22 September 2009

Winning Ideas from "Creative Technologists"

"Creative technologists" and their terrific ideas for imaginative journalism were on display this month at the 2009 Knight-Batten Symposium and Awards for Innovations in Journalism, J-Lab Executive Director Jan Schaffer reports.

“Technology is not a slice of the pie of what we do. It’s the pan,” said Ellen Miller. Her Sunlight Foundation is making data available on everything from government contracts to foreign lobbyists.

Among the trends Schaffer highlights this year:

* Making information easy to access, visualize and use. The winners built ways to track changes on government Web sites, fact-check assertions in political debates, find and annotate documents, and mash data sets. “Transparency is the new objectivity,” Miller said -- sounding a lot like the BBC's Richard Sambrook, quoted in in yesterday's Digital Digest post, below.

* Helping citizens track what their elected officials are up to. For instance, The New York Times“Represent” feature lets users track New York state and congressional officials by such things as their floor appearances and Twitter comments.

* Engaging in collaboration and open sourcing. The source codes for winners such as ProPublica’s ChangeTracker are intended to be available to all. "Could we put together a recipe so any reporter could do this?" asked ChangeTracker developer Scott Klein.

The tools these creative technologists are building for citizens also are valuable to reporters. For example, participatory blogs such as Vaughn Hagerty’s MyReporter.com, which collects and answers questions from readers of the regional Star News in North Carolina, gives journalists a real-time window on the interests of local readers.



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