Data = Content: Content = Data

Mark Potts had some nice things to say about the new version of PolitiFact that we recently launched. But one of the things he wrote I wanted to amplify:

None of this really looks like traditional journalism. The Obameter doesn't follow conventional story formats in any way, and is really a hybrid between data, reporting, news and information presentation. We need to see a lot more of this. There are a many different ways to tell a story, especially online, and the more experimentation we see with journalism forms, the faster the state of the art will evolve and thrive.

PolitiFact may not look like tradional journalism, but it very much is. It's a story type that's been around for decades, a type of accountability journalism that's been around much longer than that. The difference is that we aren't just creating a field for a headline and a field for a story and calling it quits. The difference is that we view content as data and the database as an act of journalism in itself. Each promise in the database is a piece of journalism and a piece of data. And all the acts of journalism that combine to make up the database form one meta act of journalism. But without using data as an organizing principle, most of what makes PolitiFact more than just a collection of stories would be impossible.

I see too much "innovation" going on far away from the core product -- Video! Twitter! Social Networks! -- and not enough innovation happening at the atomic level of journalism -- the story. Yeah, yeah, I know: your CMS sucks, it won't do anything, blah blah blah. We're going to ride that excuse right into the grave. Well, if newsroom content systems can't do it, it's time to start building new structures for stories and ripping that content right out of the hands of the CMS.

By: Matt Waite | Posted: Jan. 19, 2009 | Tags: Journalism, Databases | 2 comments