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Data + Graphics = Journalism?

February 2, 2012

I applaud Adrian Holovaty for making his innovation a reality, but I don’t know if I would classify it as journalism.  Journalism, in a very basic sense, is gathering useful or important information and then dispersing said information.  These mashups just sound like glorified data sinks.  Don’t get me wrong I think taking massive amounts of information and consolidating it to a single site is brilliant.  Because most internet users hate having to sift through dozens of results on search engines or having to click on link after link to get to the information they want.  So in terms of information optimization on the Internet, this is a fantastic creation.  I’m still confused why what he has done though is redefining journalism.

For example, Holovaty’s site, Chicagocrime.org, which is now known as Chicago.everyblock.com, seems like a Facebook for the city of Chicago.  Again, I think it is an incredible idea for a website, but most of the posts I’ve seen when examining the site are from normal people not media sources.  A majority of the posts I’ve read are people living near the searched neighborhood or address posting on a forum that other people in the area can talk about.  I’ve also seen real estate listings, invitations to events online and off and people calling for meetings or ideas to address local issues.  There are also posts where nothing is plugged or discussed it was just someone making a comment about something other people in the general area would agree or disagree with.  It seems like the site is an Internet version of a town hall crossed with Facebook where announcements are made and people like or dislike.

As I’ve already said, it is an incredible idea I’m just not sure I’d classify it as journalism.  Because much of the information comes through hyperlinks that take you to primary sources, which the Internet has been using for quite some time.  That being said I do think that media outlets need to look into projects similar to this.  I mean the potential is ridiculous.  Everyday people can start petitions for ordinances, set up rallies, plan events or make general announcements that reach thousands of people that they normally couldn’t.  Maybe I’m hesitant to label what this person has done as journalism because I’m subconsciously one of the people who doesn’t get the Internet or because I have never used a mashup until now.  For the Internet the concept is groundbreaking, but I think it’s best to wait and see it’s potential realized before the world declares journalism is forever changed.

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