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#Tip of the day for journalists: News app guidance from ProPublica

February 27th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists
By Wiertz Sebastien on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

By Wiertz Sebastien on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

ProPublica has published a group of guides on GitHub, a great resource for those interested in building news applications. In a post, ProPublica’s Scott Klein said the resources “represent what we’ve learned and our best advice for designing consistent, social-optimised and impactful apps in a sane dev environment”.

f you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link.


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#Tip of the day from – follow ProPublica’s ‘tools and data’ Pinterest board

April 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Top tips for journalists

US investigative news site ProPublica is collating a “tools and data” board on visual bookmarking site Pinterest.

Journalists, especially those who work with data, will find this collection of pins useful.

For example, here is ProPublica’s guide to scraping websites for data.

Here are’s 10 ideas for news organisations using Pinterest

Tipster: Sarah Marshall

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link– we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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ProPublica-inspired global news site launches in Australia

A new not-for-profit online journalism start-up launches today in Australia, backed with $15 million of funding from a philanthropist to see the site through its first five years.

The Global Mail is edited by former ABC broadcast journalist Monica Attard and aims to provide “public interest journalism – no ads, no subscription, no celebrity stories, no spin”.

Attard told the Australian: “I had long viewed, with a degree of envy, the ProPublica model in the US. The model was inspired by, even though we won’t and can’t do investigations alone.”

She adds: “We would like to think we can come up with novel ways to help pay our way in the world. We haven’t thought of any yet. That’s the honest-to-god truth.

“The market is small in Australia, so we figure there’s room for a new player aimed at covering the world, with Australia in it.”

The site launched this morning at

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Tool of the week for journalists – ProPublica’s TimelineSetter

Tool of the week: ProPublica’s TimelineSetter

What is it? A tool for creating beautiful interactive timelines.

How is it of use to journalists? Having spent time developing a timeline tool, US investigative journalism news site ProPublica has made the code available for others to use, enabling journalists to build interactive timelines from a spreadsheet.

ProPublica’s timeline on how one blast affected five soldiers is a clear demonstration as to just how effective the tool can be in online storytelling.

The LA Times and Chicago Tribune are among those who have utilised the open source software since it was made public in April 2011.

TimelineSetter is not for the technology shy, however. Non-coders should not let this introduction to the tool put them off and should instead try watching the two videos embedded below and test out the technology.

Let us know at @journalismnews if you build and publish a timeline using ProPublica’s code.

If you want to create a timeline but avoid coding, try Dipity, a previous tool of the week.

Hat tip: 10,000 Words

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#news2011: ProPublica model ‘not feasible’ as commercial venture, says editor-in-chief

November 29th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Events, Investigative journalism

A commercial version of ProPublica is not “feasible at present”, its editor-in-chief told the Global Editors Network news summit today.

The US investigative news site, which relies on funding from philanthropic donations, was launched in 2008.

Giving a keynote speech to the event in Hong Kong via video-link Pro-Publica’s Paul Steiger, a former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, said he did not think a commercial organisation would be able to do as ProPublica does and “concentrate on doing nothing but investigative reporting”.

“It is possible that news organisations can have investigative reporting as part of the menu of reporting”, but not to the same extent.

The industry has gone from a high profit margin business model to one with much tighter margins.

As a result news organisations are “much less able to take the risk of sending reporters out on a project that might not produce a viable story,” he said.

I don’t think it is impossible at to make it happen in places outside of the US though. It just requires energy and ingenuity.

Click here for more on ProPublica and how it is funded.

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#jpod: How video games can tell news stories

October 21st, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Multimedia, Online Journalism, Podcast

Creating a video game to tell a news story can enhance a reader’s understanding of the complexity of the issues involved. When 33 Chilean miners were trapped underground just over a year ago the world’s media told the story and in this Los 33 game, created by Root 33, the online viewer has the task of rescuing each miner and gets to understand the lengthy rescue process.

In this week’s #jpod, technology correspondent Sarah Marshall speaks to Bobby Schweizer, a doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at Play; Shannon Perkins, editor of interactive technologies at, who created Cutthroat Capitalism, a game where the player becomes a Somali pirate; and Scott Klein, editor of news applications at ProPublica.

The podcast hears about notable newsgames, discusses when a story warrants a game, and how much money is needed to create one.

