• Blog
  • Informational

Journalism in the Age of Open Data

May 12, 2016 6 mins. read Milena Yankova

Journalism in the Age of Open Data

Comment is free, but facts are sacred.

So wrote CP Scott in his A Hundred Years essay in 1921 to celebrate the centenary of The Guardian and his 50th anniversary as editor there. Some hundred years later, facts are still sacred and open data has enriched those facts. Where journalism is telling a story, open data gives stories new perspectives, more credibility and easier means to explain complex topics to the audience. Share on X

Making Sense of Open Data

Journalists are increasing the value of data for the public by sifting through datasets. Adding visualizations and infographics further enhance journalists’ stories, and shapes new angles to narrate and discuss topics. In a way, data journalists are becoming data providers to the audience and are on the front line making data into knowledge.

Still, datasets need context to turn into insights and stories worth telling. This is where Semantic Technology comes into play to ‘teach’ computers to better understand language and interpret data. The use of semantics in computing discovers relationships between concepts, disambiguates between these concepts and turns unstructured data into structured interlinked content.

For example, the BBC has been using a Linked Data Platform to enrich and structure content with automated metadata-driven web pages.

Structuring and linking open data gives organizations and media publishers the opportunity to build ranking reports, draw trend lines, and offer relevant and insightful content. News on the Web (NOW), a free public service, showcases the opportunities dynamic semantic publishing opens up for all news consumers – media companies, journalists and readers.

Journalism in the Age of Open Data

How Journalism Interacts with Open Data

Technology can do the heavy-lifting with data but journalists are the ones who tell captivating stories, basing their critical analyses, breaking news stories or investigative reporting on open data, among other journalistic tools.

The Washington Post

The Washington Post has published an analysis, based on a wide range of public records, as well as interviews, and sought to identify for the first time every officer who has faced charges for fatal shootings in the US since 2005.

The Washington Post staff was recently recognized as The 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner in National Reporting “for its revelatory initiative in creating and using a national database to illustrate how often and why the police shoot to kill and who the victims are most likely to be.”

The Guardian

The Guardian’s datablog turns the sometimes-boring data into graphics, interactive maps or interesting comparisons. For example, amidst the debate on the future of the UK steel industry, the newspaper website ran in early April the story What the UK could buy for £1.5bn (instead of spending it on Tata Steel)”.

The Guardian looked at how much the UK government has spent in other areas, and compared the costs. Some of the comparisons revealed that the £1.5 billion was enough for half a big new aircraft carrier or 50% of the annual BBC bill.

The New York Times

The New York Times’ TheUpshot section runs live models of the US Presidential race developments in both the Republican and Democratic parties with maps of areas and voting activity.

Bloomberg

Using estimates and data by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN agencies, Bloomberg added visuals to a piece on global obesity and its rise in a report from April 2016. Bloomberg has a graphics section, which contains visualizations on different topics, including a Presidential delegate count updated as precincts report the results of all primaries.

The Wall Street Journal

Last year, The Wall Street Journal created heat maps to show the impact of vaccines and how their introduction resulted in a visible decrease in infections across all US states.  

It is not only open government data that news publishers use.

The Sunday Times

In the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, The Sunday Times created a searchable database of 37,000 names linked to Mossack Fonseca companies after compiling data from the OpenCorporates API.

As we can see, some of the most renowned and well-established news organizations use open data to add more content, dig for more stories and offer more angles to discussing topics. Other journalism endeavors became popular with the rise of technology and data openness.

Independant Newsrooms

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner ProPublica, or as its slogan says ‘Journalism in the Public Interest’, has used open data sources in many of its investigations.

MapLight uses open data and makes available for free use data to reveal money influence on politics. The website contains datasets on campaign contributions to each member of the US Congress; how each member of the Congress voted on every bill; and which interest groups and companies support and oppose key bills.  

In the UK, OpenPrescribing allows GPs, managers and everyone to explore prescribing data in the country. Every month, the NHS publishes anonymized data about the drugs prescribed by GPs. OpenPrescribing makes the raw data files more user-friendly.

Journalism in the Age of Open Data

How Open is Open Data?

It is often the case that governments open sets of data that are sketchy and/or unwieldy. Sometimes databases are updated once a year, at best. At other times, datasets are of questionable relevance and importance to the general public. There are also times when governments are not willing to open certain data, which by itself also tells a story.

Jonathan Stoneman, a former BBC journalist and now a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said last year that the open data community should talk to journalists and journalists should understand what open data is and what it can do for them. He added:

They need to publicize each other; it’s a two-way street and is not happening.

In his working paper Does Open Data Need Journalism?, Stoneman writes:

Journalists will not feel the need to make greater use of Open Data until they see it as a rich seam of material, while data policy-makers won’t feel the need to improve the stream of data until they come under pressure to do so.

The publishing and use of open data – especially outside the US, the UK and the Scandinavian countries – is still something new. And journalists working with open data are not the mainstream.

In its pursuit of truth, transparency and government accountability, journalism can benefit from the opening of more and more data. Governments and authorities, on the other hand, can start relying on journalism to promote the use of open data and its social and economic value.

