ProPublica and the Mechanical Turk for evidence based journalism

ProPublica and the Mechanical Turk for evidence based journalism

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The folks at ProPublica do trustworthy journalism based on a really strong ethical practice.

To get the job done right, they need real evidence, genuine data that's often hard to find.

Toward that end, they're using the Amazon Mechanical Turk,which is actually a way to get a bunch of people to get stuff done, quickly and at low cost.

This is a much bigger deal than it sounds, what matters is the focus on honest numbers, and on ways to get it:

Assembling even a small dataset can require hours of tedious work, deterring even the most disciplined of journalists and their editors.

Fortunately, there’s an affordable — and amazing — tool that can make the impossible easy: Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

For those unfamiliar with Mechanical Turk, it’s an online marketplace, set up by the online shopping site Amazon, where anyone can hire workers to complete short, simple tasks like quickly transcribing interviews, copying data from thousands of charts, and even sorting through satellite images in hopes of locating missing individuals.

Mechanical Turk has proven to be more than a shortcut. It has freed up staff time for more complicated work. We’ve also used it to retrieve data from government databases that prohibit scraping.

We’ve summed up our knowledge of the tool and lessons learned in this guide, “ProPublica’s Guide to Mechanical Turk.”

 

 

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