“Whether it is EU spending data, development aid data or crime data, data driven journalism can facilitate public engagement with issues dealt with by public bodies and international organizations, thus enriching the public debate around them.” – Data Driven Journalism
Data journalists, like corporate executives, are tasked with harnessing big data for maximal return; for journalists, the profit is a more democratic society. Increasingly, incubators and grantmakers are supporting those Alex Howard calls, “ambitious, smart, social entrepreneurs who want to start civic startups” that leverage data for social change. The Knight Foundation for journalistic research has now joined the ranks of initiatives like Code for America Civic Accelerator, Omidyar Foundation and Google.org to fund such data journalist projects. Round 2 of the Knight News Challenge now focuses on data and how to make it relevant and accessible to the public.
Given that 90% of the world’s data has been created in just the last two years, making massive amounts of information intelligible to a broad audience is no small feat. As Data Scientist, Ben Fry explains in the “Journalism in the Age of Data” series, which the Knight Foundation funded for 2009-2010, the task for the data journalist is to seek out new ways to make a broad community interested in the topic, not through numbers but engaging writing and artistic visualizations. Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovations explains that the initiative is still exploring how to make results applicable and understandable beyond academia. “[Some] of these resources will go to hold gatherings, to send people out from Columbia to disseminate [research] and also to produce findings in a way that can be moved very easily around a digital ecosystem…if we did all of this — and it got captured behind ivy walls — it’s not beneficial to the industry.”
Offering several funding options, including grants, PRI, and equity investment, people of all ages (the competition is literally even open to child prodigies), and organizational backgrounds can submit ideas for: “Tools and approaches that use data in new, civically valuable ways” including manners of assembling “new data no one has gathered before, using data for novel applications in journalism or media, or making it useful or interactive for a new audience.”
For more information about the challenge, visit the Knight Blog.