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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Major News Organizations Protest Secy. of State Ditching Press

The Poynter Institute reports that bureau chiefs from major news organizations sent a letter to the State Department protesting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s decision to travel to Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo without any traveling press.

CNN’s Jake Tapper called the trip "insulting to any American who is looking for anything but a state-run version of events."

A dozen news organizations signed the letter including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the wire services, Fox News, CNN, NPR, the BBC, Voice of America, the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy, and the Agence France-Presse

The ProPublica Data Store

ProPublica, the independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, announced today the launching of “the ProPublica Data Store.”

The store includes links to open government data and links to raw, as-is datasets ProPublica has obtained from government sources. Data that ProPublica has assembled by scraping and assembling material from web sites and out of Acrobat documents and has cleaned or merged from different sources in a way that’s never been done before, are available for purchase. All these datasets are from a growing collection of the data ProPublica has used in its reporting.

For datasets that are the result of significant expenditures of ProPublica’s time and effort, they charge a reasonable one-time fee: In most cases, it’s $200 for journalists and $2,000 for academic researchers.

Want to help make FOIA requests easier and faster? Chip in to FOIAmachine kickstarter

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) has a KickStarter campaign to raise money to build FOIAmachine. What’s FOIA you ask? Find out more about [[Freedom_of_Information_Act|Freedom of Information Act]] (FOIA).

FOIAmachine will help journalists, researchers and the public submit FOIA requests, track their progress through the Federal government bureaucracy, and post documents from successful FOIA requests online for public access. While they’ve made their original goal, they’re looking to stretch it in order to build out additional features and host open records training in 5 states. I’m a backer and you should be too. You’ve got 3 days to help CIR meet their goal and help make FOIAmachine a reality.

Video: The Basics of Data Journalism (April 11, 2013)

Video from NPR Digital Services on the value of government information resources in journalism. Provides examples of data driven stories, discusses where to find data and how to effectively use data without making “rookie mistakes.” Also contains information on using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get data not currently accessible.

If you watch till the end, you’ll see a mention of the usefulness of the State Agency Databases project at about 52:00.

The Basics of Data Journalism (April 11, 2013) from NPR Digital Services on Vimeo

Separating what we do from how we do it

There are a lot of parallels between journalism and librarianship and between newspapers and libraries in the digital age. In a recent article, one journalist has suggestions for journalists that, I believe, have analogies for librarians. One useful idea: the need for mentors (with lots of experience) for the new generation of librarians.

  • Why we need to separate our stories from our storytelling tools, By David Skok, Nieman Journalism Lab (Sept 28, 2011).

    In the digital world, the tools we use to tell the world’s stories — Twitter, Google, Facebook — control us as much as we control them. I am a digital journalist, and I’m enthusiastic about what our new platforms can provide us in terms of telling stories. But I also wonder whether we’re letting our tools define, rather than serve, the stories we tell.

    …Twitter, Google, and Facebook — to take the most prominent examples — are wonderful tools that open up a whole new universe of communication, interaction, and reporting. But that’s all that they are: tools. And they are tools, of course, that are provided by profit-driven companies whose interest lies as much in their own benefit as our own.

    …And the onus is on digital journalists to welcome veteran reporters into the future’s fold — to help them navigate the new tools that will inform, if not define, the shape journalism takes going forward.

    But the onus is also on digital journalists to learn from the veterans — to learn reporting methods and narrative techniques and skills that have nothing to do with Google or Facebook or Twitter, and everything to do with journalism as it’s been practiced throughout its history. The veterans may not be able to show you how to create Fusion tables, but I can promise that, from them, you’ll learn something new that will help your reporting more than the latest tools ever could.

As a companion piece on a different, but related, subject I like this article from the new blog at the Chronicle

  • Curate for What Ails Ya, By Ben Yagoda, Chronicle of Higher Education Lingua Franca blog (September 28, 2011).

    [The web] has developed in a such a way that raw data are sorted and organized not by human hands but by algorithms (number of page views, number of thumbs-up, Google’s secret sauce, Wikipedia’s universal access and veto power) that are certainly democratic and often useful, but just as often bring in too much noise and too much funk.

    Curating the word and curating the phenomenon suggest a welcome recognition that some situations demand expert taste and judgment.