We started Free the Files as we do with any major data project — asking ourselves what story we wanted to tell (how dark money spending was impacting the election) and what information we had available to tell it (thousands of PDF files).
But turning the files into something reportable would require manual review of each document, a crowdsourcing challenge compounded by the fact that we had no idea exactly how many files we would be dealing with. Every day volunteers reviewed hundreds of files, and every day we downloaded hundreds more from the FCC web site. It was like starting a race without knowing when you’d hit the finish line.
Read how ProPublica made Free the Files successful, how they tracked the project, and how they made it fun on Nieman Journalism Lab.
The [New York] Times does not release traffic figures, but a spokesperson said yesterday that [Nate] Silver’s blog provided a significant—and significantly growing, over the past year—percentage of Times pageviews. This fall, visits to the Times’ political coverage (including FiveThirtyEight) have increased, both absolutely and as a percentage of site visits. But FiveThirtyEight’s growth is staggering: where earlier this year, somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of politics visits included a stop at FiveThirtyEight, last week that figure was 71 percent.
But Silver’s blog has buoyed more than just the politics coverage, becoming a signifiant traffic-driver for the site as a whole. Earlier this year, approximately 1 percent of visits to the New York Times included FiveThirtyEight. Last week, that number was 13 percent. Yesterday, it was 20 percent. That is, one in five visitors to the sixth-most-trafficked U.S. news site took a look at Silver’s blog.
Marc Tracy, The New Republic. Nate Silver Is a One-Man Traffic Machine for the Times.
Takeaway: Stat nerds have clout.
Data journalism is huge. I don’t mean ‘huge’ as in fashionable - although it has become that in recent months - but ‘huge’ as in ‘incomprehensibly enormous’. It represents the convergence of a number of fields which are significant in their own right - from investigative research and statistics to design and programming. The idea of combining those skills to tell important stories is powerful - but also intimidating. Who can do all that?