Innovative journalism in a digital world

One of the wonders of digital media is its potential to change the way we share information.  For journalists and educators, it's opening up a whole range of interesting possibilities.

A good example is The Guardian newspaper's interactive timeline of the Arab Spring uprisings. The Guardian's detailed graphic tracks events in seventeen North African and Middle Eastern countries, from Algeria to Yemen, along a timeline that began on January 9, 2011, with the first protests in Tunisia. Each country is listed on the bottom of the graph, with a a path moving forward toward the horizon. The "map" has roll-over icons of different colours representing different types of events: protests,  political moves, regime change, and international or external responses.  A  slider device allows you to move forward and backward in time by clicking on it and moving your mouse up or down. Links are supplied to newspaper articles. It's an ingenious, comprehensive tool that has attracted the attention of web surfers.  You can see it here:

Another innovative site is the online home of the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan group that uses the internet to push for government transparency. It does so by bringing together some impressive data-management tools.  One example is "Poligraft," which scours an article or a web site for information related to points of influence connecting key people featured in a story.  The article is presented on the left side of the page, while the data filter presents a report in a companion column to the right. It shows, for example, aggregated financial contributions by associations to a particular cause or their support for particular politicians.  I tested it by pasting the web address of a Globe and Mail newspaper article about two Toyota plants in Canada. In seconds the right hand column produced a report that highlighted references to General Motors and Chrysler and outlined their relative contributions to the American Democratic and Republican parties in pie chart form.

The Sunlight Foundation shows you how the tool works here:

Another innovator is Common Craft, a company founded by a Seattle-area couple.  Common Craft presents complex ideas in easy-to-understand cartoon videos.  Here's an example that explains how the U.S. presidential elections work:

Designer Jonathan Jarvis shows another fine use of internet video in explaining the U.S. credit crisis. It was part of his thesis for the Media Design Program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

These innovators show us the great possibilities for digital media and global networks to provide a better understanding of complex issues and the easy dissemination of public information. What a wonderful time it is to be journalist or an educator...

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