I want to bring up 5 key themes that keep coming up when we do panels on sensors and journalism. First, here’s how I waded in.
I waded in because I wanted to know what my daughter was breathing on the way to school. The closest EPA sensor is 2miles away. It was 2011, surely we could do better. I got involved with folks trying to do it differently. One of the first people I spoke with was a Columbia geochemist.
A LOT MORE DATA IS COMINGI said we were entering the third stage, and I said that was true. A lot of this new data will still be other people’s, government sensors, commercial products. And we may be combining multiple sources.
Two big opportunities will come out of this. The first is for more traditional reporting: news apps, features, investigation.The second will look like what we see in Civic Media: groups using journalisms ethics to achieve the goals of journalism by means other than reporting.
Point 1: We need to get out of the house.. Find the innovators. Open data, civic media spaces, citizen science. We can partner, help them recruit, publicize their projects, give them media legitimacy. And we can learn from them.
Then there’s that second opportunity, which will be mostly startups (because as bad as we’re doing, media companies are still making money selling information the old fashioned way). These will be networked accountability startups in niche information verticals: environment, health, city infrastructure, etc.
Point 2: We need to work on collaboration, starting with our huge audiences that buy our tote bags and are trying to do more. We have an opportunity to make big issues local, and that’s when people actually care.
The Air Quality Egg got this right and it was trying to make air quality personal and local. It was also a community designed project. At the Chicago hackathon, the city of Chicago was offering to host eggs on city land, but the Air Quality Egg model was adoption. Passionate caregivers trump A+ locations.
I loved how the cicada tracker went community-first and put out something simple and affordable . The story was about participation and anticipation
We need to work on our relationship with the government. It’s frenemies right now. We FOIA them, they subpoena us. But we need to get past that and collaborate on data. They’re understanding that media and citizen data sources supplement the official gaps.
Our audience rightly worries about being tracked, about personal information, about what is being tracked. Will data be used to discriminate? Or embarrass?It happens to reporters too.
Two of the most exciting sensor news stories of the last 6 months were unintentional and they made reporters look bad. The Tesla logs overturned human reporting by the NY Times. Vice Magazine’s editor accidentally disclosed the exact location of John McAfee, courtesy of his phone GPS. There are big opportunities, but we need to take new measures to protect ourselves, our sources, and our audience.
How do we avoid hurting the people we’re supposed to help. We have analogs in our ethics policy but we’re unaccustomed to the speed of new data and the new places it comes from.
Alex Howard talks about this as ownership is basically whoever has it. There isn’t a legal concept of data ownership. Ethics, privacy, data access. It all comes down to ownership.
Much of the new data will be either public works or consumer devices. What kind of access will we have? Summary data? Raw data? Does the public get access to smart city data? Do we get raw data or summary? Just because we buy a device doesn’t mean we own the data it makes.
Finally, we need developers and designers and data scientists, but more importantly we need folks who can do that and are good story tellers. Because we can do cool things…
For example, I may have put a sensor on the NPR candy dish. We can even display NPR health stories to make them feel bad about it. (That’s called a feedback loop)
But is that useful? Developers who are good story tellers know that the data has to answer a question someone cares about. There has to be a story there.
One last point comes from Brian Boyer. Sometimes the data is more interesting than the vizualization. Talented news app developers like Brian know how to code, but story telling is what makes them journalists.
If we’re going to be analyzing our own raw data, we need data science capability in the newsroom. Data needs validation, and we need work just to get it directional.
Sensor value increases with the network. My city’s data might help your city’s project. How can I use your data? We don’t have a massive store to crunch large data sets. I’m confident someone will build this because it needs to exist.