Networked journalism: Gathering data

Robert Niles has a textbook example of the power of networked journalism: And LA Times reporter was trying to unlock the mystery of Amazon’s changing prices on items and Niles points out that the readers could offer a lot of data to make the story complete. They just need a way to do that. And they need to be asked.

What the Times needed was a way for associates like me to append our data to Streitfeld’s report. That way, the Times’ reporter and its readers could, together, draw a more detailed picture of Amazon’s pricing patterns. Are price adjustments based upon time an item spends in a user’s shopping cart? Or do prices move with the calendar?

Unfortunately, the Times website [full disclosure, again, especially for new OJR readers, I used to work there] does not offer a way for readers to post relevant data to a database that could test Streitfeld’s hypothesis. Nor does it even provide a way for a reader to append a simple comment to the story, where readers like me could add our experiences.

“Citizen journalism” provides professional reporters the chance to collect many more data points than they can on their own. And “mainstream media” provide readers an established, popular distribution channel for the information we have and can collect. Not to mention a century of wisdom on sourcing, avoiding libel and narrative storytelling technique.

Gathering data is an obvious starting point for networked journalism: The task is clear, the value of more data is obvious. And the willingness of people to contribute is proven.