DocumentCloud, a joint project of staffers at ProPublica and The New York Times, is the big winner of this year’s Knight News Challenge. The Knight Foundation has granted a four-person team $719,500 to create a Web site to enable news organizations to annotate and link documents that are central to investigative projects.
Knight explained the project this way: “While rich source documents are the foundation of investigative journalism, too often reporters throw or tuck them away after a story fades, never to be used again. DocumentCloud will provide an online database of documents contributed by a consortium of news organizations, watchdog groups and bloggers, and shared with the public at large.”
Eric Umansky, a senior editor at ProPublica and one of the members of the team, said the service will make important investigative documents more transparent and easier to find. Contributors will be able to annotate documents and create relationships that aren’t evident through simple text searches. A user searching for documents related to “CIA torture,” for instance, would be able to find documents that mention “enhanced interrogation” or “waterboarding.”
So far DocumentCloud has agreements to share documents with the Times, ProPublica, Talking Points Memo and the National Security Archive, an independent research institute. Talks are underway with other organizations, Umansky said. The group of contributors will be small at first to facilitate testing and then will be expanded.
“Anybody on the Web will be able to access this stuff,” Umansky said. “The real issue will be in terms of who can contribute documents there. We just want to make sure people are contributing documents that are essentially real and verifiable.”
The investigative documents will not be stored on DocumentCloud computers; rather, the site will store information about the files and link to them on the servers of participating organizations. Rather than a central repository, Umansky said, “one way to look at it is a card catalog.”
Umansky said the grant will not go to either of the New York-based news organizations, but to a newly created nonprofit. “The New York Times doesn’t get any money. ProPublica doesn’t get any money.” In fact, he said, the four-person team will work for free. The grant will pay for additional staff.
Knight is funding about $2 million in new projects, plus another $3.1 in continued grants for previous winners. The other 2009 winners:
- Media Bugs
- Data Visualization
- Mobile Media Toolkit
- The Daily Phoenix
- Crowdsourcing Crisis Information
- Virtual Street Corners
- CMS Upload Utility
You can chat tomorrow with members of the ProPublica-New York Times team about their project. Set a reminder in the e-mail window below and join the conversation at 11 a.m. EDT. Have a question for the team? Post it in a comment to this article (you must be logged in to comment), e-mail it or send a tweet to @myersnews.
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;task=viewaltcast&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;altcast_code=42a5f211e9″ &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;How Will Knight News Challenge Winner ‘DocumentCloud’ Improve Investigative Journalism?&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;