SmartNation: Fourth Estate 2.0 puts innovation above the fold


smartplanet logoFourth Estate 2.0 puts innovation above the fold


The Tribune, which is known for its strong coverage of Texas politics and policy, has become proficient at taking information that’s either massive or confusing (or both) and distilling it down to a format more suitable for public consumption. The data is accompanied by related news stories that give context to the numbers.

Lawmaker Explorer, for example, is an interactive tool that launched earlier this year, allowing the public to learn the degree to which 180 state legislators’ personal interests (i.e. stock holdings, property listings) conflict with public interest when passing bills and shaping policy. Its data came from old-fashioned reporting, and the tech team figured out how to present the information. You can use a search box, click on head shots, sort by party, office or occupation.

Public Schools Explorer is a comprehensive database of the 8,500 public schools in the state of Texas. There are searchable applications for160,000 state inmates; salaries of 665,000 public employees; and 6.5 million contributions to candidates and political action committees.

ProPublica is also leading the way in nonprofit news media applications, graphics, databases and mapping. One of its most popular, with more than 4 million page views: the Dollars for Docs survey, which is a database of more than $2 billion in payments from drug companies to health care providers. It was developed in an effort to learn more about the relationship between drug companies, medical professionals and the effect on patient care.

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