The New York Times has a course to teach its reporters data skills, and now they’ve open-sourced it


Joshua Benton at Nieman Labs: “The New York Times wants more of its journalists to have those basic data skills, and now it’s releasing the curriculum they’ve built in-house out into the world, where it can be of use to reporters, newsrooms, and lots of other people too.

Here’s Lindsey Rogers Cook, an editor for digital storytelling and training at the Times, and the sort of person who is willing to have “spreadsheets make my heart sing” appear under her byline:

Even with some of the best data and graphics journalists in the business, we identified a challenge: data knowledge wasn’t spread widely among desks in our newsroom and wasn’t filtering into news desks’ daily reporting.

Yet fluency with numbers and data has become more important than ever. While journalists once were fond of joking that they got into the field because of an aversion to math, numbers now comprise the foundation for beats as wide-ranging as education, the stock market, the Census, and criminal justice. More data is released than ever before — there are nearly 250,000 datasets on data.govalone — and increasingly, government, politicians, and companies try to twist those numbers to back their own agendas…

We wanted to help our reporters better understand the numbers they get from sources and government, and give them the tools to analyze those numbers. We wanted to increase collaboration between traditional and non-traditional journalists…And with more competition than ever, we wanted to empower our reporters to find stories lurking in the hundreds of thousands of databases maintained by governments, academics, and think tanks. We wanted to give our reporters the tools and support necessary to incorporate data into their everyday beat reporting, not just in big and ambitious projects.

….You can access the Times’ training materials here. Some of what you’ll find:

  • An outline of the data skills the course aims to teach. It’s all run on Google Docs and Google Sheets; class starts with the uber-basics (mean! median! sum!), crosses the bridge of pivot tables, and then heads into data cleaning and more advanced formulas.
  • The full day-by-day outline of the Times’ three-week course, which of course you’re free to use or reshape to your newsroom’s needs.
  • It’s not just about cells, columns, and rows — the course also includes more journalism-based information around ethical questions, how to use data effectively inside a story’s narrative, and how best to work with colleagues in the graphic department.
  • Cheat sheets! If you don’t have time to dig too deeply, they’ll give a quick hit of information: onetwothreefourfive.
  • Data sets that you use to work through the beginner, intermediate, and advanced stages of the training, including such journalism classics as census datacampaign finance data, and BLS data.But don’t be a dummy and try to write real news stories off these spreadsheets; the Times cautions in bold: “NOTE: We have altered many of these datasets for instructional purposes, so please download the data from the original source if you want to use it in your reporting.”
  • How Not To Be Wrong,” which seems like a useful thing….(More)”

Number of fact-checking outlets surges to 188 in more than 60 countries


Mark Stencel at Poynter: “The number of fact-checking outlets around the world has grown to 188 in more than 60 countries amid global concerns about the spread of misinformation, according to the latest tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab.

Since the last annual fact-checking census in February 2018, we’ve added 39 more outlets that actively assess claims from politicians and social media, a 26% increase. The new total is also more than four times the 44 fact-checkers we counted when we launched our global database and map in 2014.

Globally, the largest growth came in Asia, which went from 22 to 35 outlets in the past year. Nine of the 27 fact-checking outlets that launched since the start of 2018 were in Asia, including six in India. Latin American fact-checking also saw a growth spurt in that same period, with two new outlets in Costa Rica, and others in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela.

The actual worldwide total is likely much higher than our current tally. That’s because more than a half-dozen of the fact-checkers we’ve added to the database since the start of 2018 began as election-related partnerships that involved the collaboration of multiple organizations. And some those election partners are discussing ways to continue or reactivate that work— either together or on their own.

Over the past 12 months, five separate multimedia partnerships enlisted more than 60 different fact-checking organizations and other news companies to help debunk claims and verify information for voters in MexicoBrazilSweden,Nigeria and the Philippines. And the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network assembled a separate team of 19 media outlets from 13 countries to consolidate and share their reporting during the run-up to last month’s elections for the European Parliament. Our database includes each of these partnerships, along with several others— but not each of the individual partners. And because they were intentionally short-run projects, three of these big partnerships appear among the 74 inactive projects we also document in our database.

Politics isn’t the only driver for fact-checkers. Many outlets in our database are concentrating efforts on viral hoaxes and other forms of online misinformation — often in coordination with the big digital platforms on which that misinformation spreads.

We also continue to see new topic-specific fact-checkers such as Metafact in Australia and Health Feedback in France— both of which launched in 2018 to focus on claims about health and medicine for a worldwide audience….(More)”.

