‘propublica’ posts

Four Ways You Can Seek Back Pay for an Unpaid Internship →

Resources worth knowing about. This is part of ProPublica’s ongoing investigative series on internships, which is really fantastic and you can actually get involved with by signing up to be part of their reporting network.

The intelligence community has worried about ‘going dark’ forever, but today they are conducting instant, total invasion of privacy with limited effort. This is the golden age of spying.

Paul Kocher, president and chief scientist of Cryptography Research, in an interview about the NSA’s ability to crack mobile and Internet encryption technologies in order to eavesdrop on online communications and other activities. ProPublica, Revealed: The NSA’s Secret Campaign to Crack, Undermine Internet Security.

The News: The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica have partnered on the Edward Snowden NSA leaks to reveal that “the NSA has secretly and successfully worked to break many types of encryption, the widely used technology that is supposed to make it impossible to read intercepted communications.”

Key Takeaway, Part 01: “For the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies… [Now] vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”

Key Takeaway, Part 02: “Some of the agency’s most intensive efforts have focused on the encryption in universal use in the United States, including Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL; virtual private networks, or VPNs; and the protection used on fourth-generation, or 4G, smartphones.”

Key Takeaway, Part 03: “Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the NSA invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own “back door” in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth.”

FJP: “Stealth” is an interesting word choice here. The reason for that is that back in the 90s, the NSA wanted backdoor access to encryption technologies via what it called the Clipper Chip. Proposed during the Clinton administration, and debated publicly, the effort went nowhere with critics pointing out the obvious privacy concerns as well as the economic concerns of US companies being required to allow intelligence agencies access to its encryption technologies. (Read: why would any foreign entity — government, business, individual or otherwise — choose a US technology solution that it knew wasn’t secure?)

As Techdirt notes, “That fight ended with the NSA losing… and now it appears that they just ignored that and effectively spent the past few decades doing the same exact thing, but in secret.”

Very Interesting Aside, Part 01: “Intelligence officials asked The Times and ProPublica not to publish this article, saying that it might prompt foreign targets to switch to new forms of encryption or communications that would be harder to collect or read. The news organizations removed some specific facts but decided to publish the article because of the value of a public debate about government actions that weaken the most powerful tools for protecting the privacy of Americans and others.”

Very Interesting Aside, Part 02: ProPublica explains why it published the story.

The Making of ProPublica’s Pipeline Safety Feature
Here’s a great example of data and journalism love.
The above link will take you to Lena Greoger's first hand account of how she's used a dataset to compliment her reporting. Lena made ProPublica's Pipeline Explainer, which makes sense of 26 years worth of records on pipeline-related accidents — explosions, leaks, fires, and spills. From the data set, which gave her the dates, cost, deaths and locations of the incidents, Lena created an interactive map so readers can find the incidents closest to their homes.

The Making of ProPublica’s Pipeline Safety Feature

Here’s a great example of data and journalism love.

The above link will take you to Lena Greoger's first hand account of how she's used a dataset to compliment her reporting. Lena made ProPublica's Pipeline Explainer, which makes sense of 26 years worth of records on pipeline-related accidents — explosions, leaks, fires, and spills. From the data set, which gave her the dates, cost, deaths and locations of the incidents, Lena created an interactive map so readers can find the incidents closest to their homes.

What Happened At Dos Erres
fjp-latinamerica:

We are totally enjoying a recent episode of This American Life on the story of Guatemalan immigrant Óscar Ramírez:

In 1982, the Guatemalan military massacred the villagers of Dos Erres, killing more than 200 people. Thirty years later, a Guatemalan living in the US got a phone call from a woman who told him that two boys had been abducted during the massacre — and he was one of them. 

Beyond the fascinating storytelling, what we liked the most is the degree of collaboration between several journalistic enterprises: startup extraordinaire ProPublica, Colombia-based Fundación MEPI, independent journalist Habiba Nosheen, and This American Life.
Insofar, their collaboration has already rendered a remarkable set of journalistic products (and byproducts): an in-depth essay, a timeline, a slideshow, and an eBook. Praiseworthy by all means.
Image: Partial screenshot of Óscar’s Story, by Sebastian Rotella and Krista Kjellman Schmidt. Via ProPublica. 

