Boosting local news with data journalism and automation


Data journalism might be the answer to sustainable journalism business models. A new project called Reporters and Data and Robots is taking data journalism and automation to a new level. RADAR is based out of the UK and produces about 8,000 local stories a month. The stories are sent to local outlets through a wire service.

The stories make use of open government datasets and locally tailor them by geographic areas. Reporters create stories in templates that translate data into text. Data journalists look at the data and come up with story ideas and do some background reporting to give the story context. The story goes into the template, and automation uses data to localize stories. The template and automation allows journalists to create about 200 stories from two templates each week. After local outlets pick up the stories, they can add more to them to increase the local relevance.

Public government data is free to journalists, but many don’t use it to their advantage, said Gary Rogers, RADAR’s editor in chief. The outlet started offering its wire service for free, but now it needs subscribers to remain solvent. If it’s successful, it will be one of the smallest data operations that is serving local communities with only five journalists.

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