This is a coverage page rough, contemporaneous notes of the second day of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission workshop: "From Town Crier to Blogggers: How Will journalism Survive the Internet Age," held Dec. 1-2, 2009, in Washington, D.C., at the FTC's 601 New Jersey Avenue offices. Your scribe is Bill Densmore, a fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. Of course we've tried to provide accurate quotes and summaries. But the FTC has stenographers recording all of the testimony and that should be your definitive source. The home page for this coverage is http://www.newshare.com/wiki/index.php/ftc
- 1 PANEL: Reducing the Costs of Journalism -- Wed., Dec. 2, 1 p.m., FTC
- 2 With him: Eric Umansky, senior editor ProPublica; co-founder, DocumentCloud
PANEL: Reducing the Costs of Journalism -- Wed., Dec. 2, 1 p.m., FTC
Aneesh Chopra, assistant to the president, U.S. chief technology officer
Making access to government information "more frictionless" can help journalism.
White House visitor logs: available through data.gov
"Unprecedented amounts of performance statistics:
Example: the graduation rate in my community, compare with others.
Reporters and the public and request on data.gov information they want to get from the federal government. There will be a directive to agencies about how to "operationalize" this process.
They are working on technology standards about how we as Americans consumer our medical attention. This process hasn't had that much attention in the media.
He says "we must make government more participatory." They threw open the doors of this process. It was the Huffington Post Innovation Fund which has sent news media to investigate their prepartion of these health standards. "I just found it curious that while this significant policy issue ... lacked the traditional attention."
The last pillar: Collaboration. "Increasingly we are relying on the American people to help us with the implementation of policy."
How do our operational systems incorporate new media inputs -- Twitter feeds for example -- in this Operationalizing of more open government.
"We're serving it up in a more cost-effective way the information you need to hold public officials accountable. Now the interesting question will be who will come and cover it?"
Bill Allison, editorial director, the Sunlight Foundation
He used to be with the Philadelphia Inquirer. He talks about what the Sunlight Foundation does. A lot of it is bringing together different public and government data sets and mashing them for insightful results.
There should be a set policy for releasing federal data quickly. It should be quick and in a uniform format.
James Hamilton -- Duke University
He's talking about the supply side of journalism. He is working to develop at Duke a field called computational journalism. The government funds software development for defense purposes and some of that software finds public use. It does so because it consider defense a "public good." He's hoping that academia can play a role in developing open source software -- maybe with government help on the grounds it is a public good.
"What we hope to see is the development of open source reporting tools that will lower the cost of reporters discovering stories," says Hamilton. "we see this as the start of storymaking."
Aron Pilhofer, editor interactive news technologies, NY Times, co-founder Document Cloud
With him: Eric Umansky, senior editor ProPublica; co-founder, DocumentCloud
DocumentCloud was started with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It's a two-year project to take original source documents that journalists obtain via FOIA or other sources, and index them to make them more findable and sharable.
"I don't think nimbleness and size are necessarily mutually exclusive," says Pilhofer. "Think of it as a card catalog, an index, of documents." They will process documents to make it much easier to extract entities. He is showing a prototype. It's easier to show than to explain, he says.
The left screen is for saved searches, the right side displays documents that result form your search query. You can cluster documents. Pilhofer: "To start to treat documents like structured data -- columns and rows -- rather than the blunt instrument like a Google search."
He says they are using OpenCalais to run this service. As an add-on, they've built a document viewer which works with the service.
What can you do with your docs?
- You can create a cluster of documents that you are working with.
Pilhofer said you might ask the qeustion, will independent news organizations agree to put their source documents in a database like this. He replies: "The answer so far is a resounding yes."
According to Umansky: Organizations that contribution documents can keep those documents on their own site. "We are not talking about a central repository here ... we will operate much more like a search engine. When you click on the document, you will go to the contributing organizations website."
Bill Adair, editor PolitiFact, St. Petersburg Times Washington bureau chief
It was started to fact-check the political candidates.
It's tallying how Obama is keeping his promises. They are sorted by category. So far there are seven broken promises. What they fellow is shows transparency about their sourcing for reaching their decision about how to rate the meter.
The most popular feature is the truth-o-meter. They listen to political discourse on any given day and rate the accuracy of it.
