Journalism in the Public Interest


The ProPublica Nerd Blog

Casey Thomas, P5 Resident


P5 resident Casey Thomas (Krista Kjellman Schmidt/ProPublica)

The fourth P5 Resident started a project in the ProPublica offices today. He’s Casey Thomas from AxisPhilly.

AxisPhilly is a non-profit news startup in Philadelphia. Their mission is to “educate and engage citizens on topics of public interest while empowering them with tools to participate in developing and implementing change.” A big part of their mission is interactive news applications. In a newsroom of nine people, AxisPhilly has two news apps developers and a freelancer who works on data projects. Casey’s projects at AxisPhilly include a map of the effects of delinquent properties on the market value of nearby homes, as well as a map projecting the property tax changes at each address in the city.


Interactive Map: See Where the Government is Lending after Sandy

See where the over 20,000 SBA rebuilding loans are, half of which fall in FEMA’s new advisory flood zones.

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Our News App Tech

As newsrooms incorporate news application teams, one of the first questions they have to answer for themselves is what technologies to choose, and how to set up developer and web hosting environments that are sane and tuned to serve news apps. As part of her P5 Residency, developer Peggy Bustamante from Digital First Media's Project Thunderdome spent a few days mapping ProPublica's infrastructure. She's written a post that lays out some alternatives that came out of a discussion on the NICAR-L mailing list, and the answers that the Thunderdome team came up with.

What follows is ProPublica's advice on developer and server setups for news apps teams.

P5 Resident Researches Other Ways to Serve an App


P5 resident Peggy Bustamante (Krista Kjellman Schmidt/ProPublica)

Peggy Bustamante is a news app developer with Digital First Media’s Data Team, and was the P5 Resident at ProPublica in January. She spent her time working with ProPublica News App Editor Scott Klein on mapping ProPublica's tech setup. Scott wrote a blog post about ProPublica's setup, and Peggy wrote this post, about alternative scenarios and DFM's own approach.

The first thing you want to do when you join a news apps team is build cool projects.

But if you are a new outfit, as we are at Digital First Media’s Thunderdome data team, there is one big step before you can get to that happy place of creativity and news: you have to set up an environment to build those cool projects.

ProPublica’s News Apps and Data Guides

Today we're publishing a series of guides that we hope will be useful for news app teams everywhere: A News App style guide, a high-level design overview, a coding manifesto, our standard social tags and a data bulletproofing guide. They represent what we've learned and our best advice for designing consistent, social-optimized and impactful apps in a sane dev environment.

RIP EveryBlock

With the closing of EveryBlock yesterday, both of the main reasons I started working in News Applications have dissapeared from the internet. The other reason was a New York Times app called Represent, which allowed you to keep an eye on your elected representatives. The world is worse off with these pioneering news apps gone, but retiring old apps is something that our industry has to come to terms with. At ProPublica, we’ve started to retire our old apps, by removing search boxes and dynamic calls to the server. We’re making every effort to make them available on the internet forever.


Updated: State Gas Drilling Regulatory Staff Tracker

How big is the natural gas drilling regulatory staff in your state?


How Disaster Aid Recipients Voted on Sandy Relief

Though the Sandy relief bill passed both the Senate and the House, many members of Congress voted no despite their own states receiving millions of dollars in federal disaster assistance in 2012.

A New Way to ‘Check In’ on Education Inequality

Starting today if you connect your Foursquare account to "The Opportunity Gap," we'll send you stats about schools whenever you check into one. If you've checked into a school we've associated with a Foursquare "venue," we'll show you some details and give you a link to that school's profile.

How To Edit 52,000 Stories at Once

Today we're launching an update to our Opportunity Gap news application, with two new data points, better design on smartphones and integration with the Foursquare social network.


Housing Segregation: The Great Migration and Beyond

Explore the great migration of African Americans from 1940 to 2000 and segregation in Northern cities.


What Kind of Body Scanner Does Your Airport Have?

Nearly 100 backscatter scanners were removed from major airports recently to speed up lines. See if they’re still in use at your airport.

New Year’s Resolution: Learn to Code

A year ago I didn't know how to code. I had a journalism degree and had made some graphics, but I would have been hard-pressed to explain the difference between Ruby and JavaScript, and I was pretty happy when I got the YouTube video to embed correctly. I considered myself pretty technical but generally avoided the command line.

When I did start learning, I was amazed by how much was out there: introductory videos, explanatory blog posts, tips and tricks and step-by-step guides. If you're a journalist who wants to make a news app or a student interested in learning to code, you have plenty of paths to choose from.

Use Our Nursing Home Inspect Widget on Your Site

Nursing Home Inspect

We’ve updated our app with new data and a new design, making it easier to find nursing home problems in your state.

Why (and How) We Use Creative Commons for Our Stories

Anatomy of a News Map

A little over a month ago, Al Shaw and I made an interactive map of the “Great Migration” of African Americans from the rural south to northern cities during the 20th century. The housing discrimination suffered by African Americans in their new cities led to calls for reforms, resulting in the Fair Housing Act of 1968. But as the fantastic reporting by ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones shows, the federal Housing and Urban Development agency has fallen short of its requirement to take affirmative steps to curb segregation in America’s cities and provide fair housing for everybody.

To accompany the story we wanted to make a map showing the Great Migration itself. We also decided early on that it would be the lead art for the article.

Pair Programming Participant #2: Ricardo Brom

The second participant in ProPublica's Pair Programming Project is Ricardo Brom from La Nación in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

New Open Source Project: Daybreak, a Simple Key/Value Database for Ruby

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