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Making Your News Content More Interactive

Census has now rolled out for every county in the nation -- that's millions of numbers that can give us insight into many stories about our communities. But what now? How can you use it to tell a story?
The Census is just one example of available public data available about our communities. That data could be the budget your state legislature just passed, a collection of crimes from your local police department, a calendar of local cultural events, or what recipes are most often the finalists at your county fair.
The process of finding and presenting stories using data, known as data journalism or computer-assisted reporting, can help you engage your community.

Back in February I wrote a post for this blog about PBS's DataStory initiatives. This initiative is what we're calling Web projects that PBS Newsies could craft based on the above pieces of information.

At that time, our news team was focused on launching a national site. We're now pivoting our primary focus towards assisting stations with your news efforts on your own web sites and in your own local communities.

PBS Interactive’s News & Public Affairs Team will work with your station to craft DataStories as a part of a local/national partnership. Additional efforts are also underway to create tools to help you craft your community’s interactives/data projects on your station site. If there's an interactive product that would help bring your viewers into your online space, please contact the SPI team for more information.

What kind of projects could we partner on? Here's 10 quick "DataStory types" and online examples from around the Web:
  1. Static maps: Sure, you can make a typical Google map. But if you want to demonstrate where multiple places are, and find the Google map just isn't doing what you want it to do, we can help. Example: Map of the Libya Rebellion, New York Times
  2. Documents: If there's a new state law in your community, you can talk about it on a TV program. And for its' online treatment, while you could post a few hundred pages as a PDF, we can take it a step further and use tools like DocumentCloud to walk users through what they really need to know about that document. Example: FAA Inspection Documents, Investigative Reporting Workshop in collaboration with Frontline
  3. Tables: Have a list of news-related information you'd like to post online? We can make it easier for users to see the whole list, and search and filter for the information they care about most. Example: How much does your city manager make?, Los Angeles Times
  4. Interactive maps: Use color to show how different counties/districts are different, and provide info about the specific place a user lives. Example: Census 2010 Interactive Map, Texas Tribune
  5. How is money being spent? Use an interactive chart to help users understand the breakdown of money. Example: Obama's 2011 Budget Proposal: How It's Spent, New York Times
  6. Games: Help your audience to be a part of the story. Let them take a quiz, or try to balance the budget themselves. Example: NCAA probe: Staying in bounds, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil
  7. Searchable database: If you've heard about news apps, this is often what people mean. We can create a database of information. It could already exist (like campaign contributions) or you could collect it in your reporting. Example: How is your redevelopment agency spending money?, Los Angeles Times
  8. Connections: You want to demonstrate and explore how various people in your community are connected. Understand who's in charge, or just how well certain people know each other, or how certain items in a story are connected. Example: A Complex Climate Threat, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
  9. Explanations: There's some sort of process, redistricting, how nuclear power plants work, that's news-related, but just doesn't make sense to the average user. We can use a Web presentation to help you explain it better. Example: Hazards of Storing Spent Fuel (what happened w/the Japanese reactor), New York Times
  10. And much more...The beauty of crafting custom projects means that if we can dream it up, and have the right resources to allocate, we can build it. There are story forms that don't yet exist, but are ripe for discovery. We can work with you to imagine what that might look like.
These story forms help you inform and engage your online community by adding to the more traditional ways we often tell stories. Want to get started? Let us know how we can help get you started or enhance the work you've already done. Got comments? Tell us what you think below!

This article authored by Michelle Minkoff, DataStory Producer

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