jp_v | Chicago Reader

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Re: “How much will Chicago's new digital manufacturing institute end up costing taxpayers?

It's good to always question how much things are going to cost, and to keep the herd mentality in check, so this is a valuable take.

But it's just as important to question what we're buying with public funds - as any economist will tell you, investing in basic research is an endlessly better economic development play than bribing companies not to move to Indiana - or building a bunch of stadiums, for that matter.

A good bit of what goes on in this town is about clout and throwing good (public) money after bad (private projects.) But hardly everything.

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Posted by jp_v on 03/12/2014 at 1:10 PM

Re: “An in-the-works brewery goes off the grid

The Plant had nothing to do with that move. Nobody pushed Peer Foods out of Chicago. It was pulled to Indiana by the lure of cheap land for better facilities.

The net revenue loss of yet another shuttered factory or garbage-strewn lot would be a lot larger, don't you think?


1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by jp_v on 07/15/2011 at 1:13 PM

Re: “University of Illinois's campus crime site gives readers the story - their own

Data never speaks for itself. It is always interpreted: here's what you're looking at, and here's what it means or what's behind it.

Ideally, every figure, chart, or infographic should be accompanied by a reporter's commentary. Without it, you risk misleading your audience. Finding out what a trend means usually requires reporting. When there's room for interpretation, then by all means map out the arguments. But first, do no harm. Lack of context breeds misinterpretation.

That said, the article often fails to tell the story best, especially when it comes to large trends or public policy.

A story should be told through whatever media mix works best for the story. Sometimes, it's best to open with an infographic. Other times, there shouldn't even be an article.

True, there are currently huge financial, organizational, and most of all cultural barriers to this form of storytelling. But I tend to think our understanding of our world is the poorer for it.

"Non-narrative" journalism may be something of a misnomer. Even the most pick-you-own-adventure web packages need coherence to succeed. There's certainly merit to empowering the reader's ability to draw personalized conclusions. But making what matters interesting, i.e. raising the public's understanding of what's important, still matters. To that end, I've found the most powerful way of tying loose media pieces together is... narrative.

Think back to your own experience of, say, a map. It's great to drill. But don't you wish you could also get a guided tour by someone knowledgable, hopping from hotspot to hotspot to illustrate trends and detail their impact on places?

To make sense of information, people make up their own stories. Why not use that your advantage? Here's where the current web has limits. It's hard enough to mix video, text, and voiceover; it's much harder to do so what is essentially a long scroll with buttons up top. Tablets are not a silver bullet, but they offer massive potential on this count.

Posted by jp_v on 06/10/2011 at 3:26 PM

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