Research notes: Writing stories with code, part 2: conditional leads from trends


See part one here. Get the code, such as it is, here.

When we last left off, we had a script that would loop through a list of data and write a news lead out of it. All that the script did was look at two numbers and decide if the crime rate went up or down and then wrote an appropriate…

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Knight News Challenge Round 3: News Challenge on open gov launches Feb. 12


Photo credit: Flickr user Ed Schipul

The Knight News Challenge on open government will run from Feb. 12 to March 18. It’s an opportunity to win part of the $5 million we’ll use this year to support innovative projects.

We expect the News Challenge to generate proposals to improve the…

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A new project:
It’s a link sharing site similar to reddit and hacking news focused on the intersection of journalism and technology. It’s an instance of the awesome Telescope project. That site and this blog will be sibling projects. 

A new project:

It’s a link sharing site similar to reddit and hacking news focused on the intersection of journalism and technology. It’s an instance of the awesome Telescope project. That site and this blog will be sibling projects. 

Simply Statistics: List of cities/states with open data - help me find more!


It’s the beginning of 2012 and statistics/data science has never been hotter. Some of the most important data is data collected about civic organizations. If you haven’t seen Bill Gate’s TED Talk about the importance of state budgets, you should watch it now. A major key to solving a lot of our…

(Source: simplystatistics)

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Tiny Transactions on Computer Science is an awesome publication

Tiny ToCS is so cool!.

It’s a journal of computer science research, and all the papers are less than 140 characters.

The funny thing: The abstract of each paper have fairly typical lengths of a few paragraphs. So you can load up a pdf, get started reading the abstract and everything seems totally normal, then the body of the paper is super tiny.

One of my favorites:

"When rethinking academic publishing, don’t retrofit a cathedral onto what should be a bazaar."

That’s from “TinyTOCS as an Experimental Laboratory”. 

How might a news organization draw inspiration from Tiny ToCS?

I don’t know, maybe it’s simple: do something awesome.

Don’t just create a blog with wordpress, tumblr, or drupal that plops out clusters of titles, bodies, photos, and videos. 

Build a surprise into your structure.

Make a publication that conveys meaning not just through stories, but in the way the publication is conceived, organized, and distributed.

You should read all the Tiny ToCS papers.

What if news websites had command bars like the new github feature?

It would be awesome!

Go read about Github’s new Command Bar:

Introducing the Command Bar

It’s pretty great. You can run commands to do stuff like follow a user, view a user profile, navigate to a repository wiki, view a specific issue in a project’s issue queue, and a bunch of other stuff.

On a news website a command bar might let us navigate to topic pages, follow users or topic pages, search comments on a post, or maybe even do simple data analysis of the content on a site.

That would be great.

Jared Cohen: Learn the Basics of Computer Science and Web Development


Two and a half years ago, I started doing every computer science and web development tutorial I could find. If I were starting again today, knowing what I now know, I’d do it something like this.

Start with the basics of computer science and programming.

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The FJP: CJR's Required Skimming Lists


This month Columbia Journalism Review has been sharing mini-lists of what their staffers read on various topics. Here’s today’s, “the neat-o list,” most of which we read too.


Alexis Madrigal: A senior editor atThe Atlanticwho writes with playful enthusiasm about innovation,…

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The phrase “vow of chastity” is dumb, but these guidelines for journalism are really great.

From Roy Peter Clarks post, Why nonfiction writers should take a ‘Vow of Chastity’:

1. Any degree of fabrication turns a story from non-fiction into fiction, which must be labeled as such. (A person cannot be a little pregnant, nor a story a little fictional.)

2. The writer, by definition, may distort reality by subtraction (the way a photo is cropped), but is never allowed to distort by adding material to non-fiction that the writer knows did not happen.

3. Characters that appear in non-fiction must be real individuals, not composites drawn from a number of persons. While there are occasions when characters can or should not be named, giving characters fake names is not permitted. (They can be identified by an initial, a natural status “The Tall Woman,” or a role “The Accountant.”)

4. Writers of non-fiction should not expand or contract time or space for narrative efficiency. (Ten conversations with a source that took place in three locations cannot be merged into a single conversation in a single location.)

5. Invented dialogue is not permitted. Any words in quotations marks must be the result of a) written documents such as trial transcripts, or b) words recorded directly by the writer or some other reliable source.  Remembered conversations — especially from the distant past — should be rendered with another form of simple punctuation, such as indented dashes: — like this –.

6. We reject the notion in all of literature of a “higher truth,” a phrase that has been used too often as a rationalization in non-fiction for making things up. It is hard enough, and good enough, to attempt to render a set of “practical truths.”

7. Aesthetic considerations must  be subordinated — if necessary — to documentary discipline.

8. Non-fiction does not result from a purely scientific method, but responsible writers will inform audiences on both what they know and how they know it. The sourcing in a book or story should be sufficient so that another reporter or researcher or fact-checker, acting in good faith, could follow the tracks of the original reporter and find comparable results.

9. Unless working in fantasy, science fiction, or obvious satire, all writers, including novelists and poets, have an affirmative duty to render the world accurately through their own research and detective work. (The poet should not create a piano with 87 keys unless intending a specific effect.)

10. The escape clause: There may be occasions, when the writer can think of no other way to tell a story than through the use of one or more of these “banned” techniques. The burden is on the writer to demonstrate that this is so. To keep faith with the reader, the writer should become transparent concerning narrative methods. A detailed note to readers should appear AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WORK to alert them of the standards and practices of the writer.

Roy Peter Clark developed these guidelines based on Dogme 95, a manifesto by Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg that they devised as standards for filmmaking. Clark’s guidelines are ”not the standards of film-making,” he says, “but the boundaries between fact and fiction.”

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