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Explore Google's Journalist Studio
A recent update adds to this useful collection of tools
Google recently updated Journalist Studio, a toolkit with free reporting and data visualization resources. On the occasion of the update— and the holiday weekend— this post is a refresh of one I originally published about a year ago.
Journalist Studio includes free, easy-to-use tools for reporters and editors, such as:
The Common Knowledge Project, recently updated, lets you explore, visualize, and share data about local topics of interest
Pinpoint lets you upload and analyze a huge set of documents and then search and analyze them with Google Search, AI, and machine learning
Data Commons helps you combine publicly available data across multiple open sources such as census.gov, cdc.gov, data.gov
Fact Check Explorer lets you search fact checks about a particular topic or person
Google Trends is full of interesting seeds for potential trend stories. Tip: type in a term of interest to see a list of related searches and a chart illustrating search trends over time.
Project Shield is a free service to defend news, human rights and election monitoring sites from DDoS attacks, which are used to censor information by taking websites offline
Google also recently launched the Census Mapper project. It provides you with a quick embeddable map that displays Census data at the national, state and county level, as well as census tracts. Here’s an example of a quick census map for Suffolk County, NY.
Want more info on Google Journalist Studio? Drop your email into this form. I’ll let you know when I schedule a workshop. The rest of this post focuses on two of the most valuable tools in this set 👇
The Common Knowledge Project is a simple tool for visualizing data impacting your local community.
To create a chart, you just follow a few steps.
First, select the location you’re interested in (within the US for now). You can pick multiple places if you’re seeking a comparison.
Then pick the type of data you want, within categories including demographics, economics, education, health, and crime. Focus on something such as the unemployment rate, the percent of people living in poverty, or local arson.
Pick a time span —between 2012 and 2018 for now— and a chart type: line, area, slope, bars, stacked bars, bars over time, or US map.
Save your chart and print it or download a .png picture or .csv spreadsheet file. Or share a link to the chart or embed it on a site. Here’s an example of a simple chart created quickly with the Common Knowledge Project chart tool.
The Common Knowledge Project tool was made by the Polygraph team, the data designers behind the Pudding. To see creative data journalism design in action, check out Pudding stories like this one on the rapid growth in published coronovirus research, or one on how police complaints are investigated in Philadelphia, or this history of the past 100 years as explored through the NYTimes archives.
Pinpoint is the most valuable part of the toolkit. It provides you with a free digital hub for storing and analyzing massive datasets of documents, emails, audio files, handwritten notes and more. You can store up to 200,000 documents in each collection. Request more space if you need it.
But it’s not Pinpoint’s storage that’s most valuable. It’s the analysis the platform enables, which can help you spot subtle data patterns or anomalies. In exploring a giant collection of FBI documents on Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, Pinpoint helped me pick out specific references mentioning both Gandi and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Pinpoint doesn’t ask the questions for you, but it makes it easy to query data efficiently so you can explore lots of angles. It’s fast and free of extraneous menus or features, so you can focus on analyzing the materials you’re reporting on without having to learn complex new software.
Pinpoint can transcribe audio recordings to help you locate key moments, pull text from images, or extract text from handwritten documents to make them digital and searchable. These are crucial capabilities if you’re exploring a collection of old letters, notes, or recorded meetings or interviews.
Telling great stories with data requires multiple steps. The process often starts with a question. You find data, clean it up, organize it, pore over it, analyze it and look for patterns. You spot anomalies. You identify inflection points. You visualize the data, contextualize it and present it.
Doing all of that work manually on a giant dataset without machine assistance can be a prohibitively tough task given the constraints today’s reporters are under.
As a junior reporter at Time Magazine I had the opportunity to assist investigative journalists Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. I saw the tremendous effort they exerted to comb through stacks of documents manually.
Pinpoint doesn’t obviate the need for investigative insight and effort. It just lets committed journalists point computing power at mundane aspects of document exploration, like searching for term references and transcribing audio. That frees up time and attention for deeper digging and for following up on connections that surface between entities in the documents.
In addition to drawing on your own private data sets, you can start with 25 data collections from partners like the Washington Post. These include the Mueller investigation court filings, JFK assassination records, and more than a decade of congressional financial disclosures added by the Center for Public Integrity.
For any journalist on the receiving end of leaked data, evidence of corruption, or secret audio recordings, Pinpoint provides a crucial new helping hand.
Fill out this new form to request access to Pinpoint.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the weekend, Jeremy
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