Posts Tagged ‘news’

Knight News Challenge 2010 Knight News Challenge: TileMapping wants to bring the mashup mentality to local maps

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

[Editor's note: Hyperlocal maps mashing up with local news are about to get much more interesting. If you create city street maps, you should read this article and start researching web Mercator and how to cut your custom cartography into image tiles. Might make a good topic at this year's NACIS meeting in St. Pete.]

Republished from the Nieman Journalism Lab.
By Megan Garber
June 2410 a.m.

Two primary concerns when it comes to news innovation have to do with information itself: harnessing it and investing communities in it. One of this year’s Knight News Challenge winners wants to tackle both of those concerns — at the same time, through the same platform.

Tilemapping aims to empower residents of local communities to explore those communities through mapping. “A lot of great stories can be told using maps and some of the new data that’s become available,” says Eric Gunderson, the project’s coordinator. And the Tilemapping project wants to leverage the narrative power of new technologies to help media — community media, in particular — create hyper-local, data-filled maps that can be easily embedded and shared. The tool is aimed at both journalists and community members more broadly; the idea is to help anyone with investment in a given location “tell more textured stories” about that location — and to help visualize (and discover) connections that might not otherwise be clear.

Tilemapping does what its name suggests: It provides “a tool that basically glues together a bunch of tiles,” Gunderson says, to create a layered map. (Map tiles are the small, square images that comprise maps — think of the squares you see when zooming in on a Google Map.) The project works through TileMill, a MapBox tool that, in turn, “glues together a bunch of other open-source tools to make it easier to generate map tiles.” Users customize both their data and the particular style of their map — and TileMill generates a custom, composite rendering, hosted on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Essentially, the platform is a modular system that allows users to customize the data they want to represent — and to layer them upon other representations to create targeted, contextual maps.

Continue reading at Nieman Journalism Lab . . .

Mountains Out of Molehills (Info is Beautiful)

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

[Editor's note: Captioned "a timeline of global media scares" this illustration from Information is Beautiful charts Y2K, SARS, and Swine Flu using the Google News Timeline resource.]

Republished from Information is Beautiful.

mountains_molehills

Newsmap 2.0: Google News Treemap Visualization

Monday, May 11th, 2009

[Editor's note: A new version of the venerable NewsMap app, the Google News treemap visualization. Refreshed for it's 5 year birthday.]

Republished from Newsmap.jp.

Background: Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap’s objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.

Long time overdue, here comes newsmap 2.0

The new url is at http://newsmap.jp
Still working on a couple of bugs and really trying to push some features I still think as essential.

Before:

After:

New in 2.0 is:

  • rectangularized treemap layout: To accommodate text properly, cells are as rectangular as possible, this there’s more room for headlines without chopping them off in several lines.
  • search as you type: try the new search on the top right, see how newsmap updates.
  • deep linking: you can now deep link to any state of the app. just try updating your view, and notice how the url changes. You can grab and share that url with anyone.

More to come:

  • custom tabs: save your search query as a new tab
  • custom feeds: add your own RSS feeds to the map
  • stats: learn more about your news and how you consume them!

And much, much more!

Interactive: Obama’s Appointments (Kelso via Wash Post)

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

[Editor’s note: I did the Flash ActionScript 3 programming behind Head Count: Tracking Obama’s Appointments. This ambitious, collaborative database-driven project tracks the Obama administration’s senior political appointments and will be kept up-to-date with the latest happenings. A look at some of the interactive features you can find at washingtonpost.com/headcount.]

Interactive graphic and database by Sarah Cohen, Karen Yourish, Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, Ryan O’Neil, Paul Volpe, Sarah Sampsel and Laura Stanton.

This project draws on concepts from these two blog posts in particular: It Ain’t Easy To Get A Newspaper To Provide Useful Data (TechDirt) and The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady (NY Times).

Republished from The Washington Post

Heads Pop Up and Heads Roll: Let’s Keep Track.
By Al Kamen; Wednesday, March 18, 2009; Page A11

Today we launch Head Count, The Washington Post’s interactive database to help you keep a sharp eye on the people President Obama is appointing to the nearly 500 top positions in the federal government that require Senate confirmation. The new feature will not only tell you who they are but also help you count all the demographic beans — age, sex, ethnicity, education (elite schools or not), home states and so on.

