Journalism and Democracy Applied

Providing context to government and politics reporting

Many newsrooms crank out a steady flow of government and politics stories. Behind the daily stories is a lot of history and context. How might newsrooms better organize their publishing to provide this background information? How should that background information be organized to support the casual audience who is trying to catch up? How should it be organized to serve the “political junkies” who want to see how all of the pieces connect?

Continuing our research into how journalism can better support democratic life, for this project we will partner with Govpack, a new project to help newsrooms to enrich their with structured information about the people and organizations who appear in those stories. This is a design research project, where students will interview stakeholders, generate and test prototype concepts, and summarize their work in a report to the GovPack team to help guide their development of this toolkit.

Faculty and Staff Leads

Joe Germuska

Chief Nerd

Joe runs Knight Lab’s technology, professional staff and student fellows. Before joining us, Joe was on the Chicago Tribune News Apps team. Also, he hosts a weekly radio show on WNUR-FM – Conference of the Birds.

Project Details

2021 Spring

Important Questions
  • What kind of background information about elected officials, candidates, and government bodies is useful to the news audience?
  • How can that information be presented cleanly, so that it’s available, but not distracting or cluttered for the audience?
  • How can small news organizations manage the effort required to maintain background information while also keeping up with the regular flow of new news coverage?
  • Are there existing data sources which can make this more efficient? What are the problems with adapting existing data sources to specific newsroom needs?
Sample Milestones
  • Weeks 1-2: Connect with the Govpack team; begin planning and conducting interviews with audience and newsrooms.
  • Weeks 3-4: Continue interviewing; begin idea generation and prototyping.
  • Weeks 5-8: Test concepts with Govpack team, newsrooms, and audience; iterate and refine.
  • Weeks 9-10: Finalize research report and present it to Govpack team.

Students accepted to this project team will work with the Govpack team to develop and execute a design research plan capturing the desires and concerns of both the news audience and the publishers and reporters who might use Govpack as part of their news publishing system. They’ll end the quarter by producing a research report which Govpack can use to guide their ongoing development.