Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
With a scripted daily comedy news show, Mic looks to add a little late night TV to the social video mold
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 7, 2013, 11:03 a.m.
Reporting & Production
dallasmap

Dallas Morning News partners with local government group to gather clean, universal crime data

A grant from Knight’s Prototype Fund will pay for a council of North Texas governments to render crime data from dozens of sources into a format journalists and the public can use.

dallasmap

It’s not unusual that The Dallas Morning News is trying to increase its data journalism efforts by launching a crime map. The twist is that they’re partnering with a governmental group to do it.

Through funding from the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund — which also announced seven other new grantees this morning — the Morning News and the North Central Texas Council of Governments will build a standalone community crime site that covers five counties in the paper’s readership area. The plan is for the site to host automated feeds featuring daily incident data plotted on a map, along with crime alerts for users.

“We’re going to be able to use this to spot trends and to find stories that go beyond the big crime”

Knight’s prototype fund offers a small investment — $50,000 or less — to experimental projects in the areas of media and community information; the funding will go to NCTCOG, which maintains the law enforcement data. The Morning News will build the site as an open source project, which could potentially make it replicable by other newspapers.

“In essence, we’re the experts at communicating to the public, and they’re the experts at gathering police data,” said Daniel Lathrop, the news applications editor for the Morning News. “What we’re doing is marrying that together.”

Crime maps are an old standby in news app development, and in most cases the heaviest lifting is the procuring, cleaning, and compiling of data from law enforcement agencies. The Morning News is bypassing that by going directly to the source. NCTCOG is responsible for sharing and maintaining data between different jurisdictions through its Law Enforcement Analysis Portal.

Morning News VP and managing editor George Rodrigue said he doesn’t think partnering with the group represents a conflict of interest, saying it’s no different than the way reporters work with other agencies to obtain usable public data. “If we can give them the news in an accessible, easy-to-understand, convenient, fast form, I think they’ll appreciate that,” he said. The presentation and localization of the data by neighborhood will add value, he said: “I think we need to do more things like this. Clearly just putting words in a newspaper is not going to be enough any more.”

Randy Hunt, program manager for the Law Enforcement Analysis Portal, said its primary job is to facilitate information sharing between police and sheriffs offices within the state. In order for agencies to work together, they need the same data — dispatcher records, jail records, incident reports and more — in universal formats, Hunt said. Working with the Morning News will create a public-facing, community-friendly way to access public safety data, he said.

What the council of governments does, Lathrop said, is help streamline the data acquisition process. The Morning News is able to use stats from the city of Dallas regularly because the data is available in a parseable XML feed, he said. But that’s far from universal among the dozens of other area law enforcement agencies, which makes pulling together and then maintaining incident records across five counties very difficult. And even if that data was readily available, there would likely be interoperability issues — the basic reporting codes for crimes like assault with a deadly weapon can differ across jurisdictions, he said.

Lathrop said he’s excited to build an app that has the potential to find use at different papers around the country. “We’re going to be able to use this to spot trends and to find stories that go beyond the big crime,” he said.

POSTED     March 7, 2013, 11:03 a.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
With a scripted daily comedy news show, Mic looks to add a little late night TV to the social video mold
“We don’t just present a bunch of headlines and say what we think. Our videos are chock-full of facts and research.”
Hoping to redefine “trade publication,” Digiday launches Glossy, a vertical to cover disruption in fashion
“I hate the term ‘trade publication,’ because it implies being a boring cheerleader for the industry.”
The Wall Street Journal website — paywalled from the very beginning — turns 20 years old today
“From the very beginning it was very clear we needed to cover all the same concerns and sensibilities of the print Journal even though we were online and even though we were a young staff.”
What to read next
0
tweets
How Atlas Obscura helps its web audience discover the real world
Events like its upcoming Obscura Day are meant to help the site’s digital readers discover places they previously only read about.
0Inspired by “independent YouTubers,” wary of cable, Vox.com takes its explainer mission to video
“I made one rule starting out: No desks.”
0You can now get personalized Breaking News alerts on Slack
The NBC-owned company’s new Slack bot lets you follow more than 90,000 topics.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Bay Citizen
USA Today
Patch
Newsmax
Apple
Los Angeles Times
NewsTilt
Mother Jones
Tribune Publishing
Wired
Mozilla
McClatchy