BuzzData at the forefront of open source data journalism


As election season is in full swing, journalists are spending much of their time following the presidential candidates and fact-checking anything and everything they say. This type of work can definitely land a reporter in front of a computer screen, searching through obscure databases to find the right numbers and datasets for his or her story. A new tool on the internet is making this process easier in many ways, and journalists definitely are reaping the benefits.

BuzzData, which started in spring 2011 and is based in Toronto, is a data-sharing social networking website that is rapidly growing and impacting the Internet. Users, which can vary from governmental offices to private businesses to journalists, are encouraged to upload datasets that are beneficial to the internet community. After a dataset has been uploaded, it can be copied, tinkered with, and re-uploaded to bring about different trends or numbers to which other experts might have access.

While the company is looking to make a profit through privatizing data-sharing, there is also a big draw for those interested in open source data journalism. In the case of something like the election, datasets can be found that relate to different topics within this election season (such as the unemployment rate or how many Americans are uninsured). Journalists can access these statistics and also “mash” other statistics with them if they are writing a specific story (i.e., the unemployment rate correlated to the rate of the national debt).

On its blog, BuzzData also provides users with infographics that are free to use in the public domain. For example, currently uploaded on the site is an infographic about turkey consumption on Thanksgiving in America that can be used for a fall feature story.

The idea is that sharing data with others allows a quick sharing of information among media that hasn’t been seen before at this level. Journalists can set up a private data-sharing network within their publication or share datasets with the entire network. BuzzData is a great addition to a reporter’s bag of tricks when looking for information to augment stories.

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