(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
data, newspapers, openness

la times

It Ain't Easy To Get A Newspaper To Provide Useful Data

from the not-their-thing dept

We've discussed in the past the idea that newspapers today need to get beyond reporting the news and also move towards opening up their data such that others can make that data useful. Newspapers have access to all sorts of interesting and useful data -- but traditionally, they've hoarded it and only used it as a resource for editors and reporters in creating stories. However, by opening up that data to others, it could make those news organizations much more valuable. We're seeing some movement in that direction, and recently noted that the NY Times had come out with an API for the campaign finance data it had.

However, one thing that seems clear is that very few newspapers have the resources necessary to do this on a regular basis. The NY Times (and, to some extent, the Washington Post) seems to be willing to invest in this area, but for many newspapers, the entire concept seems foreign. Writing for OJR, Eric Ulken from the LA Times discusses how much effort it took to get the necessary resources just to build a homicide map to go along with a blog that planned to chronicle every homicide in the LA area. If Ulken's experience is any indication, it seems pretty clear that very, very few traditional news organizations are going to be able to pull this off. They're just not set up to do such things.

It seems increasingly clear that these types of innovations are more likely to come from newer news organizations who actually recognize the value of data in addition to straight reporting, and the concept of openness compared to being a gatekeeper.

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  • identicon
    SmartDogs, 25 Nov 2008 @ 8:52pm


    News? Silly me, I thought that the stuff newspapers reported on was opinion. Is there *really* that much bias in news?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bshock, 26 Nov 2008 @ 7:41am

    so if they don't provide useful data...

    Why do we even care about newspapers anymore? I mean, sure, it's sad that people are losing their jobs because of an obsolete business model. But if useful data is readily available from other sources, why are we even talking about newspapers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SpinLock, 26 Nov 2008 @ 2:10pm

    I worked at the AP

    I worked at the AP for 7 years. Now I'm working for a Canadian news agency. The truth of the matter is that most of the data a news organization uses to produce their stories has been purchased from a 3rd-party data provider. That purchase includes a license, and that license usually does NOT include giving away that data to everyone who wants it. If the NY Times or the AP wants to provide open access to raw data they've purchased elsewhere, they're going to have to license it that way, and pay top dollar for such a license.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 21 Aug 2009 @ 6:27pm

    The Mapping Tools are already there

    Full disclosure, I work for a company, GlobalMotion Media, Inc., that specializes in putting the kind of data referred to here, maps and routes and waypoints and stories and photos online. We are happy to host (for free) any article that a journalist wishes to write. We are very interested in working with any news agency that wants to make such content available from its own site, and to a limited extent today, that can be done now using our widget.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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