At http://www.washingtonpost.com/headcount, you can search agency by agency to determine which jobs are still open, should your private-sector job be looking a little shaky these days. You can also search by individual to determine how many officials in this “change” administration are merely retreads from the Clinton days.

And Head Count will give some clues to help answer everyone’s perennial question: How did that fool get that great job? It will also tell you who paid good, hard money or bundled huge sums for Obama/Biden, who worked on the campaign, who had the coveted Harvard Law connection, hailed from Chicago or was a pal of Michelle Obama, Tom Daschle or Ted Kennedy.

The appointments that are tracked by Head Count do not include judges, ambassadors, U.S. attorneys or U.S. marshals. We’ll monitor those separately. Nor does the database include the many important officials who are not confirmed by the Senate. We’ll be tweaking the database as we go, adding new categories, such as veterans, and making other additions.

Loop Fans can help! If you’ve got information we could use or suggestions about how to improve the site, please submit comments and updates at the link provided on the Head Count Web site.

NOMINATING PARTY

The White House personnel logjam — also known as the Great Daschle Debacle — appears to have been broken. Team Obama’s nominations operation began at a record pace. But IRS problems sparked Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle‘s withdrawal on Feb. 3, leading to a general revetting of nominees that stalled everything.

The numbers are startling. Obama, by the end of his first week in office, had announced 47 nominees for senior-most jobs. He’d officially nominated 37 of them, according to data compiled by New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service Presidential Transition Project. (That number includes some holdovers.)

But in the month after Daschle’s withdrawal, the White House announced only 10 candidates for Senate-confirmed positions and formally nominated only six people.

In the next three weeks, however, the pace ramped up sharply, with 42 nominees named. Official nominations have been slower — only 27 during that time. But there were 15 last week, and we’re told there are plenty in the pipeline. As of yesterday, there were 39 Senate-confirmed individuals on the job. (That includes seven holdovers.)

The push now is to get as many nominees up to the Senate — and get confirmation for the three dozen or so already up there — before the Senate slithers out of town on April 3.

View the interactive at The Washington Post . . .

RUMOR: Google Earth 5 on Monday (Google Earth Blog)

Friday, January 30th, 2009

[Editor’s note: New features are coming to an application near you. Thanks Laris!]

Republished from Google Earth Blog.
Original publish date: January 26, 2009.

Big Google Earth Announcement with Al Gore and More

The tech world was abuzz this weekend with rumors about a big upcoming event concerning Google Earth. WebProNews and AppScout were the first to report on Friday. Google has sent out an invitation to the press, including Google Earth Blog, for a “Special announcement about Google Earth” on February 2nd in San Francisco. And this event looks like it could be the biggest announcement since Google Earth was released! Speakers include: former Vice President Al Gore, CEO of Google Eric Schmidt, VP of Google Marissa Mayer, and Director of Google Geo John Hanke. Wow!

There are no specifics on the announcement mentioned in the invitation. Just some comments about how Google Earth has reached hundreds of millions of people around the world. The last time Google had this many dignitaries to make an announcement for Google Earth was in June of 2006 when they announced the upcoming release of Google Earth 4. Eric Schmidt and the two co-founders of Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) were there for the announcement made by John Hanke at that event. Google Earth 4 introduced photorealistic textures to 3D models, GE for the Mac and Linux, multi-lingual support, and a huge global imagery update covering many countries for the first time.

Another clue for this announcement was some other speakers for the announcement: Sylvia Earle – Explorer-in-Residence for National Geographic Society; Terry Garcia – EVP for National Geographic Society, and Greg Farrington, Executive Director for California Academy of Sciences. The last one isn’t surprising because the invitation says the announcement will be held at the California Academy of Sciences.

The big clue is Sylvia Earle. As pointed out by everyone, Sylvia Earle is a world renowned oceanographer. So, of course, the immediate conclusion is that Google Ocean is finally about to be introduced. Rumors have been flying about Google Ocean for quite a while.

