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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Tribune’

TechRaking 2012: Three Questions To Ask Before Building A News App

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. — Today at the Googleplex, a group of roughly 200 journalists and technologists are talking about how to create a more perfect union between muckrakers and technologists at CIR’s TechRaking conference. The Chicago Tribune’s Brian Boyer gave a seven-minute ignite talk directed toward “the people who are bosses of people who put data on the web.”

Boyer’s metaphor? News apps are like pottery: It’s supposed to be useable; it’s a craft. Does your mug still work when their’s hot coffee inside? Or does the handle force your fingers to touch the cup, burning your skin and rendering the cup unuseable?

The  questions Boyer’s team asks before approaching every project:

  1. Who are you users?
  2. What are their needs?
  3. What can we do for them?

The example he used was for a nursing home database. The users? People with elderly family members in nursing homes. Their need? They read scary reports about nursing home abuse and want to know if grandpa is going to be OK. What can you do for them? Give them a database so they can search for offenses at Grandpa’s nursing home.

Just because you have location data and time information doesn’t mean you need to build a map and a timeline. In the example above, Boyer had the information for nursing home locations and time of incidents, but that’s not what’s useful for people using the app.

“Our work sings when it helps folks find their own story,” Boyer said. Don’t overdo it for the sake of overdoing it.

His final four points:

  • Craft is useful
  • Fight your urges
  • Know your audience
  • Make useful stuff
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Chicago Tribune Could Begin Charging For Content

The Chicago Tribune will build a paywall around its online content and will consider a “creative way” of charging for access, according to Editor Gerould Kern.

Details and a timeline were not available, but Kern said they’re looking into it.

“I think we will begin to charge in a selective way,” he said at a Chicago conference, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

The Tribune would join the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times as the major newspapers that charge for content. The WSJ has a large paywall, offering a select few free articles chosen by editors. The Times paywall allows for 20 free articles a month. Read more

Fifteen Journalism-Related Panels for SXSW Interactive 2012

SXSW Interactive 2012Earlier this week, the colossal film, interactive, and music festival known as SXSW announced the opening of the 2012 SXSW PanelPicker, a community-driven voting portal that allows people to vote on panels which they wish to see at the upcoming conference. The PanelPicker votes and comments comprise 30% of the decision-making process for any given programming slot, with the SXSW Staff and SXSW Advisory Board accounting for 30% and 40% respectively. Voting is open from now until 11:59pm CT on Friday, September 2, 2011.

For those of you who may not be familiar with SXSW, here’s a brief video from SXSW that gives an overview of the conference:

While there are three distinct portions of the conference, SXSW Interactive offers the most diverse group of topics, especially for journalists. Currently, there are over 50 journalism-related panels up for voting in the PanelPicker. I’ve culled through them all, and here are fifteen which I think would be great for journalists of all kinds. Each panel description also includes a link to vote for the panel on the PanelPicker (voting does require registering for a free PanelPicker account).

Read more

Re-Inventing The Wheel? Tribune Co. Slated To Release Android Tablet

Google Android logo wearing a sash with the Tribune Company logo

Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and The Baltimore Sun, announced earlier this week plans to develop their own touchscreen tablet to newspaper subscribers. Technical details on the tablet like resolution and memory are still under wraps, but the tablet will run a modified version of Google’s Android mobile operating system and will be tailored to subscribers’ hometown newspapers. Cost is definitely an issue, and the Tribune Co. plans to offer the tablets to subscribers either for free or a subsidized price.

This is a bold initiative for the national news enterprise which follows in the steps of a July 2011 announcement by the Philadelphia Media Network who plans to offer discounted Android tablets to newspaper subscribers. For both companies, the bold move to offering tablet devices for subscribers could be ways to raise readership and revenue. And while the Philadelphia Media Network has not hinted at who would manufacture these tablets, word is that Tribune has been in discussions with Samsung Electronics. Samsung currently has eight versions of their popular Galaxy Tab in the U.S. market, available on Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and U.S. Cellular. With iPads continuing to dominate the U.S. tablet market, it will be interesting to see how media-branded Android tablets will be adopted by those outside of the Tribune’s audience as well.

The biggest question with regards to the Tribune tablet will be whether advertisers will support the platform. The Tribune is currently in bankruptcy, but Android has been shown to help pull failing companies out of the red — just ask Motorola. Tribune isn’t starting completely at square one though — they currently have a news app called Mosaic for Windows Mobile 7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab on Android 2.2 (also known as Froyo). With the new breed of Android tablets running Android 3.x (also known as Honeycomb), Tribune will have to play a wait-and-see game with Google since the Honeycomb software development kit has yet to be released to developers. This also brings up more questions. Will there be more custom apps for these Tribune tablets? How will Tribune handle core software updates? Will Tribune restrict users from being able to root their tablets? Will Tribune tablets be partnered with a cellular carrier?

Tribune is certainly taking a big risk with their upcoming digital tablet strategy. Do you think it will be a great success or a colossal failure? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!

Tool of the Day: Google Refine

Google Refine

When it comes to working with and presenting data, Google reigns supreme. We’ve covered Google’s Chart Wizard, Google’s Public Data Explorer, and even ways to run a news website using Google Docs (with WordPress). Another of Google’s powerful data tools, Google Refine, lets users work with “messy” data sets and transform them into something amazing. Check out Part 1 of the Google Refine screencast.

Unlike Google’s general web-based data services, Google Refine is a standalone desktop application. Formerly known as Freebase Gridworks, the Google Refine tool has been used by the Chicago, and most famously by ProPublica for their “Dollars for Docs” investigation series from October 2010. Once you download and install the Google Refine tool, you interact with it through your web browser. You can create a new project from scratch, or you can import data sets from files stored on your computer. When your data is imported, that’s where the real power of the tool comes through.

Google Refine screenshot

You can use facets and filters to create subsets of data, as well as format strings of data which match your search patterns. For example, if you see the term “as soon as possible” and “ASAP” in the same data set, you can reformat both data strings to match each other. For more complicated queries, you can use the Google Refine Expression Language (GREL) to create regular expressions and isolate substrings of data to separate columns.

Once you’re done with formatting your data, Google Refine lets you export your work in a number of different formats, including as an Excel spreadsheet, an HTML table, or as JSON data, which you can change to match a wiki-style format. Google Refine also lets you hook into open web services, such as Google’s Language Detection Service or the open map service Nominatim.

Google Refine is a free download and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.