Upon finishing a story, reporters once stowed away their source documents in a desk or filing cabinet. But today, reporters and news organizations increasingly put their primary sources online, to engage users with the facts and data behind the story.
At the Argentine daily La Nación, a team of data journalists is using DocumentCloud, an open-source project that hosts thousands of primary source documents from newsrooms. La Nación has already put more than 200 documents on the site.
On DocumentCloud, journalists and other users share, annotate, connect and organize documents, as well as quickly convert PDF documents into text files. The platform is searchable and provides extensive information about the people, places and organizations mentioned in each document.
IJNet talked with investigative reporter and journalism trainer Sandra Crucianelli, who helped create La Nación's data journalism team as part of her Knight International Journalism Fellowship. Sharing documents online and using this tool represent a major cultural shift at the news organization. And readers respond by sharing and talking about the documents via social media.
Crucianelli talked with IJNet about her experience using DocumentCloud and why reporters and newsrooms should use it:
How did you begin using DocumentCloud at La Nación?
It all started when we began to define best practices for data journalism. I had learned about DocumentCloud during my orientation week for my fellowship in Washington in March of 2012. I loved that [DocumentCloud] acted as platform for the management of documents but also as OCR [optical character recognition] to extract text. We started to use it for journalistic reporting documentation.
What are some examples?
This look at the evolution of assets among officials in the Office of the President of the Nation (since 2003) is just one of many examples to show. At the end of the article, the affidavit for each official is available via a link to DocumentCloud. That means it will also be used in related articles as supporting documentation. We also incorporated DocumentCloud into the first La Nación news apps that looks at the evolution of those assets.
Why should journalists use DocumentCloud?
Until recently, documents handled by journalists generally stayed in desk drawers. Now, by sharing the documents with an audience, the audience can verify that a story correlates with reality.
How have readers responded?
In the comments, when someone questions the text of the article, other readers [respond] indicating that the documents are clear and that if he does not believe what the journalist says, [he] can check in the original document.
Sandra Crucianelli is a Knight International Journalism Fellow, an investigative journalist and instructor specializing in digital resources and data journalism. She is working as a consultant for La Nación, one of the most important news sites and newspapers in Argentina.
Image CC-licensed on Flickr via Chris Blakeley.