Journalism should be reproducible

The idea came a month ago: “journalism should be reproducible.” After a conversation with Miles this weekend, I’d like to explore this further.

First point: Let’s approach journalism as the science for civic participation. Give journalism the goal to help us improve our standards of living, create a more just society, and so on. Make the goals measurable in various ways, and we can track our progress towards them.

Science, according to Wikipedia, “builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world.” A report in a scientific journal has an abstract, methodology, presentation of the data, discussion and conclusion. News articles typically have the first and last. They’re missing two critical pieces: presentation of the data and the methodology used to collect the data. Reproducibility is a vital aspect of the scientific method (related: Jonah Lehrer has a fascinating article on this topic in the New Yorker). Continue reading “Journalism should be reproducible”

Universities as hubs of journalistic activity

In the first Carnival of Journalism of the new year, David Cohn asks: How do we increase the role of higher education as hubs of journalistic activity?

First, the why. Educational institutions often have long-standing ties to a local community, both in terms of physical location as well as relationships. In New York City, there are families with multiple generations who have attended CUNY. Educational institutions are also in a unique position where they have access to continually fresh human capital. These are the strategic advantages.

As to the how, there are dozens of projects we could embark on. For instance, we could team with computer science students build a tool that maps a community’s information needs. Or we could offer low-cost multimedia reporting courses to active community members in hopes they will take the initiative to cover their own neighborhoods. Or we could reorient the entire institution to be a working newsroom and task hundreds of students as boots-on-the-ground reporters. Continue reading “Universities as hubs of journalistic activity”

Tuesday night distraction: Versioned Data Carnival of Journalism

A few days back, Saturday to be exact, the crazy notion I should spend dozens of hours doing content analysis on The Locals came to my mind. For my Carnival of Journalism blog post, I want to paint a clear picture of what university-sponsored hyperlocal journalism is like today. This can then be a foundation for any bushy-eyed speculation I might do about the future.

Sunday evening, I created a Github repository for two reasons: to see how my code is evolving and to track step by step how I’m putting this data together. After all, journalism must be reproducible.

Now that it’s closer to deadline, I want to open the floor. What data points would you like to see established about The Locals? As of right now, I know that the LEV (Local East Village) produced 100 blog posts in November 2010 from 29 authors and 19 community contributors. The FGCH (Fort Greene-Clinton Hill) produced 105 blog posts in November 2010 from 23 authors and 23 community contributors. The rest of the questions I’ve established are in my research notes.

P.S. Another part of the experiment is to see how well Git works as a versioned authoring tool.