Getting Started in Online, Open-Source Investigations

At First Draft, we frequently receive emails from a whole range of people asking how they can start doing the sort of online open-source investigation and verification that they’ve seen us doing. The skills and methodologies used are all something that can be learnt through a little persistence, but here are a few pieces of advice to get you started.

New Tools Open Up Virtual Reality to Journalists

When Gustavo Cerati, a legendary Argentinian musician and songwriter, was asked to share his best advice for new musicians, he refused—saying instead that “experiences are not transferable.” You may agree or may not with his statement, but if you’ve ever worn an Oculus Rift or a similar virtual reality (VR) headset, you’ll know we are getting closer and closer to transferable experiences.

When Virtual Reality Meets Data Journalism

Isn’t the best journalism always immersive? Whether it’s Walter Kronkite’s journalistic take on history “You are There” from the 1950s or Declan Walsh’s mobile phone reporting from Syria in June, the best journalism makes you feel like you are part of the story. You care what happens. Virtual Reality is a powerful tool in making journalism more immersive to its readers and increasingly it’s becoming an essential part of the journalist’s toolkit. There are great examples of reporters using VR, such as the work of VR pioneer Nonny de la Peña, The Guardian’s 6×9 exploration of solitary confinement, or the Berliner Morgenpost’s exploration of life as a refugee.

The People and the Technology Behind the Panama Papers

The trove of files that make up the Panama Papers is likely the largest dataset of leaked insider information in the history of journalism. For ICIJ’s Data and Research Unit, it offered a unique set of challenges. The overall size of the data (2.6 terabytes, 11.5 million files), the variety of file types (from spreadsheets, emails and PDFs to obscure and old formats no longer in use), and the logistics of making it all securely searchable for more than 370 journalists around the world are just a few of the hurdles faced over the course of the 12 month investigation.

Investigating Uber Surge Pricing: A Data Journalism Case Study

The story published in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog ended up being about race, but it didn’t start out that way. Nick Diakopoulos, who leads the lab, wrote for the Wonkblog last year with a story on how surge pricing motivates Uber drivers to move to those surging areas, but does not increase the number of drivers on the road as Uber claims.