Merciless judgement is a great motivator.
My original plan was to overview what we’ve found after months of testing tools journalists can use to find stories in public records. But it’s clear now if we want to land among the top picks come April 12 when voting ends, we need to up the ante.
And for that, I need your help.
If you’re a reporter who’s even once submitted a Freedom of Information Act request or asked for documents and data from a government organization, odds are you have something I could use buried in a file cabinet, hard drive or pile of printouts on your desk. Ideally, this data earned its banishment honestly — by frustrating your best attempts to find the stories hidden inside.
Massive video or audio files. Unsearchable PDFs. Obtuse government reports. Error-ridden databases. I’ll take it all.
Simply put, I want the stuff of reporter nightmares.
If you think your source material fits the bill, there are a few different ways to send it my way:
- Email it as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Share it with me on Dropbox using the email address above
- Tweet a link to your file using the hashtag #nightmaredocs, which we’ll also use for discussion
Don’t forget to add a little bit of background, including your own personal horror stories about how you managed to conquer the tricky content and the stories you published as a result.
Once we round up the worst offenders, we’ll be able to put some of our top-rated tools to the test to see how they measure up. We’ll pick the most useful ones based on your most common problems, then we’ll share our results with you in real-time during our session in San Francisco (if we’re selected).
Your submissions can also add to our library of test documents, which we’ve already begun building to help us rate and review tools with real-world source material.
With any luck, your experience can cut down on the tedium and get journalists to the fun parts of their jobs faster — and hopefully make room for even better public affairs reporting along the way.