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Archive for January 13th, 2013

The new transparency: Newspapers mine public data, and not everyone’s happy about it

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Better get used to it, people. As governments increasingly place public information online, news organizations are going to demand access to it and print it — but not always with appropriate context. That must change.

Among the leaders of the data-mining charge appears to be media conglomerate Gannett Co. Inc., owner of 82 U.S. daily newspapers, including USA Today, and 23 television stations. You’ll recall that Gannett-owned The Journal News published an interactive map of addresses of gun-permit holders in the New York state counties of Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam.

The News has been roundly criticized for that act. But there are reasons for criticism beyond the rabid fear-mongering.

The News has a First Amendment right to print public information (lawyers would argue some limits do apply). But any newspaper printing public information, especially when unpopular, has the responsibility to carefully and intelligently construct context for those data. Simply printing that these households have a gun permit does not do a damn thing to advance a public debate about guns, deaths related to guns, and the Second Amendment.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

January 13, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized