Channel 4 news and Scraperwiki bearing the torch

On Monday Channel 4 News asked whether the 11,331 acres of ‘brownfield’ land owned by local authorities were being used effectively.

The story caught my eye because of some innovative online elements that complimented each other perfectly. It wasn’t the first instance of cross-platform journalism, but I haven’t seen it done this well in a while and it seemed a potential model for the future.

Why it worked

  • It was a story that relied on a collaboration with the guys at Scraperwiki (who really are the saviors of data-based investigativeĀ  journalism, recent work includes this excellent Guardian piece on Parliamentary lobbying).
  • Though not strictly a ‘news’ story, it provided both context and analysis for a larger issue (how councils could fill the holes in their budgets).
  • It was interactive and personal, people could type in their postcode and see what their council owned and how it was being used.
  • It was part of a much wider report called ‘Selling off Britain’, that included a live Dispatches, great looking interactive info-graphics,and even a fun and engaging online game.

As I have said previously I believe data journalism is the future, but the C4 News piece shows that for people to engage in a data story, presentation is just as important as the number-crunching.