Friday, February 01, 2008

'Data ghettos' and localized news

As I reported The other day, the discussions surrounding Adrian Holovaty's new Everyblock project are interesting. At the posting by Mark Schaver I linked to, the comments are worth a read on the topic of raw data, how newspapers deal with them, and the value to local residents.

On his own discussion of the topic, Matt Waite says he calls such 'data dumps' Data Ghettos, and wonders if just posting them is enough:
Journalists are supposed to add context and value to information. Heaving databases online should be no different.

Derek Willis discusses too, in Everyblock and the definition of news.
...the site isn’t meant to compete with existing news organizations but rather to supplement their efforts. And one way I think EB will do that is by giving readers some of the powers that news organizations have always kept, starting with the power to decide what is and isn’t news.

On all these postings, there is lively discussion in the comments, worth reading as much as the initial postings.

It's fascinating to see these discussions happening now, so many years after some newsroom data folks like like those at the News and Observer and other papers began to imagine them. I posted a bit about this, mentioning the Miami Herald's Rich Gordon back in October, and he sent me a link to some of his current thoughts. Meanwhile, the list of papers putting raw data online keeps increasing.

I don't know how much readers actually use this sort of data. I'm sure there is a market for it. But one thing I do know: it's invaluable for news reporters, bloggers, and other interpreters, and just having it easily available makes it possible for them to use the data to add meaning and value to it for their readers.

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