Lisa Miller, president/CEO of PUblic Radio International
She's listened to many sessions about the future of journalism.
"We are suffering from a journalism scope and quality problem in America," says Miller. She says it is more than a journalism business-model problem. Key beats are not being covered. It's a result of incentives in the commercial sector and the cutbacks we've seen.
They have a "galvanizing journalism model" at PRI:
- Meet the need. What are the unmet content needs that Americans have in terms of functioning in our democracy? This means making the local to global connection and having content that meets the changing faces of America.
- Focus on context each day -- on contextualized journalism responsive to the news cycle.
- Leverage the power of partnership to tell stories differently. Focus on nonduplication of resources. Partnership done right can be 3-5 times more efficient than traditional journalism vertical organizations. Look at your editorial capacity as the start not the end.
- Parter more with the public and blogs, to provide eyewitness accounts and crowdsourcing to cover complex subjects togheter.
- Help people to do journalism. It's not enough to create the content.
- Model the transparency that we seek in others. Use semantic web to help people make connections and understand our content better.
Bill Buzenberg, executive director, Center for PUblic Integrity
He explains CPI's "Who's Behind the Financial Meltdown," story. The subprime 25. It is still online and it is still being used by attorneys general. The work in all 50 states, tracking ethics laws to see who is making their information transparent on conflicts of interest. Michigan, Vermont and Idaho have no disclosure laws for their members.
"It's changing who is running for office," in Louisiana.
the center has two partnerships. They work with 100 journalists internationally, and they have started a U.S. investigative-center collaborative over the summer.
Chopra, from the White House: "I'm taking copious notes, because you learn a lot on these sessions. We act, literally in days. Several things have come out of this that I'm confident we will take action on in days."
- Nothing can be done that's better to cleanse the data than to disclose it.
- The notion of scoring has an amazing impact. It galvanizes politicians to want to increase their score. "These create feedback loops that then lead to action."
I think this was said by Eric Umansky, but need to check:
"We're not seeing the whole White House visitors log," for the administration to say they are being transparent, uh, uh. I'm not on there, and I've gone. I think we need to hold them accountable when they say that."
General panel discussion: Government databases are generally dirty and poorly formatted. At the Center for Public Integrity they have teams of researchers who spend months and months and months cleaning up data.
Bill Allison says the problem is much of these databases are legacy systems. There are new technologies to clean up this data. Sunlight is working on something called Matchbox which cleans things up. "There isn't a commitment inside the federal government to producing these records in a clean, usable format," says Allison.
Jay Hamilton: The biggest market failure is at the state and local level." In North Carolina more public meetings are being held closed in violation of the law. "And officials say we know you are not going to sue us because you've already fired half your staff," says Hamilton. "At the state and local level, the news is even worse."
Umansky says database reporting can save a lot of reporting time.
Jay Hamilton: Last year he applied for an NSF grant to develop public-interest reporting software. The academic comments were bimodal. One set said you can't possible develop this. The other said, we already do this. The opportunity was completely lost on the agency.
Alisa Miller: PRI has been impressed by the cumulative effects of reporting. When they launched The Takeaway morning news program with the NYTimes, WNYC, WGBH and the BBC, it was an example of instead of paying for correspondents around the world, they were able to leverage resources. She talks about a public-media platform -- an application layer or API "that allows us to pool our content that then allows developers to create new applications on top of it ... so we can link this public-media universe." This would be both in generating and distributing content.
Bill Buzenberg: How does CPI work with other organizations? They do a lot of phone collaboration. They just did a piece on campus assaults around the country. "There's a lot of back and of forth in this virtual way of working that is very efficient."
Bill Adair: He notes that on the panel, only he and Aron Pilhofer are still within for-profit media companies. "There just isn't enough foundation money out there that is going to pay for a ProPublica in every state." He hopes to find media companies that still want to turn a profit.
The NYTimes is partnering with a lot of non-profits now in ways they wouldn't have done so in the past. For profits will realize this is smart to have more impact and foster their journalistic mission. The non-profits which are so new will be able to amplify their impact by working with legacy organizations.
What about partnering with the public?
Alisa Miller: The TakeAway uses technology to reach out and incorporate the public.
Bill Allison mentions Capitol News Connection, which has a feature where you can type a question on their website for your congressman, and they will seek out the congressman and ask it.
-- PANEL ENDS --