So, clearly Google Earth is going to get some new Ocean-related data. Google just added new detailed ocean floor imagery last week. And, it’s a known fact that several of the parties involved with that also have worked on 3D bathymetry. Google Earth to date has not had many layers which provide data about the ocean. And the ocean terrain has always been flat (2D) in Google Earth. More ocean data is an area I’ve been looking forward to with great anticipation. Especially since this year my wife and I are departing to spend the next five years circumnavigating the oceans by sailboat. Having Google Earth help us explore the oceans will be handy! Google Earth has needed more information about the 75% of the Earth most of us ignore.

I don’t think this announcement will be confined to just Google Ocean though. When Google makes an announcement like this, they always try to push the envelope on multiple fronts. And, with Al Gore headlining the event, I’m sure we’re going to get some data about the environment. I’m expecting lots of new features and data to write about in February. It’s going to be exciting! I just wish I could attend the event myself – but, unfortunately we’ve got plans for next week which keep me from going. But, have no fear, I’ll still be reporting on this major event!

Two new iPhone apps: USA Today and AccuWeather (MacNN)

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

[Editor's note: Two new free mass media apps for the iPhone this week from USA Today and Accuweather.]

Republished from MacNN (1 | 2).

USA Today

USA Today is joining other publications in producing its owndedicated iPhone app, the national newspaper has announced. The app attempts to replicate the look of the paper, and provides access to stories, photos, weather forecasts and reader polls. Stories are divided into News, Money, Sports, Life, Tech and Travel categories; articles can be shared with other people via e-mail, Twitter or text messaging.

Sports figures can also be viewed through a separate tab, and as with AccuWeather’s app, people can access GPS-based weather forecasts when using an iPhone. The Pictures tab presents a gallery of images from each section of the paper, and again allows people to share content with others, though only via e-mail. The USA Today app is a free download from the App Store, but supported by advertising.

AccuWeather premieres GPS-enabled iPhone app

Weather forecaster AccuWeather has released its first, self-named application for the iPhone. As with most weather apps the software concentrates on providing a five-day forecast, with highs and lows as well as cloud conditions. The AccuWeather app is tied into the iPhone’s GPS receiver however, and uses this to automatically determine which forecasts to show.

Current conditions can be viewed in the form of text or radar and satellite views, and users also have access to health information such as air quality, UV levels and flu prevalence. Graphs present the probability of bad weather for the next eight hours, and a video library provides summaries of both weather news and forecasts. The app lastly permits setting Weather Alarms, which warn users whenever levels of fog, rain, snow, ice, wind or lightning reach a certain threshold. AccuWeather is a free download from the App Store.

It Ain’t Easy To Get A Newspaper To Provide Useful Data (TechDirt)

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

[Editor's note: Interesting take on getting old media to get data friendly and generous: seeing the "value of data in addition to straight reporting, and the concept of openness compared to being a gatekeeper." Thanks Katharine!]

Republished from TechDirt. 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 blogthat 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.

Building the Data Desk: Lessons From the L.A. Times (Knight Digital Media Center)

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

[Editor’s note: Great article on how data, including GIS, maps, and Google mashups can be leveraged in news media environments from a veteran of the LA Times. Thanks Aly! (and bon voyage)]

Republished from Knight Digital Media Center (OJR). By Eric Ulken on Nov. 21, 2008.

In early 2007, when the Los Angeles Times launched its Homicide Report blog — an effort to chronicle every homicide in Los Angeles County — it was clear that there were important geographic and demographic dimensions to the information that a blog format wouldn’t fully capture. What we needed was a ChicagoCrime.org-style map that would let users focus on areas of interest to them, with filters that would enable them to “play” with the data and explore trends and patterns for themselves. Problem was, the web staff (of which I was a part) lacked the tools and the expertise to build such a thing, so the blog launched without a map. (Sound familar?)

It took several months to secure the tech resources and a couple more months to create wireframes and spec out requirements for what would become the Homicide Map, with the help of a couple of talented developers and a project manager on part-time loan from the website’s IT department. We were fortunate, of course: We actually had access to this kind of expertise, and since then we’ve hired a couple of dedicated editorial developers. I’m aware that others might not have it so good.

