MediaMill at NODA16/Tutki!2016 data journalism conference

We’ve had a paper on the Media Mill project accepted at the joint NODA16 and Tutki!2016, which focus on best practices in data journalism and investigative journalism.

The paper titled Media Mill: Defining hyperlocal data journalism, focusses on the development of the project and suggests that hyperlocal focussed data journalism is a unique opportunity to test and explore the opportunities claimed for open data and data journalism.

Here’s the start or the extended abstract:

The last twenty years have seen successive UK governments make a structural and ideological shift towards a socially progressive idea of open government. This is perhaps most obvious in the adoption of Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. But more recently, framed in the logic of ‘open’ models of information production and distribution (Bates, 2012. McClean, 2011), the focus has shifted on to the distribution of data. This is not simply viewed  as a mechanism for accountability. Enabling  free and unrestricted use of government data is key to driving social, democratic and economic innovation.1 Whist there is a growing body of evidence to support the economic benefit of an open data strategy (e.g Tinholt, 2013 and Open Data Institute, 2015), research suggests that the rhetoric of citizen engagement, accountability and transparency common in open government data remains a largely unproven. (Janssen et al, 2012. Yu & Robinson 2012).

Journalism has also experienced its own quantitative shift driven by similar influences drawn from open-source culture and and social science (Coddington, 2014.). Although broadly defined, data journalism has become a dominant topic in discussion about journalism’s capacity to innovate and develop. (e,g Parasie &Dagiral, 2013. Parasie, 2014). It’s advocates, pointing to the data driven approach of open government, see data journalism practice as key to enabling journalism to continue its role in civic and democratic life in a complex, data rich information landscape (Grey et al 2012).

This paper develops and explores these two shifts in the context of the hyperlocal media. Broadly defined these are “news or content services pertaining to a town, village, single postcode or other small, geographically defined community.” (Radcliffe, 2012). Despite questions about its long term sustainability, (e.g Vehkoo & Cook, 2012) the sector is attracting growing interest from researchers and policy makers concerned with the reduction in the depth and range of coverage of democratic and civic issues caused by a rapidly shrinking traditional local media. (e.g Fenton et al, 2010).  At the same time local government has, through legislation like the Local Government Transparency Code2, begun to adopt data driven approach to accountability. This presents a unique but familiar mix of opportunities and challenges for the hyperlocal sector

The draft agenda for the academic track looks really interesting with input from all over Europe.