Journalism Initiative Crowdsources Feedback on Failed Foreign Aid Projects


Abigail Higgins at SSIR: “It isn’t unusual that a girl raped in northeastern Kenya would be ignored by law enforcement. But for Mary, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, it should have been different—NGOs had established a hotline to report sexual violence just a few years earlier to help girls like her get justice. Even though the hotline was backed by major aid institutions like Mercy Corps and the British government, calls to it regularly went unanswered.

“That was the story that really affected me. It touched me in terms of how aid failures could impact someone,” says Anthony Langat, a Nairobi-based reporter who investigated the hotline as part of a citizen journalism initiative called What Went Wrong? that examines failed foreign aid projects.

Over six months in 2018, What Went Wrong? collected 142 reports of failed aid projects in Kenya, each submitted over the phone or via social media by the very people the project was supposed to benefit. It’s a move intended to help upend the way foreign aid is disbursed and debated. Although aid organizations spend significant time evaluating whether or not aid works, beneficiaries are often excluded from that process.

“There’s a serious power imbalance,” says Peter DiCampo, the photojournalist behind the initiative. “The people receiving foreign aid generally do not have much say. They don’t get to choose which intervention they want, which one would feel most beneficial for them. Our goal is to help these conversations happen … to put power into the hands of the people receiving foreign aid.”

What Went Wrong? documented eight failed projects in an investigative series published by Devex in March. In Kibera, one of Kenya’s largest slums, public restrooms meant to improve sanitation failed to connect to water and sewage infrastructure and were later repurposed as churches. In another story, the World Bank and local thugs struggled for control over the slum’s electrical grid….(More)”

A Symphony, Not a Solo: How Collective Management Organisations Can Embrace Innovation and Drive Data Sharing in the Music Industry


Paper by David Osimo, Laia Pujol Priego, Turo Pekari and Ano Sirppiniemi: “…data is becoming a fundamental source of competitive advantage in music, just as in other sectors, and streaming services in particular are generating large volume of new data offering unique insight around customer taste and behavior. (As Financial Times recently put it, the music
industry is having its “moneyball” moment) But how are the different players getting ready for this change?

This policy brief aims to look at the question from the perspective of CMOs, the organisations charged with redistributing royalties from music users to music rightsholders (such as musical authors and publishers).

The paper is divided in three sections. Part I will look at the current positioning of CMOs in this new data-intensive ecosystem. Part II will discuss how greater data sharing and reuse can maximize innovation, comparing the music industries with other industries. Part III will make policy and business-model reform recommendations for CMOs to stimulate data-driven innovation, internally and in the industry as a whole….(More)”

News in a Digital Age – Comparing the Presentation of News Information over Time and Across Media Platform


Report by Rand Corporation: “Over the past 30 years, the way that Americans consume and share information has changed dramatically. People no longer wait for the morning paper or the evening news. Instead, equipped with smartphones or other digital devices, the average person spends hours each day online, looking at news or entertainment websites, using social media, and consuming many different types of information. Although some of the changes in the way news and information are disseminated can be quantified, far less is known about how the presentation of news—that is, the linguistic style, perspective, and word choice used when reporting on current events and issues—has changed over this period and how it differs across media platforms.

We aimed to begin to fill this knowledge gap by identifying and empirically measuring how the presentation of news by U.S. news sources has changed over time and how news presentation differs across media platforms….(More)”.

Finding Crtl: Visions for the Future Internet


Nesta: “In March 2019, the World Wide Web turned thirty, and October will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the internet itself. These anniversaries offer us an important opportunity to reflect on the internet’s history, but also a chance to ponder its future.

While early internet pioneers dreamed of an internet that would be open, free and decentralised, the story of the internet today is mostly a story of loss of control. Just a handful of companies determine what we read, see and buy, where we work and where we live, who we vote for, who we love, and who we are. Many of us feel increasingly uneasy about these developments. We live in a world where new technologies happen to us; the average person has very little agency to change things within the current political and economic parameters.

Yet things don’t have to be this way. In a time where the future of the internet is usually painted as bleak and uncertain, we need positive visions about where we go next.

As part of the Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative – the European Commission’s new flagship programme working on building a more democratic, inclusive and resilient internet – we have created this “visions book”, a collection of essays, short stories, poetry and artworks from over 30 contributors from 15 countries and five continents. Each contributor has a unique background, as most were selected via an open call for submissions held last autumn. As such, the book collects both established and emerging voices, all reflecting on the same crucial questions: where did we come from, but more importantly, where do we go next?