Last week, Robert Niles argued that news organizations should be in the business of creating “killer apps”. Put another way, there is a need to develop tools that hew to the content rather than the other way around. But creating the functionality Robert describes takes a closer connection between news thinking and tech thinking than is possible within news organizations’ traditional structures and skill sets.

In this post, I’ll try to squeeze some wisdom out of the lessons we learned in the process of assembling the Times’ Data Desk, a cross-functional team of journalists responsible for collecting, analyzing and presenting data online and in print. (Note: I left the Times earlier this month to work on some independent projects. I am writing this piece with the blessing of my former bosses there.)

Here, then, are 10 pieces of advice for those of you building or looking to build a data team in your newsroom:

  1. Find the believers: You’ll likely discover enthusiasts and experts in places you didn’t expect. In our case, teaming up with the Times’ computer-assisted reporting staff, led by Doug Smith, was a no-brainer. Doug was publishing data to the web before the website had anybody devoted to interactive projects. But besides Doug’s group, we found eager partners on the paper’s graphics staff, where, for example, GIS expert Tom Lauder had already been playing with Flash and web-based mapping tools for a while. A number of reporters were collecting data for their stories and wondering what else could be done with it. We also found people on the tech side with a good news sense who intuitively understood what we were trying to do.
  2. Get buy-in from above: For small projects, you might be able to collaborate informally with your fellow believers, but for big initiatives, you need the commitment of top editors who control the newsroom departments whose resources you’ll draw on. At the Times, a series of meetings among senior editors to chart a strategic vision for the paper gave us an opportunity to float the data desk idea. This led to plans to devote some reporting resources to gathering data and to move members of the data team into a shared space near the editorial library (see #8).
  3. Set some priorities: Your group may come from a variety of departments, but if their priorities are in alignment, disparate reporting structures might not be such a big issue. We engaged in “priority alignment” by inviting stakeholders from all the relevant departments (and their bosses) to a series of meetings with the goal of drafting a data strategy memo and setting some project priorities. (We arrived at these projects democratically by taping a big list on the wall and letting people vote by checkmark; ideas with the most checks made the cut.) Priorities will change, of course, but having some concrete goals to guide you will help.
  4. Go off the reservation: No matter how good your IT department is, their priorities are unlikely to be in sync with yours. They’re thinking big-picture product roadmaps with lots of moving pieces. Good luck fitting your database of dog names (oh yes, we did one of those) into their pipeline. Early on, database producer Ben Welsh set up a Django box at projects.latimes.com, where many of the Times’ interactive projects live. There are other great solutions besides Django, including Ruby on Rails (the framework that powers the Times’ articles and topics pages and many of the great data projects produced by The New York Times) and PHP (an inline scripting language so simple even I managed to learn it). Some people (including the L.A. Times, occasionally) are using Caspio to create and host data apps, sans programming. I am not a fan, for reasons Derek Willis sums up much better than I could, but if you have no other options, it’s better than sitting on your hands.
  5. Templatize: Don’t build it unless you can reuse it. The goal of all this is to be able to roll out projects rapidly (see #6), so you need templates, code snippets, Flash components, widgets, etc., that you can get at, customize and turn around quickly. Interactive graphics producer Sean Connelley was able to use the same county-level California map umpteen times as the basis for various election visualizations in Flash.
  6. Do breaking news: Your priority list may be full of long-term projects like school profiles and test scores, but often it’s the quick-turnaround stuff that has the biggest immediate effect. This is where a close relationship with your newsgathering staff is crucial. At the Times, assistant metro editor Megan Garvey has been overseeing the metro staff’s contributions to data projects for a few months now. When a Metrolink commuter train collided with a freight train on Sept. 12, Megan began mobilizing reporters to collect key information on the victims while Ben adapted an earlier Django project (templatizing in action!) to create a database of fatalities, complete with reader comments. Metro staffers updated the database via Django’s easy-to-use admin interface. (We’ve also used Google Spreadsheets for drama-free collaborative data entry.) … Update 11/29/2008: I was remiss in not pointing out Ben’s earlier post on this topic.
  7. Develop new skills: Disclaimer: I know neither Django nor Flash, so I’m kind of a hypocrite here. I’m a lucky hypocrite, though, because I got to work with guys who dream in ActionScript and Python. If you don’t have access to a Sean or a Ben — and I realize few newsrooms have the budget to hire tech gurus right now — then train and nurture your enthusiasts. IRE runs occasional Django boot camps, and there are a number of good online tutorials, including Jeff Croft’s explanation of Django for non-programmers. Here’s a nice primer on data visualization with Flash.
  8. Cohabitate (but marriage is optional): This may be less of an issue in smaller newsrooms, but in large organizations, collaboration can suffer when teams are split among several floors (or cities). The constituent parts of the Times’ Data Desk — print and web graphics, the computer-assisted reporting team and the interactive projects team — have only been in the same place for a couple months, but the benefits to innovation and efficiency are already clear. For one thing, being in brainstorming distance of all the people you might want to bounce ideas off of is ideal, especially in breaking news situations. Also, once we had everybody in the same place, our onetime goal of unifying the reporting structure became less important. The interactive folks still report to latimes.com managing editor Daniel Gaines, and the computer-assisted reporting people continue to report to metro editor David Lauter. The graphics folks still report to their respective bosses. Yes, there are the occasional communication breakdowns and mixed messages. But there is broad agreement on the major priorities and regular conversation on needs and goals.
  9. Integrate: Don’t let your projects dangle out there with a big ugly search box as their only point of entry. Weave them into the fabric of your site. We were inspired by the efforts of a number of newspapers — in particular the Indianapolis Star and its Gannett siblings — to make data projects a central goal of their newsgathering operations. But we wanted to do more than publish data for data’s sake. We wanted it to have context and depth, and we didn’t want to relegate data projects to a “Data Central“-type page, something Matt Waite (of Politifact fame) memorably dubbed the “data ghetto.” (I would link to Waite’s thoughtful post, but his site unfortunately reports that it “took a dirt nap recently.”) I should note that the Times recently did fashion a data projects index of its own, but only as a secondary way in. The most important routes into data projects are still through related Times content and search engines.
  10. Give back: Understand that database and visualization projects demand substantial resources at a time when they’re in very short supply. Not everyone in your newsroom will see the benefit. Make clear the value your work brings to the organization by looking for ways to pipe the best parts (interesting slices of data, say, or novel visualizations) into your print or broadcast product. For example, some of the election visualizations the data team produced were adapted for print use, and another was used on the air by a partner TV station.

