Newsday was one of the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge winners last year, and the idea behind our pitch is relatively simple at a glance: Consolidate all the data that our newsroom has collected through its reporting and turn our organisation into the go-to source of public and vital information for our region.
We can be an even better resource to local non-profits and businesses. We can breathe more life and value into the data work that we have already done. And, we can leverage our position as the local experts of this community.
To execute on our pitch, we have three key focuses we’re pushing forward on: market research, data inventory, and platform development.
We know there’s an appetite for data about Long Island. Through another Newsday project called nextLI, we repeatedly receive requests for the data powering our research and analysis. But for this project we need actionable data on our community’s specific needs and not just anecdotes.
To that extent, we are programming and launching two surveys — a business survey and a community survey — in the coming weeks.
This will allow us to learn what our communities need and prioritise our efforts appropriately.
Our initial inventory surfaced more than 700 unique tables — from opioid deaths to cancer cases, teacher pay to student test scores, and home prices to traffic data. These are the backbone that power our COVID-19 maps, investigative reporting, interactive projects, election sites, and more.
Some of these data live on platforms such as Carto, Flourish, or Tableau. Others exist as MySQL databases. Even more likely, they live as CSV files on staff computers.
Our next step, following the inventory, is to use insights from our surveys to prioritise data we have and compile that which meets the needs of our region.
All of this data has to live somewhere, and we needed a platform we could both build upon and that is accessible to journalists.
This led us to something called Datasette, a free, open-source data exploration and publishing tool that’s already being used by various journalists and newsrooms.
Datasette was designed with journalists in mind, with a plugin-like approach similar to WordPress. What this means is that our team can build additional plugins to fit our needs, but also publish it to the ecosystem for the benefit of our industry.
We also plan on launching a Datasette instance with some of our in-progress plugins enabled for other industry individuals to explore and provide feedback.