Following the Money in Trenton — Help Us Build the App

On September 21, the NJ News Commons is sponsoring the next Hack Jersey event, a daylong workshop at NJIT that will gather journalists and developers to dive into the money behind the political and legislative processes in New Jersey.

We want to make sure you’re aware of the opportunities here for you and your staff.

One of the two tracks at the workshop is for journalists who want to learn to work with data. This track is ideal for reporters and editors who cover politics on the local and state level who want to learn — or hone — basic data skills.

The other track is for the programmers and designers, who will build and deploy a website that will help track money and politics in the state using the Sunlight Foundation’s OpenStates API (application programming interface) and other sources. To get a sense of what others have done with the API, you can see the OpenStates website or a bill tracker that the non-profit MinnPost created.

We want to make this web application as engaging and useful as possible, and we think the best way to gauge what you and your readers might want out of such a project is to ask. So we’re sending out an open call for ideas and use cases from New Jersey news organizations. A few questions we’d like to ask you:

– What do you wish you could do with NJ legislative or campaign finance data on your website?
– What kind of app would bring readers to your site again and again?
– What kind of data handling tools do your reporters wish existed to make their job of reporting on these political issues easier?

We’re basing this on what we saw happen last year at the News Hack Day in San Francisco, where Bay Area news groups shared their pipe dreams and saw coders bring some of them to life.

We’d love to have our input for ideas on what we can do with this politics data. If you’d like to get involved, please send us your thoughts by noon on Thursday, Sept. 12.  Our developers will be meeting that evening for a planning session. Please be sure to include:

– your organization’s name
– contact info for a person there
– the nature of your request (is it for data processing and analysis, or is it for web presentation?)
– and a brief, approximately 200-word description of what you think your idea would entail.

Obviously, depending on the response, we can’t guarantee we’ll fulfill any specific request, but with your ideas, we can try to help and engage users in your communities and your newsrooms as much as possible.

And if you’d like to send someone from your newsroom to our data expedition on Sept. 21, please register through EventBrite here.



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