Banksy banana mastermind?

Banksy banana mastermind?
image from beglen

Friday, February 28, 2014

Steve Doig

In 1992, category five Hurricane Andrew hit the south Florida coast, causing $26 billion in damage and destroying about 49,000 homes. Immediately following the storm, many news outlets published stories of survivors accounts of the disaster. Steve Doig, an associate editor and researcher for the Miami Herald, led a four-month project that used computers to analyze millions of county records that culminated in a 16-page report that was printed nearly four months after the storm hit. The report was titles, “What Went Wrong.”

Ultimately, the analysis of Doig and his team at the Miami Herald  found that the age of buildings directly correlated to the damage received by the storm. In the years leading up to the storm, the county building code was weakened - the direct effect of construction industry lobbying. Weakened building code regulations, combined with what Doig's team identified as an over-scheduled inspection department, led to the United States' most expensive natural disaster of all time.

Without computer-assisted reporting, also known as power journalism, an analysis of such depth would not have been possible.

Twenty-one years late, power journalism is more important than ever. With more records than ever before available, journalists have the ability to quickly compile data sets and find meaningful correlations and relevant trends.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bits Blog

I have been following Bits Blog - a NYTimes business technology blog for at least three or four years.

The blog, which is often featured on the technology section of the NYTimes website covers a wide range of topics (all technology-related) in a variety of writing styles. Some posts are full-fledged articles that could be reprinted in the print edition without a single change, while other posts offer brief commentary on the happenings around the Internet or the greater technology ecosystem.

The blog's writing seems to fit somewhere between the NYTimes technology articles and Scuttlebot, another technology blog that strictly posts NYTimes staff annotated news stories from other media resources.

Why does the NYTimes have Bits blog? Many articles so closely follow the standard newspaper style - what's the point of posting them to this blog instead of directly to the greater technology section? Perhaps NYTimes editors are using blogs as a way to subdivide their standard newspaper sections? Maybe a way to make niche readers more interested in the site?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My first jlog post

This is not a blog.

This, is a jlog. (a "journalism-log" rather than a "web-log"; pronounced like "jog" but with an L after the J)

The purpose of this jlog is analysis. Specifically, numerical analysis.

On this jlog, my goal is not to write stories, but to learn to use numbers to write stories. The rest of the journalism-wide-web can be held accountable for questions, answers and quotations. data46, so it will be named, will be held accountable for one thing only - describing reality with numbers.

Also on data46, there will be no editors. If off-the-cuff numeric analysis can ever exist, it will be found here. Besides, every good jlogger knows that the only real editor on a jlog is the reader.


You are the editors. I will work hard to make sure that my numbers are telling the most accurate stories possible, BUT if my analysis is wrong, false, misleading or obscure it is up to YOU to comment so that both the public and I can be corrected.

On this jlog, comments are where stories are to be pitched. Want a different angle? More data? Tell me and post it.

Here's the thing - the world wide web is stuffed full of professional news organizations that publish mountains of original content - a small portion of which is number-based. Any journalist who has used data to tell a story knows that it can take weeks, months and occasionally years to obtain sufficient anecdotal and numeric evidence required for publication. The process, while long and difficult, is important.

After publication, a numbers story diffuses from its web page on its publisher's website, to the journalism-blogsphere. (note the important difference here between a journalism-blog and a jlog)

The journalism-blogsphere then comments, re-posts, re-hashes, re-words and re-edits the original story.

data46, in hopes of becoming a leader in jlogs, isn't going to do this.

As a jlog, data46 will feature original, numeric-based content. Numbers, data and the search for trends are at the core of this jlog.

Like a journalism-blog, data46 invites readers' (aka editors') comments and feedback. Unlike a journalism-blog, data46 is not going to re-post or comment on other new stories.

data46 also invites professional news organizations to take the data published here and further report on it for formal publication.

And so now we give a cheers to data46 - bound to be a fine jlog - and commence our search for numbers.



PS - food for thought: