Newsday shares challenges of data reporting in its newsroom

By Kai Teoh


Melville, New York, United States


As our team at Newsday continues building out our platform, guided by our market research and leveraging our existing data inventory, we’ve found ourselves facing some challenges as we inch closer toward launch.

Content challenges

Our initial data inventory gave us a good sense of the amount of data-driven reporting our newsroom generates. Yet, as our reporters have increasingly developed their data skills over the past year or more, the sheer output of data stories has been surprising.

The sheer amount of data Newsday has encountered in developing its platform has proven to be a challenge.
The sheer amount of data Newsday has encountered in developing its platform has proven to be a challenge.

The resulting bottleneck of data has shown a great need to:

  • Rapidly finish the platform.
  • Provide training for staff to directly access and upload data to our platform.
  • Track the data sets and projects published since our initial inventory.

On one hand, the amount of data reporting our newsroom is generating bodes well for the future of this product and platform, but it also means a great deal of work is front-loaded.

Thankfully this is something we should be able to address with either robust training, additional staffing, improved platform development of the workflow, or all of the above.

The second content challenge we’re tackling is one many newsrooms are likely to be familiar with as well: a predictable publication schedule. As we start growing our data repository, we find ourselves exploring the possibility of publishing quarterly or annual reports or forecasts based on our data.

Using our prior market research on local business and community data needs, we can create tailored reports in addition to providing our users access to data and visualisation.

Development challenges

What we’ve found far more important than what technology or “stack” we decided to use for our platform was the documentation of our thought process.

For a platform that had to be built in a short amount of time with a small team of designers and developers — many of whom are contractors working only on specific aspects of the project — it was critical to document the “why” behind every decision or step we took.

This helps multiple aspects of our project:

  • It hastens the onboarding process for new staffers, which is vital for a project with anticipated high staff turnover.
  • Every framework, library, and approach to development is a balance between pros and cons. Documentation lets us convey our development priorities explicitly.
  • It tells others the questions we’ve asked and considered. More importantly, it highlights the questions we might not have asked or considered.

Documentation helps immensely. We hope that by documenting what we’ve been learning and facing, other newsrooms looking to launch their own data platform (or that join us by using our Datasette Live suite of plugins) can have a smoother path to their launch.

About Kai Teoh

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