Examples of interactive journalism – Week 11

As always, add your own example for extra credit by providing a link in a reply to this post. (You still have five chances to post, Weeks 12–16.)

This week’s example is a little different. It’s about the power of code, and it’s also about a UF J-school alum, Ken Schwencke (JM – 2009), who works on the Data Desk at the Los Angeles Times.

Whenever there’s an earthquake, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) sends out email alerts. Schwencke set up an email account to receive those emails. This past Monday, an email landed in that inbox. Automatically, because the email had arrived, a program (written by Schwencke) parsed the text of the email to find answers to these three questions:

  • Is the quake in LA, with greater than 2.5-magnitude?
  • Is the quake in California, with greater than 3.0-magnitude?
  • Is the quake in the U.S., with greater than a 4.5-magnitude?

If only the last question is answered affirmatively, the bot emails the paper’s national reporters and editors — a kind of early alert to a developing story. If either of the first two questions are affirmative, though, it both alerts the metro desk to the quake and writes a simple post.

The Atlantic published a first-rate story about it: How a California Earthquake Becomes the News: An Extremely Precise Timeline. The quote above comes from that story.

Slate published the shorter, more hip-sounding The First News Report on the L.A. Earthquake Was Written by a Robot. This one reproduces the complete text of the very first report (written by the program) — this was later expanded and updated by humans at the same URL.

Schwencke was interviewed on NPR’s morning Weekend Edition news program on March 22 (2 min. 59 sec.).

Your Reply

Leave a comment on this post to submit your example for this week. Rules are on the Required Work page.

Make sure your link is correct and functional.

Include the title or headline of the example you are linking to.

Write one sentence about why we should appreciate it.

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About Mindy McAdams

I teach courses about online journalism at the University of Florida. I love to travel. I ride a Vespa. You can find me on Twitter (@macloo).

Posted on March 22, 2014, in Examples and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. My example for the week is the following Miami Herald “Innocents Lost” series: http://www.miamiherald.com/projects/2014/innocents-lost/

    The investigation into the Department of Children and Families includes stories, video, photos and a database of children who died — with arrest reports, death reviews, stories, photos and documents.

    We should appreciate the example because it presents a lot of information in appropriate ways. The link also works well on mobile.

  2. An example of interactive journalism is the Tampa Bay Times’ “The Last Voyage of the Bounty.”

    http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2013/reports/bounty/

    Some of the many interactive elements this piece has includes the objects at the top of the page moving into place as the page loads and the navigation bar highlighting the chapter and section one is on. Additional information also appears when one hovers over the plus sign icons that are on certain images.

  3. Katherine and Daniela — these are both good examples.

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