Photo by: Olivia Mowry

Crosstown joins data journalism pilot project with Local Media Association, Facebook Journalism Project

The Local Media Association, in partnership with Facebook Journalism Project, has launched a pilot project using tools and training from Crosstown to empower smaller and mid-sized newsrooms to access and transform data into high-impact local journalism.

The pilot project will be implemented by WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, and NOLA/The Advocate in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Crosstown, a collaboration between USC Annenberg and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, developed the technology, which is designed to enable local newsrooms to access and convert relevant datasets conveniently into highly relevant local news reporting.

“This pilot project is designed to help busy newsrooms access and analyze local datasets and use that data to identify and report on local issues in ways that make numbers meaningful to their audiences,” said Frank Mungeam, chief innovation officer at LMA. “Making data accessible and actionable to all in the newsroom is key to our broader mission of sustainable models for local news.”

“The goal of USC Annenberg’s Crosstown experiment is to harness data to help newsrooms across the country produce high-quality, cost-effective hyperlocal news,” said Gabriel Kahn, professor of professional practice of journalism. “By using data to surface stories on key quality of life issues such as traffic, housing and crime, we can deliver neighborhood-level news in the form of charts, maps, and stories for minimal costs.”

“We are absolutely thrilled to be part of this data pilot project in collaboration with Crosstown, LMA and Facebook,” said Judi Terzotis, president and publisher of The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and NOLA.com. “It’s a win for our organization and our readers. Providing relevant localized data is expensive and laborious. Thanks to this partnership, we will be able to advance the sophistication of our coverage with more robust data.”

"Our company has a proud tradition of using data to tell important stories on our TV and digital platforms,” said John Conway, WRAL Digital vice president. “The Crosstown tools and Facebook funding will allow us to amplify and expand that crucial reporting. We also look forward to testing new business models for serving our mass audience at a neighborhood level with hyper-local and highly relevant data.”

Funding from Facebook Journalism Project will enable each newsroom to employ a reporter dedicated to data journalism, as well as the training and product development needed to equip each newsroom with Crosstown’s data tools and data sets relevant in their local community.

“The Facebook Journalism Project looks for ways to support the connection between journalists and the communities they serve,” said Dorrine Mendoza with the Facebook Journalism Project. “Crosstown’s technology represents an opportunity to both superserve local audiences with relevant data and also help busy newsrooms more easily access and use data for reporting.”

“Finding new and smart ways to leverage the power of data for better local journalism is core to LMA’s mission of finding sustainable business models for local news,” added Nancy Lane, chief executive officer of LMA.

LMA will publish regular updates on lessons learned by the two newsrooms and, in collaboration with Crosstown, produce a data journalism playbook of best practices that can be implemented by other small and midsized newsrooms.

“Journalism is in dire need of innovation designed with the public good — not profit — in mind,” wrote Kahn in a blog post. “Because Crosstown is based at a university, we’re in the business of creating knowledge. Our hope is that we can take what we’ve learned from this project and begin to spread it across the industry, and we could sure use some good news right now.”