FJP: If you haven’t listened to this, set aside some time and do so. It’s an amazing story.

What Happened At Dos Erres

fjp-latinamerica:

We are totally enjoying a recent episode of This American Life on the story of Guatemalan immigrant Óscar Ramírez:

In 1982, the Guatemalan military massacred the villagers of Dos Erres, killing more than 200 people. Thirty years later, a Guatemalan living in the US got a phone call from a woman who told him that two boys had been abducted during the massacre — and he was one of them. 

Beyond the fascinating storytelling, what we liked the most is the degree of collaboration between several journalistic enterprises: startup extraordinaire ProPublica, Colombia-based Fundación MEPI, independent journalist Habiba Nosheen, and This American Life.

Insofar, their collaboration has already rendered a remarkable set of journalistic products (and byproducts): an in-depth essay, a timeline, a slideshow, and an eBook. Praiseworthy by all means.

Image: Partial screenshot of Óscar’s Story, by Sebastian Rotella and Krista Kjellman Schmidt. Via ProPublica

FJP: If you haven’t listened to this, set aside some time and do so. It’s an amazing story.

Tracking How Politicians Target Us
If companies use finely tuned analytics to serve us ads and send us targeted messages it’s no surprise that politicians do so too. But what exactly those messages are, and how they differ by demographic and region, is something ProPublica wants to figure out.In March, ProPublica created the Message Machine to track Obama campaign emails. Now they’ve expanded its scope to track all politicians and relaunched it.
via ProPublica:

Voters have little way of knowing how much a campaign knows about them, how the messages they’re receiving differ from the messages that other voters are sent, or what these differences might reveal about a campaign’s priorities.
Sasha Issenberg, a journalist who has done extensive reporting on campaigns’ new uses of data and analytics, said the Obama campaign is leading the way. It takes a rigorous approach to testing the effectiveness of different messages, tracking results based not only on the message content but also the name given as the sender of the email, the subject line, the format, even the date and time of day the messages are sent.

FJP: Wondering about how submissions would be verified (e.g. someone manipulating the wording or message in an e-mail sent in to ProPublica) Michael sent an e-mail to Jeff Larson to find out more. Here’s the scoop:

We have a bunch of systems in place to make sure they are real campaign emails. I’ll give you a few examples: Our software automatically checks to see if the email is like any emails we’ve ever seen from each campaign, and if it is wildly different we ignore it. This is similar to how traditional spam detection works. We also have an industry standard spam detector in place to filter out straight spam. We also have a bunch of monitoring checks in place, and if we see a fake/imposter email sneak through we can quickly delete it from our database.

Jeff also explained why the project is important overall:

It’s not widely covered, but political campaigns are using very sophisticated “big data” techniques to optimize their message and influence voters. I hope this project helps uncover how this part of political campaigning works. Campaigns are putting a lot of resources into micro-targeting, we thought it was worth watching how it works and how it’s being put into action.  Learning exactly what the campaigns are saying to whom, may reveal inconsistencies in their messages or other surprising trends.

Image: Screenshot of the Message Machine e-mail.
Bonus: Read up a bit more on targeting here and here.

Tracking How Politicians Target Us

If companies use finely tuned analytics to serve us ads and send us targeted messages it’s no surprise that politicians do so too. But what exactly those messages are, and how they differ by demographic and region, is something ProPublica wants to figure out.

In March, ProPublica created the Message Machine to track Obama campaign emails. Now they’ve expanded its scope to track all politicians and relaunched it.

via ProPublica:

Voters have little way of knowing how much a campaign knows about them, how the messages they’re receiving differ from the messages that other voters are sent, or what these differences might reveal about a campaign’s priorities.

Sasha Issenberg, a journalist who has done extensive reporting on campaigns’ new uses of data and analytics, said the Obama campaign is leading the way. It takes a rigorous approach to testing the effectiveness of different messages, tracking results based not only on the message content but also the name given as the sender of the email, the subject line, the format, even the date and time of day the messages are sent.