The NGI hopes to empower everyone to take active control in shaping the future: the internet does not just belong to those who hold power today, but to all of us….(More)”.

Regulating disinformation with artificial intelligence


Paper for the European Parliamentary Research Service: “This study examines the consequences of the increasingly prevalent use of artificial intelligence (AI) disinformation initiatives upon freedom of expression, pluralism and the functioning of a democratic polity. The study examines the trade-offs in using automated technology to limit the spread of disinformation online. It presents options (from self-regulatory to legislative) to regulate automated content recognition (ACR) technologies in this context. Special attention is paid to the opportunities for the European Union as a whole to take the lead in setting the framework for designing these technologies in a way that enhances accountability and transparency and respects free speech. The present project reviews some of the key academic and policy ideas on technology and disinformation and highlights their relevance to European policy.

Chapter 1 introduces the background to the study and presents the definitions used. Chapter 2 scopes the policy boundaries of disinformation from economic, societal and technological perspectives, focusing on the media context, behavioural economics and technological regulation. Chapter 3 maps and evaluates existing regulatory and technological responses to disinformation. In Chapter 4, policy options are presented, paying particular attention to interactions between technological solutions, freedom of expression and media pluralism….(More)”.

The Big Nine: How The Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity


Book by Amy Webb:”…A call-to-arms about the broken nature of artificial intelligence, and the powerful corporations that are turning the human-machine relationship on its head. We like to think that we are in control of the future of “artificial” intelligence. The reality, though, is that we–the everyday people whose data powers AI–aren’t actually in control of anything. When, for example, we speak with Alexa, we contribute that data to a system we can’t see and have no input into–one largely free from regulation or oversight. The big nine corporations–Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, Microsoft, IBM and Apple–are the new gods of AI and are short-changing our futures to reap immediate financial gain.

In this book, Amy Webb reveals the pervasive, invisible ways in which the foundations of AI–the people working on the system, their motivations, the technology itself–is broken. Within our lifetimes, AI will, by design, begin to behave unpredictably, thinking and acting in ways which defy human logic. The big nine corporations may be inadvertently building and enabling vast arrays of intelligent systems that don’t share our motivations, desires, or hopes for the future of humanity.

Much more than a passionate, human-centered call-to-arms, this book delivers a strategy for changing course, and provides a path for liberating us from algorithmic decision-makers and powerful corporations….(More)”

How the medium shapes the message: Printing and the rise of the arts and sciences


Paper by C. Jara-Figueroa, Amy Z. Yu, and César A. Hidalgo: “Communication technologies, from printing to social media, affect our historical records by changing the way ideas are spread and recorded. Yet, finding statistical evidence of this fact has been challenging. Here we combine a common causal inference technique (instrumental variable estimation) with a dataset on nearly forty thousand biographies from Wikipedia (Pantheon 2.0), to study the effect of the introduction of printing in European cities on Wikipedia’s digital biographical records.

By using a city’s distance to Mainz as an instrument for the adoption of the movable type press, we show that European cities that adopted printing earlier were more likely to become the birthplace of a famous scientist or artist during the years following the invention of printing. We bring these findings to recent communication technologies by showing that the number of radios and televisions in a country correlates with the number of globally famous performing artists and sports players born in that country, even after controlling for GDP, population, and including country and year fixed effects. These findings support the hypothesis that the introduction of communication technologies can bias historical records in the direction of the content that is best suited for each technology….(More)”.

2018 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report


Report by James G. McGann: “The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world. Often referred to as the “think tanks’ think tank,” TTCSP examines the evolving role and character of public policy research organizations. Over the last 27 years, the TTCSP has developed and led a series of global initiatives that have helped bridge the gap between knowledge and policy in critical policy areas such as international peace and security, globalization and governance, international economics, environmental issues, information and society, poverty alleviation, and healthcare and global health. These international collaborative efforts are designed to establish regional and international networks of policy institutes and communities that improve policy making while strengthening democratic institutions and civil societies around the world.

The TTCSP works with leading scholars and practitioners from think tanks and universities in a variety of collaborative efforts and programs, and produces the annual Global Go To think Tank Index that ranks the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories. This is achieved with the help of a panel of over 1,796 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world. We have strong relationships with leading think tanks around the world, and our annual think Tank Index is used by academics, journalists, donors and the public to locate and connect with the leading centers of public policy research around the world. Our goal is to increase the profile and performance of think tanks and raise the public awareness of the important role think tanks play in governments and civil societies around the globe.”…(More)”.