The Local News Data Hub is committed to i) shoring up local journalism across Canada by supplying newsrooms with data-driven stories ii) training student data journalists and iii) providing support for/collaborating with individual journalists and news organizations on data gathering and/or data analysis for their reporting projects.
The Data Hub’s reporting team, consisting of student data journalists and student data analysts supervised by Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) faculty, identifies government and other data with the potential to generate local stories. Once a dataset is identified and the basic reporting is done, the Data Hub team writes a story template and then populates the template with data for specific communities. The local stories produced using this application of automated journalism are then posted on the LNDH website and also shared with the Canadian Press wire service for distribution to CP clients across the country.
In addition to generating stories for use by local newspapers, broadcast and online news outlets, our goal is to develop the Data Hub into a go-to resource for reporters across the country who need help analyzing data or are looking to collaborate on data-driven local reporting projects.
The Data Hub initiative is inspired by RADAR (Reporters and Data and Robots), a U.K.-based local news agency that combines journalism storytelling with automation tools. Launched in June 2018, RADAR’s five reporters generated 250,000 articles in its first 18 months of operation by systematically mining open data sources and then writing stories in template form using natural language generating software. The Data Hub is also exploring variations on a model used by BBC’s Shared Data Unit, which has been generating community coverage since 2017. It produces data-based national stories accompanied by “story packages” that provide partner newsrooms with clean data and guidance on how to produce local versions of the story.
The Local News Data Hub differs from these models in that it is a collaboration that brings together working journalists and students and faculty from post-secondary institutions.
Financial support for the Local News Data Hub has been provided by CTV News; the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre; the Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) School of Journalism; and CWA Canada, The Media Union.