The importance of data

OnlineJournalismReview interviewed Gary Kebbel, journalism program officer for the Knight Foundation, about the new Knight Grants. Here’s a highlight on the grant to EveryBlock:

OJR:Adrian Holovaty won $1.1 million for his open-source software
idea. What stood out about his project?

Kebbel: First of all, it’s an extension of his current
ChicagoCrime.org, but it’s Chicagocrime.org on steroids. It’s going to take
every possible public database that makes sense–whether that’s global or
regional or national–and combine it in a way where you type in your address and
you find out everything going on on your street or in your neighborhood. You can
find out where there’s a new school proposal, or where a restaurant is going to
be shut down, or if the city has decided to change trash pickup regulations.

Key phrase: every possible public database. That’s prime territory for newspapers and their affiliated websites. Newspapers have reporters and data experts who already know where those databases are, how to obtain them, and which ones have the best information. They know the pitfalls and they know how to move efficiently to make the most of these crime datasets (as crime maps, for example), teacher salary datasets, home sales datasets, and more. If newspapers are slow to act, others will grab that space, just as Craig Newmark grabbed the free classified space. The Knight Foundation is helping point the way, but smart newsrooms are already moving rapidly in the right direction.

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