Disaggregation and collection

“I think when people used to say ‘we have unlimited space online,’ they thought about longer stories with more sidebars. What if we use it to ‘show our work’ instead?”

Journalists make lots of data. We compile and cross-reference to make sense of a difficult story. In 2017 and beyond, I think we will see more publication of what we’ve collected as its own kind of journalism.

ken-schwenckeIt’s nothing new: The Washington Post’s Fatal Force, the Los Angeles Times’ Homicide Report, The New York Times’ list of Trump insults, even David Fahrenthold’s notebook of charity donations. Projects that bring the reader along for the ride and invite exploration.

Publishing what we’ve collected brings some transparency to our work, and as new crops of digital journalists fill the ranks of newsrooms, the desire to do more with the building blocks of a story will continue to grow.

What’s more, as computers get faster and browsers get better, we can start showing you these individual pieces in one place. Where for some time displaying and filtering thousands of items on a page was prohibitive, new technology makes this a more viable proposition with less overhead.

I think when people used to say “we have unlimited space online,” they thought about longer stories with more sidebars. What if we use it to “show our work” instead?

Ken Schwencke is a journalist and developer at ProPublica.

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