What journalists can learn from gamers, using ‘citizen sensors’, and best hits of a data pioneer

As the field grows, and the demands for “data journalists” proliferate, journalists find themselves walking a fine line between embracing technology’s potential in the field, and never losing sight of the crucial role of the journalist — which has traditionally been focused on helping people acquire the tools to make sense of information. This week’s links include stories about how journalists and storytellers are adapting the profession for success in this new world of information, where the data tells the story.

Journalism and Technology

  • What News Nerds Can Learn from Game Nerds, Day One (The ProPublica Nerd Blog)
    In journalism, we’ve heard over and over again that mobile is the future. So what kind of storytelling can we do to take advantage of the fact that if they’re on their smartphone we know our readers’ physical location, and that with the right inspiration, they are willing to move great distances? What if on election day, we could help voters find their most convenient polling locations?
  • The danger of journalism that moves too quickly beyond fact (Poynter)
    The best thinking about journalism’s future benefits from its being in touch with technology’s potential. But it can get in its own way when it simplifies and repudiates the intelligence of journalism’s past. Machines bring the capacity to count. Citizens bring expertise, experience and an expanded capacity to observe events from more vantage points. Journalists bring access, the ability to interrogate people in power, to dig, to translate and triangulate incoming information, and a traditional discipline of an open-minded pursuit of truth. They work best in concert.
  • A pioneer retraces the data trail (The Age)
    Author Simon Rogers founded the Datablog in early 2009 and oversaw it until May 2013 when he became Data Editor at Twitter. This book is a “best hits” compilation, a primer for data journalists and a compendium of weird and wonderful facts.

Sensors

  • Create your own data: using sensors for journalism (Evolving Newsroom)
    The problem with most news apps and data journalism is that they rely on the government to produce the data. If the government keeps numbers and you can pry it loose, game on. But what happens when the government doesn’t keep the data? Or you have a reason to believe it’s fatally flawed? Or what if you just want more
  • Cicada Tracker and the Future of Citizen Sensing (innovationfiles.org)
    The massive cicada bloom that spread across the eastern seaboard this spring is winding down, but its end heralds another gradually emerging entity: citizen sensing. The Cicada Tracker—a community data-gathering initiative for documenting the noisy insects’ emergence from their burrows—was a rousing success, and it should encourage data innovators across the country to think about what a few motivated citizens and some commodity hardware can do for their communities.

Leaks and Drones

  • Search the Offshore Leaks Data (ICIJ – International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)
    The Offshore Leaks Database gives ICIJ an opportunity to reach journalists and regular citizens in every corner of the world, particularly in countries most affected by corruption and backroom deals. ICIJ believes many of the best stories may come from crowdsourcing, when readers explore the database. The public can help us in this critically important work by feeding us further leads about the offshore world that point us to things that might be important.
  • The brave new world of ‘drone journalism’ (Telegraph)
    Privacy campaigners said today that although drone journalism offered “clear benefits” to the trade, a review of laws on surveillance and data protection would be required. Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “Unmanned aircraft with surveillance equipment clearly offer benefits in certain circumstances, including investigative journalism.
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