Since 2013, The Associated Press has been making an intentional effort to put data in the hands of local reporters. In the last few years, this meant assisting with Freedom of Information Act requests and putting a team of four engineers to work building visualizations and extracting insights from massive spreadsheets. Today the AP is entering into a joint pilot program with Data.world to equip reporters with granular, local, data for more telling stories.
Data.world is a platform for hosting and collaboratively analyzing data. As a registered B corp, the startup is on a mission to maximize its social impact — today’s partnership with the AP being no exception. The beauty of the Data.world platform is that users can set their own permission settings for individual data sets. This means that the AP can import its data and hash out conclusions in private before expressing confidence and opening up the work to readers.
“We wanted a platform focused on the data,” explains Troy Thibodeaux, data journalism team editor at the AP. “Other things were more visualization platforms but we wanted our users to get to the data and understand it better.”
Thibodeaux and his team thought about building their own platform, but ultimately decided to give Data.world a chance. In the past, the AP had done individual websites for each of their data distributions. But the new platform does more than just improve the accessibility of data, it makes it possible to pull together public and private data for better context — enabling ideas to mix that otherwise wouldn’t.
As a cooperative of contributing news agencies, the AP is a prime hub for distributing data. Local newspapers receiving distributions can reframe the insights to suit their audience.
“Recently we did a data distribution about refugees and where they ended up in the U.S.,” added Thibodeaux. “We looked at seven countries and ten years of immigration data. We did a small story that was just a summary of the data, but our membership did a lot with that data.”
The AP will have some work ahead of it to teach newsrooms how to make the most of the new resources. But when the entire system is working effectively, the resulting data-driven local journalism will improve trust, transparency and relevance in news.