 

          New call-to-action

Article's content

A bright lady with a PhD in Computer Science, Milena's path started in the role of a developer, passed through project and quickly led her to product management. For her a constant source of miracles is how technology supports and alters our behaviour, engagement and social connections.

Linked Data Solutions for Empowering Analytics in Fintech

Read about how FinTech can use the power of Linked Data to put data into context and expose various links between these concepts.

Semantic Technology: Creating Smarter Content for Publishers

Learn how semantic technology helps publishers create better content publishing workflows and improved content consumption for readers.

The 5 Key Drivers Of Why Graph Databases Are Gaining Popularity

Read about the 5 key characteristics of graph databases – speed, meaning, answers, relationships, and transformation.

GraphDB Migration Service: The 10-Step Pathway from Data to Insights

Welcome to our GraphDB Migration Service that helps you prepare for migrating your data to GraphDB, walks you through the setup and monitors performance.

Fighting Fake News: Ontotext’s Role in EU-Funded Pheme Project

Read about the EU-funded project PHEME aiming to create a computational framework for automatic discovery and verification of information at scale and fast.

Semantic Technology: The Future of Independent Investment Research

Learn how independent research firms use cutting-edge technologies to add value to research pieces and monetize the content they offer.

Top 5 Semantic Technology Trends to Look for in 2017

Read about the top 5 trends in which Semantic Technology enables enterprises to make sense of their data and fine-tune their offerings to customers.

Ontotext’s 2016: Our Top 7 Webinars Of The Year

Data shows that in 2016 we had a total of 22 webinars that attracted over 7 000 people – here are the 7 best webinars!

Ontotext’s 2016: What Did You Liked The Most On The Blog

Nearly 10 000 people read our blog in 2016 and the following 5 posts gathered most interest.

Linked Data in Regtech: Boosting Compliance and Performance

Learn how regulatory technology, coupled with semantic technology, can help enterprises and financial institutions reduce exposure to risk.

How Data Integration Joined the Music Hit Charts

Learn how today it is the Internet, data integration, and tailored recommendations that stage the music scene for the new Bob Dylans.

Open Data Innovation? Open Your Data And See It Happen

Learn how open data trend-setting governments and local authorities are opening up data sets and actively encouraging innovation.

Linked Data Innovation – A Key To Foster Business Growth

Learn how freely available and machine-readable Linked Open Data enriches organizations’ data and helps them discover new links and insights.

Linked Data Approach to Smart Insurance Analytics

Read about how Linked Data and semantic technology can enrich data and pave the way to advanced analytics.

Linked Data Paths To A Smart Tourism Journey

Read about how the tourism industry can benefit from Linked Data and big data analytics for wiser investments and higher profits.

Linked Data Pathways To Wisdom

Learn about the linked data pathways to wisdom through ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘how to’ and, finally, ‘what is best’.

Taking Semantic Web to its Next Level with Cognitive Computing

Learn about the new age of cognitive computing and integrating its concepts into two decades of semantic web growth.

Open Data Play in Sports Journalism And EURO 2016

Read about how open data gives those modern-day Sherlocks the bases of their stories.

Open Data Sources for Empowering Smart Analytics

Learn how Open Data and how more businesses use data analytics to gain insights, predict trends and make data-driven decisions.

Journalism in the Age of Open Data

Learn how governments and authorities can start relying more on journalism to promote the use of open data and its social and economic value.

Building Linked Data Bridges To Fish In Data Lakes

Learn how enterprises can build bridges to extracting more powerful and more relevant insights from their Big Data analytics.

Open Data Use Cases In Five Cities

Learn how London, Chicago, New York, Amsterdam and Sofia deal with open data and extract social and business value from databases.

ODI Summit Take Out: Open Data To Be Considered Infrastructure

Learn about The ODI’s second Summit with prominent speakers such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Martha Lane Fox and Sir Nigel Shadbolt.

Highlights from the “Mining Electronic Health Records for Insights” Webinar

Read some of the Q&As from our webinar “Mining Electronic Health Records for Insights”.

Highlights from ISWC 2015 – Day Three

The 14th International SemanticWeb Conference started three days ago and Ontotext has been its most prominent sponsor for 13 years in a row.

Highlights from ISWC 2015 – Day Two

The 14th International SemanticWeb Conference started three days ago and Ontotext has been its most prominent sponsor for 13 years in a row.

Overcoming the Next Hurdle in the Digital Healthcare Revolution: EHR Semantic Interoperability

Learn how NLP techniques can process large volumes of clinical text while automatically encoding clinical information in a structured form.

Highlights from ISWC 2015 – Day One

The 14th International SemanticWeb Conference started three days ago and Ontotext has been its most prominent sponsor for 13 years in a row.

Text Mining to Triplestores – The Full Semantic Circle

Read about the unique blend of technology offered by Ontotext – coupling text mining and RDF triplestores.

Text Mining & Graph Databases – Two Technologies that Work Well Together

Learn how connecting text mining to a graph database like GraphDB can help you improve your decision making.

Semantic Publishing – Relevant Recommendations Create a Unique User Experience

Learn how semantic publishing can personalize user experience by delivering contextual content based on NLP, search history, user profiles and semantically enriched data.

Why are graph databases hot? Because they tell a story…

Learn how graph databases like GraphDB allow you to connect the dots and to tell a story.