only 8 times smaller than its UK counterpart, even though the country is 20 times as small as the UK (and twice as poor in terms of GDP per capita).
Seeing this enthusiasm for online news, MG Baltic, a Vilnius-based holding that trades in everything from consumer goods to news, decided to launch a website. The avowed goal was to complement their mass media portfolio. Continue reading
A couple weeks ago I published the ‘5 Stages of a Blogger’s Life‘ cartoon, drawn by Alex Hughes. It was an experiment to test a theory of mine: that cartoons could be particularly successful in increasing news website visitor numbers, and that news organisations should be doing more with them.
The results? In one week that cartoon got over 40,000 hits, making it the most popular single post ever on the Online Journalism Blog . Continue reading
4 years after launching his blog, a famous French writer publishes a book of comments. The revenues of the book roughly equal 30 years of on-blog advertising.
Pierre Assouline is the typical 50-something, successful French intellectual. Whatever he authors turns into a bestseller, he is involved in the movie industry, writes op-ed pieces for the best newspapers, gives lectures and hosts a radio talk show. And, like many of his ilk, was definitely technophobic. Continue reading
Over at sister blog JournalismEnterprise.com there’s an interview with Rue89 co-founder Pierre Haski. Rue89, a French news website, “doesn’t live off advertising. The cash flows from 4 sources:” Website design (50%), advertising, third-party services, and contributions from users (the tip-jar model). “The ad money is “out of reach” for a mid-sized player such as Rue89 and “it’s unclear if it will be in the future”.”