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Jonathan Stray: A computational journalism reading list

Journalist and computer scientist Jonathan Stray has posted an interesting breakdown of what he calls “computational journalism”, a kind of parent term for data journalism, visualisation, computational linguistics, communications technology, filtering, research and more.

I’d like to propose a working definition of computational journalism as the application of computer science to the problems of public information, knowledge, and belief, by practitioners who see their mission as outside of both commerce and government. This includes the journalistic mainstay of “reporting” — because information not published is information not known — but my definition is intentionally much broader than that.

Stray has put together a reading list under each sub-header (including our very own ‘How to: get to grips with data journalism‘).

Worth a read.

Full post on Jonathan Stray’s blog at this link.

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Editor&Publisher: New AP regional investigative teams will boost CAR and data journalism

April 6th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Jobs, Journalism

The Associated Press (AP) is creating four regional investigative teams to support its staff across the US with “reporting and presentation resources”, in particular by using journalists with expertise in computer-assisted reporting (CAR), Flash interactives and access to public records.

Now, any reporter in a region who has an idea for a story that requires high-level data analysis will have a partner. If an editor has an idea for a project that lends itself to an interactive map or another data-driven multimedia project, they can work with the team. When a big, breaking story happens anywhere in the country, we’ll tap the region’s I-team [the name given to the newly created teams] to begin digging into public records and inspection reports while the story is still developing, not days after the fact.

Full story at this link…

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ReadWriteWeb: Journalism needs data

As Zach Beauvais points out in his post for the ReadWriteWeb, it’s not new that facts are crucial to journalism.

“But as we move further into the 21st century, we will have to increasingly rely on ‘data’ to feed our stories, to the point that ‘data-driven reporting’ becomes second nature to journalists.”

“The shift from facts to data is subtle and makes perfect sense. You could that say data are facts, with the difference that they can be computed, analyzed, and made use of in a more abstract way, especially by a computer.”

Full post at this link…

Journalism.co.uk is extremely interested in the #datajourn discussion.

Computer-assisted reporting is also nothing new, the use of data in journalism is not particularly radical, but new developments in technology, mindset, and accessibility mean that data-sets will have a new place in the profession.

Join the conversation and please get in touch with your thoughts: judith@journalism.co.uk.

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#DataJourn part 1: a new conversation (please re-tweet)

Had it not been published at the end of the workday on a Friday, Journalism.co.uk would have made a bit more of a song-and-dance of this story, but as a result it instead it got reduced to a quick blog post. In short: OU academic Tony Hirst produced a rather lovely map, on the suggestion (taunt?) of the Guardian’s technology editor, Charles Arthur, and the result? A brand new politics story for the Guardian on MPs’ expenses.

Computer-assisted reporting (CAR) is nothing new, but innovations such as the Guardian’s launch of Open Platform, are leading to new relationships and conversations between data/stats experts, programmers and developers, (including the rarer breed of information architects), designers, and journalists – bringing with them new opportunities, but also new questions. Some that immediately spring to mind:

  • How do both parties (data and interactive gurus and the journalists) benefit?
  • Who should get credit for new news stories produced, and how should developers be rewarded?
  • Will newsrooms invest in training journalists to understand and present data better?
  • What problems are presented by non-journalists playing with data, if any?
  • What other questions should we be asking?

The hashtag #datajourn seems a good one with which to kickstart this discussion on Twitter (Using #CAR, for example, could lead to confusion…).

So, to get us started, two offerings coming your way in #datajourn part 2 and 3.

Please add your thoughts below the posts, and get in touch with judith@journalism.co.uk (@jtownend on Twitter) with your own ideas and suggestions for ways Journalism.co.uk can report, participate in, and debate the use of CAR and data tools for good quality and ethical journalism.

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Miller-McCune: Deep throat meets data mining

December 30th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

The digital revolution could help halt the decline in investigative journalism, thanks to a “new academic and professional discipline” known as ‘computational journalism’, writes John Mecklin in Miller-McCune.

“On a disaggregated Web, it seems, people and advertisers simply will not pay anything like the whole freight for investigative reporting. But [James] Hamilton [director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke University] thinks advances in computing can alter the economic equation, supplementing and, in some cases, even substituting for the slow, expensive and eccentric humans required to produce in-depth journalism as we’ve known it.”

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Waiting for the CAR to arrive

September 17th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism

Earlier in the week we blogged that the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Lillehammer (GIJC) had received a little criticism for being a bit 1.0 in its coverage.  But if its partcipants made limited use of the social web to report live from the event, the Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) contingent was out in force and here’s what they had to say.

Paul Myers, a BBC specialist in internet research, and web trainer, told Journalism.co.uk how slow CAR is in the UK.  “People pick up on the flashy stuff like Google maps, but not CAR,” Myers said.

“This is quite typical in my experience – lots of resistance when I started training journalists in using the internet at BBC in the early 90s. It has been uphill struggle to convince people to use the web,” he told us.

In an opening session, the director of computer-assisted reporting at ProPublica, Jennifer LaFleur, urged people not to be deterred by how complicated it sounds.  “Computer assisted reporting (CAR) is doing stories based on data analysis, but it’s really just working with public records,” she said.

“Don’t get intimidated by the statistics, maths or excel and access focus: these are just the tools we use to report with.”

Along with database editor Helena Bengtsson, from Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT, LaFleur highlighted several recent successful news stories that had been unearthed by using CAR.

One, an investigation into the voting patterns of Swedish EU-parliamentarians, showed that several of the most high-profile parlimentarians abstained in 50 per cent or more of cases, causing political outcry.

But, maybe journalists should leave the more high powered CAR to the IT people? No, was the blunt answer to that audience question. CAR should be par for the course, said LaFleur. “90 per cent of stories we presented here were done with Access and Excel. I am a journalist doing journalism,” she said.

“You have to interview the data as you interview a person,’ added Helena Bengtsson. “When I do a query on data… I’m asking the data as a journalist.

“There is a lot of information in the data that IT-people wouldn’t have discovered. We’re journos first, data-specialists second,” Bengtsson said.

GCIJ Lillehammer also ran classes on RSS, scraping the web, being an online ‘bloodhound’ and effective web searching.

“There are two reasons for that: we have the training expertise and see major need for training in web research and computer assisted reporting”,  Haakon Hagsbö, from SKUP (a Norwegian foundation for investigative journalism) and one of the organisers of GIJC  Lillehammer, told Journalism.co.uk.

“It has certainly been very popular at earlier conferences. People don’t know what they don’t know until they attend the training. It’s a real eyeopener, but they soon find that it’s not rocket science, as these are simple yet powerful tools. We see more and more examples of colleagues from all over the world who meet online and use the web for research.

In reponse to Isaac Mao’s comment that there had been a low take-up of live social media reporting from the conference, Haugsbö said: “We have streamed everything live online, but other than that I don’t have a good answer to this.”

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