The Sunlight Foundation recently picked up a $10,000 Knight Batten Award for its real-time coverage of February’s US health care summit.
Much of it mirrors the kind of Live Event coverage that is routinely used on the BBC News website, but I was especially taken by the addition of visualisations to aid understanding of the debates.
One example they used shows links between health care lobbyists and Senator Charles Grassley, one of the summit speakers. You can see at a glance that several are former members of his staff. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s interesting to note.
Channel 4 has also been exploring these kind of relationship connections with Who Knows Who spider maps.
It’s easy to see how televised coverage of House of Commons debates might benefit from instantly available supplementary information delivered to second screens like smartphones or tablets as MPs stand up to speak.
On-screen Astons showing an MP’s name could trigger a second screen template showing a bio of his or her parliamentary career, what their interests are, what committees they sit on, their voting record, key speeches they have made, what their business interests are, who sponsors them, even what expenses they have claimed.
Characterizing the depth and strength of relationships needs more work and is a matter for careful appraisal, but much of that kind of information is already available within newsrooms, especially amongst political and business staff.
On the basis of six degrees of separation almost everybody can be connected to anybody and that carries with it the potential for mischief and misrepresentation.
As ever it’s a matter of sound editorial judgment.