The Knight News Challenge, a (now) three-times-yearly journalism-innovation competition for a pool of Knight Foundation grant money, has closed its latest round for entries. The topic is “data.”
We like to think that we have some pretty great ideas coming out of the Digital News Test Kitchen, so you’ll find two proposals among the throng of entries. It you think we’re on to something important, please consider “favoriting” either or both proposals, and/or leave a comment. It will help the News Challenge judges better assess our proposals. (Thank you!)
What we’ve proposed: To establish a national non-profit center for social-media data access, analytics, and consulting to serve media researchers and journalists. Through distribution of nano-grants in data processing hour units (not money), we plan to make social-media data more useful by removing the existing barriers of access for researchers and journalists, thereby putting them in position to tap the data flood from popular and fast-growing social-media services.
Our proposal solves a significant problem: Academic researchers, and often journalists, need access to complete social-media data from various sources (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Disqus, Flickr, Youtube, Pinterest, etc.). But as some social-media services have grown rapidly, they’ve limited the amount of data that they allow third parties to access from their fat, fast-moving data “firehoses.” Businesses and marketers who can afford the high costs of tapping into social-media data firehoses can get access to all they need, but there’s no low-cost solution for academics and journalists who can’t afford full access.
The topic of social-media data is timely. In June, Boulder-based Gnip, one of two authorized Twitter-firehose licensees, held the first-ever social-media data conference in Boulder; the well-attended event was called Big Boulder. Indeed, Boulder appears poised to become a central locale for the fledgling social-media data industry. The community already has established itself as one of the leading technology start-up communities in the U.S.
Also entered in the data competition of the Knight News Challenge is our TrustIt Labs news-credibility platform for assessing news and information websites. A small team has been working on the open-source platform throughout this year, but the project requires funding to move on to the next steps. The web platform itself, which is open-source and will be available for experimentation and testing by any news- and web-credibility researchers, is built; however, opening it up for others’ use isn’t expected until later this fall.
The TrustIt initiative is aimed at using and developing a multitude of metrics to assess and compare news websites and other digital information sources. Unlike most other news-credibility research and initiatives which attack the problem of identifying credibility at the article level, TrustIt aims to do its analysis at the overall-source level, as a way to guide media consumers’ searches and decision-making while alleviating information anxiety.
This collective non-profit enterprise eventually will yield new open-source tools for use by the digital news community.
Steve Outing is former program director and founder of the Digital News Test Kitchen and instructor at CU-Boulder, and a pioneer in the online news and digital media worlds.