Thursday's "TechRaking" conference
, sponsored by the Center for Investigative Reporting and Google, was not an experiment in transporting journalists into the world of ideas before reality smacked them back to the realm of the possible. No, it aimed to bring journalists and tech types together
and see if they couldn't find some way forward for investigative journalism, which many people claim to love and fewer and fewer news organizations can afford to fund.
Matt Stiles, a data reporter who works on NPR's StateImpact project, told me over the phone that the conference gave him some ideas for news apps that can "help reporters and the public understand politics better." For instance, he floated the idea of a Google Analytics-type site with customizable widgets that would let news consumers arrange data about campaigns -- ad buys, coverage, social media. Perhaps reporters could use a more sophisticated version to find stories in all that data.
Stiles explained that "there's this tension in the data journalism community: Does the data come first or does story come first?" In other words, do you pitch a story and look for supporting data, "or do you look at the data first and find the story in the data? It seemed to me I've always leaned toward the first," Stiles said. "It is a nice tension."