FJP: 
Wondering about how submissions would be verified (e.g. someone manipulating the wording or message in an e-mail sent in to ProPublica) Michael sent an e-mail to Jeff Larson to find out more. Here’s the scoop:

We have a bunch of systems in place to make sure they are real campaign emails. I’ll give you a few examples: Our software automatically checks to see if the email is like any emails we’ve ever seen from each campaign, and if it is wildly different we ignore it. This is similar to how traditional spam detection works. We also have an industry standard spam detector in place to filter out straight spam. We also have a bunch of monitoring checks in place, and if we see a fake/imposter email sneak through we can quickly delete it from our database.

Jeff also explained why the project is important overall:

It’s not widely covered, but political campaigns are using very sophisticated “big data” techniques to optimize their message and influence voters. I hope this project helps uncover how this part of political campaigning works. Campaigns are putting a lot of resources into micro-targeting, we thought it was worth watching how it works and how it’s being put into action.  Learning exactly what the campaigns are saying to whom, may reveal inconsistencies in their messages or other surprising trends.


Image:
Screenshot of the Message Machine e-mail.

Bonus: Read up a bit more on targeting here and here.

Who Makes Money from Campaign Spending? →

ProPublica turns campaign spending on its head a bit with an interactive that lets Users track who’s making money off it. So, instead of looking at who’s donating to campaigns and Super PACs, they look at the top 200 recipients of campaign largesse.

Topping the list, Mentzer Media Services. The former Swift Boat Veterans for Truth video producers have raked in a cool $25 million so far doing work for Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Restore our Future, a Super PAC that supports Mitt Romney.

For the journogeeks, a ProPublica post explains the tech behind the interactive.

To assemble the data, we used the New York Times’ Campaign Finance API to grab ID numbers for FEC filings. From there, we grabbed the filings thesmelves by passing each of the filing IDs to FECh, a handy Ruby gem also written by the Times. Then we filtered out ones marked as amendments or as quarterly, year-end or monthly aggregations.

Using Google Refine, a tool for cleaning messy data, we clustered recipient organization names and merged ones that differed slightly; for example, we merged together payments marked “Google” and “Google Inc.” We then selected the top 200 recipients across all of the committees and campaigns we are tracking.

The end result is a what’s known as a Sankey diagram that’s illustrated on the fly (primarily) with jQuery and Raphael.js, a JavaScript library for drawing vector graphics on Web pages.

The interactive — A Tangled Web: Who’s Making Money from All This Campaign Spending?

The nerdery — Untangling a Web of FEC Data.

Internship: Digital Freedom, Privacy, and Security Reporting with ProPublica →

Via ProPublica:

ProPublica is looking for a full-time intern to participate in a new investigative project focused on digital privacy, security and freedom. The intern will work closely with a senior reporter doing original research and story development and regularly blogging. When appropriate, the intern will share writing credit on major stories. Prior experience in the area of cyber security, digital freedom and privacy is preferred but not a must. Investigative reporting skills and knowledge of Mandarin, Arabic or Russian are a plus. Compensation is $700 per week.

ProPublica — and the internship — is based in New York City.

Super Pacs and Politics, the Spending is Ferocious…

A music video to explain super PAC ads via Propublica.

More: Poynter has the behind-the-scenes on the video. For a more serious explanation of super PACs (though this one is just perfect), we tumbled about it a few weeks ago.


Journalism.co.uk named ProPublica’s TimelineSetter as its tool of the week
Tool of the week: ProPublica’s TimelineSetter
What is it? A tool for creating beautiful interactive timelines.
How is it of use to journalists? Having spent time developing a timeline tool, US investigative journalism news site ProPublica has made the code available for others to use, enabling journalists to build interactive timelines from a spreadsheet.
ProPublica’s timeline on how one blast affected five soldiers is a clear demonstration as to just how effective the tool can be in online storytelling.
The LA Times and Chicago Tribune are among those who have utilised the open source software since it was made public in April 2011.

Journalism.co.uk named ProPublica’s TimelineSetter as its tool of the week

Tool of the week: ProPublica’s TimelineSetter

What is it? A tool for creating beautiful interactive timelines.

How is it of use to journalists? Having spent time developing a timeline tool, US investigative journalism news site ProPublica has made the code available for others to use, enabling journalists to build interactive timelines from a spreadsheet.

ProPublica’s timeline on how one blast affected five soldiers is a clear demonstration as to just how effective the tool can be in online storytelling.

The LA Times and Chicago Tribune are among those who have utilised the open source software since it was made public in April 2011.

