From the Knight Digital Media Center Conference in LA


I’m at the Knight Digital Media Center (USC based) here in LA at a training for a few dozen journalists. It’s a very impressive group of so-called ‘experts’ and journalists who are soaking in the latest in web reporting, analysis, tools, databases and using the web to involve citizens, to enhance their political coverage this year.

This morning’s panel on new forms of reporting has some really interesting insights (live-blogging here so forgive any typos or errors).

There is a real appetite for innovative approaches to politics on the web, says Matthew Wait, news technologist from St. Pete Times who starts his presentation by saying that he hates politics. When you don’t have a team of seven like the Times does, he suggests crowd sourcing, particularly for local politics. Check out Twine as a local politics meme watcher; Google Docs as a Source Collector. Twitter. Think election day problems for the latter. Long discussion about Polifact which has matured a lot since I first checked it out.

Aron Pilhofer says the NY Times where he leads a team of seven (!) journalist developer types, to work on news-focused, data-drive projects; e.g. ‘web development’ at newsroom speed. (I like that! Really like that.)

There are two kinds of readers at the Times. The Bart Simpson types who want headlines, just the headlines, and the Lisa Simpson types who want depth. Most Times readers want headlines but the Times wants their readers to want more depth. The challenge is to provide that level of interaction that will help people want more depth. How to do that?

Tools for users to explore: Times doing a lot here. 1) Politics map, Released on Super Tuesday. Highest trafficked page on the site on election night. As races unfolded info was updated, You get popups at deeper resolution. 2) Candidate travel map. 3) Using ManyEyes to visualize data and to help build community around it. (Another Sunlight mention for our Earmarks Visualization!) Uses as an example the Gonzales testimony before Congress.

Opportunities for readers to interact with each other. Candidates taking questions on line from citizens. Real Time Investigations mentioned as an example of opportunity to engage people as reporting is happening. gets a mention too.

Create toys for users: games -play the candidate match game;, presidential pong game (on, CBC match candidate to kid photo game. (I’m thinking about our forthcoming game…)

Empowering the nerds among your audience: APIs. Nothing wrong with data dump but as a nerd reader there is nothing they can do with this. He likes this: and then shows a slide of the xmls from …ta da…the National Institute on State Money and Politics! APIs coming soon from the Times.