When I shared this post with Meredith Artley, latimes.com’s executive editor and my former boss, she pointed to the formation about a year ago of the interactive projects team within the web staff (Ben, Sean and me; Meredith dubbed us the “cool kids,” a name that stuck):

“For me, the big step was creating the cool kids team — actually forming a unit with a mandate to experiment and collaborate with everyone in the building with the sole intention of creating innovative, interactive projects.”

And maybe that should have been my first piece of advice: Before you can build a data team, you need one or more techie-journalists dedicated full-time to executing online the great ideas they’ll dream up.

What else did I miss? If you’ve been through this process (or are going through it, or are about to), I hope you’ll take a minute to share your insights.

The World According to Newspapers (Cartograms)

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

(From onlinejournalismblog.com via Aly’s More than this blog)

The cartograms below show the world through the eyes of editors-in-chief, in 2007. Countries swell as they receive more media attention; others shrink as we forget them. (Flash version, more stills)

news cartogram australia

news cartogram paris

new cartogram economist

news cartogram new york times
The World in 2007 According to the New York Times, New York

These maps allow you to grasp several media trends at a glance. First, traditional newspapers are highly selective in their coverage of world news. Looking at the three British dailies, editors favour countries that are bigger and more populous, but also closer to home and better developed. They also give more room to the countries of origin of British immigrants, especially if they are white (look at the size of Australia and New-Zealand). Hardly surprising, but still disheartening, especially when you consider that the only brand that does not advocate objectivity, The Economist, covers the world more equally.

Second, we see that web-only outlets do not offer such a different view of the world. That makes sense, considering the narrowing of the news agenda on the web that was described in the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s latest report. Their lack of resources forces them to contract their scope. Smaller issues are better covered by the blogosphere, which seems unbeatable at providing niche news.

Continue reading on onlinejournalismblog.com . . .