I visited Minneapolis last month to attend the data journalism conference SRCCON (pronounced “source con”). SRCCON hosts conversations and workshops for people who work on data teams – particularly those in newsrooms. While Carolina Demography does not produce traditional news, we do communicate data findings to the public on a regular basis.I was excited to learn more about how other teams work – and wanted to share a few things I learned at the conference.
1) California’s hard-to-count communities
Here at Carolina Demography, we were tasked with helping the NC Counts Coalition in developing a map that identifies communities across the state that are most at-risk of being undercounted in the 2020 Census.
At SRCCON, I had the pleasure of seeing similar work being done by other organizations, namely KPCC and the California Complete Count committee.
They developed a California Hard-to-Count index (CA-HTC) that measured 14 different demographic, housing, and socioeconomic variables that are associated with a community being difficult to count in a census.
We covered many of the same variables in our own map, such as low broadband internet access, foreign-born populations, and overcrowded housing. It was encouraging to see this work being done in other states, as it reflects the overwhelming importance of an accurate and complete 2020 Census count.
2) Documentation is good. Good documentation is hard.
I tried a new free, open-source software product at SRCCON called Library. Built by the New York Times’ data journalism team, it allows companies and individuals to corral all of their written resources in one place. Without a central repository for information, it is easy for instructions, reference guides, and tips and tricks to be duplicated repeatedly.
Library allows you to connect your individual or team Google Docs folder, and then create searchable and taggable categories for the documents.
Anyone with Google Doc permissions can contribute, so the responsibility does not fall on leadership alone.
3) How to measure reader comprehension and engagement
Data teams always want to make sure that we are communicating our data in a direct and easy-to-understand way – in one session I attended, we talked through ways we could actually measure what readers learned and how they engaged with the material.
For example, the public radio station KPCC in southern California provided one example of how audience engagement drove their content: their Human Voter Guide. In addition to providing information about the candidates, KPCC encouraged their audience to ask anything about their upcoming local election. No question was too big or too small. Then they put all of these Q&A’s into an easy-to-use guide.
This is something we are experimenting with using our firstname.lastname@example.org inbox. Each week, we receive questions asking us about different demographic trends in North Carolina – and then we write about them on the blog.
We’d love to hear from you. What questions do you have about North Carolina?