Last week I spent a thoroughly fascinating day at a hackday for journalists and web developers organised by Scraperwiki. It’s an experience that every journalist should have, for reasons I’ll explore below but which can be summed up thus: it will challenge the way you approach information as a journalist.
Disappointingly, the mainstream press and broadcast media were represented by only one professional journalist. This may be due to the time of year, but then that didn’t prevent journalists attending last week’s Liverpool event in droves. Senior buy-in is clearly key here – and I fear the Birmingham media are going to left behind if this continues.
Because on the more positive side there was a strong attendance from local bloggers such as Michael Grimes, Andy Brightwell (Podnosh), Clare White (Talk About Local) and Nicola Hughes (Your Local Scientist) – plus Martin Moore from the Media Standards Trust and some journalism students.
How it worked
After some brief scene-setting presentations, and individual expressions of areas of interest, the attendees split into 5 topic-based groups. They were:
- The data behind the cancellation of Building for Schools projects
- Leisure facilities in the Midlands.
- Issues around cervical smear testing
- Political donations
- And our group, which decided to take on the broad topic of ‘health’, within the particular context of plans to give spending power to GP consortia.
By the end of the day all groups had results – which I’ll outline at the end of the post – but more interesting to me was the process of developers and journalists working together, and how it changed both camp’s working practices.