Schweizer talks about his latest project, the Cartoonist, which aims to enable journalists to create their own online newsgames.

You can hear future podcasts by signing up to the iTunes podcast feed.



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#wef11: ‘Many journalists are slaves to a CMS – think beyond that’

There was a fascinating session at the World Editors Forum today titled ‘looking beyond the article’, which saw a number of speakers discuss the news game, and the ways news outlets are using gamification methods to offer wider context and understanding to news stories, events and scenarios.

One of the first speakers, Bill Adair, who is founder and editor of PolitiFact said he felt there was “a tremendous lack of imagination” in the industry in how to take advantage of new publishing platforms.

It’s like we’ve been given a brand new canvas with this whole palette of colours and we’re only painting in grey. We need to bring all the other colours to this new canvas.

He later said:

Many of us are slaves to our content management systems, which are slaves to the old way we were publishing. We have to think beyond that.

Scott Klein, editor of news applications at ProPublica, shared many examples of news apps which are doing just that. Klein’s presentation of these examples can be found at this link.

He told the conference that as well as adding context a news app has the ability to personalise and place the user at the centre of the story and offer them the ability to see the impact on them, “it doesn’t just tell a story, it tells your story”, he said.

You can hear him speak more about this in the audio interview below:

Scott Klein of ProPublica by journalismnews

Another member of the panel was Bobby Schweizer, co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at Play. He said video games give the opportunity to look beyond the traditional news story and called on conference delegates to try and “make something”.

And he himself is trying to help make this happen, working on the development of new software called the Cartoonist to help journalists produce their own news games, a project which won Knight News funding last year.

In the short audio clip below I ask him more about what this software will offer journalists:

Bobby Schweizer, co-author of Newsgames by journalismnews

When asked about the implications of news games being able to be created quickly and potentially running alongside more breaking forms of the story, Schweizer said news outlets and journalists need to ask themselves why they are making the game.

You have to ask what do you have to gain over a written article? If you only need to answer who, what, when and where maybe you don’t need a game. This has to be a balance that each organisation will have to find for themselves.

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ProPublica: Susan White on the secret to being a successful editor

June 13th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Non-profit, Online Journalism

ProPublica has published the full transcript of a podcast interview with outgoing senior editor Susan White. White gives some interesting insights into how things work at the US’ best-known non-profit investigative outfit and her own way of going about being an editor.

She spoke to PropPublica’s director of communications Mike Webb and managing editor Steven Engelberg.

Mike: Why don’t we walk through an investigation? How does an idea originate and what do you tell the reporter to do, once you hear that idea?

Susan: I rarely tell reporters to do anything. I don’t think that’s the role of the editor. I guide, I steer, and I encourage and I help shape, but I don’t give reporters marching orders.

Mike: Is that because you think they’re wise enough to know the first steps?

Susan: Right, well… The best ideas come from reporters, not editors. I don’t think since I’ve been at ProPublica I have assigned anyone a story. I rarely have throughout my editing career. Usually a reporter comes to me and we have this idea. We vet it at the top here, at ProPublica, because if we’re going to work on something for a long time, we want to make sure that it’s going to work out.

Read the full transcript or listen to the podcast at this link.

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#Tip of the day from – data collection guides

January 6th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Top tips for journalists

ProPublica has compiled a series of guides on collecting and scraping data based on experiences from its own investigations, which could be useful for data journalists. The guides cover topics from using Google Refine, reading data from Flash sites and scraping HTML. Tipster: Rachel McAthy.

To submit a tip to, use this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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ProPublica signs up to Press+ in bid to encourage donations

November 23rd, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Business, Online Journalism, Traffic

Non-profit investigative journalism outfit ProPublica is to start using Press+, a payment plaform launched last year by startup Journalism Online.

ProPublica will use the tool to manage public donations, with Press+ logos across the site to encourage users to give money. Following an arrangement with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has provided 10 non-profit news sites with the platform, ProPublica will not have to share revenue with Journalism Online for the first year. The New York-based non-profit is the second outlet to take up Press+, following its launch on the New Haven Independent site in June.

Journalism Online was launched in April 2009, and won investment from News Corp in June 2010. Its first client was, which began using the Press+ system in July to charge for its access to its obituary pages.

ProPublica announcement at this link.

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