ProPropublica Builds Transparency Layer into its Articles
ProPublica, the nonprofit, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative startup has introduced a tool to let readers explore source material used in their reporting.
In the image above, I’ve selected a highlighted phrase from an article by Marshall Allen about a woman’s fight for information about her husband’s death at a Texas hospital. Once selected, a windoid appears containing source material pulled from DocumentCloud.
ProPublica calls this “Explore Sources”.
Via ProPublica:

In the course of reporting the piece, Marshall made over 500 annotations in 64 documents he uploaded to DocumentCloud, many of which were sources of facts in his story. We thought readers would find these annotations useful, and may even use them to explore the documents on their own. However, we didn’t want to show them in a separate graphic or interactive feature, but rather sprinkled throughout the story itself.
So we made a special feature we’re calling Explore Sources. To try it, click the “ON” button next to “Explore Sources” at the beginning of the article. Words and phrases throughout the piece will turn yellow. Click these yellow highlights to see the portion of the source document from which Marshall got that fact. Once the annotation is visible, click the document image inside of the popup to go to the full document in DocumentCloud, or anywhere else to dismiss it.

Read on to learn how ProPublica then created a little app that the reporter can use to connect to specific DocumentCloud snippets when authoring into the organization’s CMS.

ProPropublica Builds Transparency Layer into its Articles

ProPublica, the nonprofit, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative startup has introduced a tool to let readers explore source material used in their reporting.

In the image above, I’ve selected a highlighted phrase from an article by Marshall Allen about a woman’s fight for information about her husband’s death at a Texas hospital. Once selected, a windoid appears containing source material pulled from DocumentCloud.

ProPublica calls this “Explore Sources”.

Via ProPublica:

In the course of reporting the piece, Marshall made over 500 annotations in 64 documents he uploaded to DocumentCloud, many of which were sources of facts in his story. We thought readers would find these annotations useful, and may even use them to explore the documents on their own. However, we didn’t want to show them in a separate graphic or interactive feature, but rather sprinkled throughout the story itself.

So we made a special feature we’re calling Explore Sources. To try it, click the “ON” button next to “Explore Sources” at the beginning of the article. Words and phrases throughout the piece will turn yellow. Click these yellow highlights to see the portion of the source document from which Marshall got that fact. Once the annotation is visible, click the document image inside of the popup to go to the full document in DocumentCloud, or anywhere else to dismiss it.

Read on to learn how ProPublica then created a little app that the reporter can use to connect to specific DocumentCloud snippets when authoring into the organization’s CMS.

Learn what redistricting is all about through this ‘school house rock’ style music video made by Andrew Bean and Dave Holmes in partnership with ProPublica.

capitalnewyork:

The Fracking Song - a ProPublica/NYU Studio 20 joint.

FJP: Brilliant. Looking forward to asking Chao if she was in on this.

(via onearth)

Last year ProPublica won the first Pulitzer for an online news site. This year, they have been awarded the first Pulitzer for a series that did not appear in print. The series was Eisinger and Bernstein’s ‘The Wall Street Money Machine,’ which described how hedge funds and financiers profited from the collapse of the economy. ProPublica publishes under a Creative Commons license and hosts a Nerd Blog where they write about journalism-related hacking and publish open source tools they have developed.

— First Ever Pulitzer For Non-Print Series via slashdot

(Source: news.slashdot.org)

Today’s honor caps a series of awards for ProPublica this year, including two George Polk Awards, one for radio (with NPR) for our series on brain injuries to our troops, another for television (with Frontline) for our reporting on police violence in New Orleans after Katrina; a National Magazine Award finalist nod for our story on dialysis facilities; the American Society of News Editors Batten Medal for sustained reporting on the New Orleans police story; two Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, one for the dialysis story and accompanying database, the other for innovation for our “Dollars for Docs” series; and two awards from the Society for News Design for our news applications.

Paul Steiger, Editor in Chief, ProPublica, writing today about the non-profit’s Pulitzer win for National Reporting. ProPublica reporters  Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein won the award for a series on Wall Street bankers who enriched (or tried to) themselves at the expense of their clients and — in some cases — their firms.

This is the first time a digital only series has won the Pulitzer.

Congratulations to an exceptional organization for showing what a non-profit can do in journalism.