What if there was a tool that could tell you everything that was said and promised about this day – the previous future – a month, a year or a decade ago?

Jens working on the idea Broken Promises together with colleagues from Journalism Plus Plus at Axel Springer Media Hackday in Berlin.

WAN-IFRA Media Hackday i Berlin, 5-6 October
Task:  Find new ways to reinvent and reengineer newspaper content archives so that their content can become relevant for the content-hungry digital age.
Data: Content API:s from Guardian AFP, Axel Springer, Readmill, Storyful, The Guardian, Watch Mi

Media archives is an almost completely unutilized source of information. Old stories are piled up with little or no structure which makes them difficult to make use of.

This was the (most certainly relevant) starting point for the WAN-IFRA Media Hackday in Berlin, 5-6 October. We, Team Journalism++ United consisting of Pierre Romerra (Paris), Erik Willems (Amsterdam), Yordi Dam (Amsterdam), Nicolas Kayser-Bril (Berlin) and Jens Finnäs (Stockholm), chose to take on the challenge from a journalistic angle. How can we increase the value of the utility of the archives for reporters and editors?

Journalists have a bad memory. We tend to forget to follow up the stories we write. Was the building of the new school finished according to schedule? Were the financial goals met? Were the promises made about the future fulfilled?

We named our hack Broken Promises. Using Guardians content API (the paper was kind enough to offer full access during the hackathon) we scraped thousands of old stories for future references. The articles were stored in a database and on top of this database we built a dashboard that would give a quick overview of all the past stories that mention this day, month and year.

Broken promises

This tool would be used on a daily basis in the newsroom. Going into the morning meeting it would allow editors and reporters to systematically look for own news stories based on previous publications.

Data journalists are slowly changing the way newsrooms operate. Pioneers, such as Adrian Holovaty, has taught us to see the value in structured data. Broken Promises taps in on this development. News archives can be of great value and should not be left to history.

A future addition to Broken Promises would be to build a CMS plugin that lets the reporters flag stories for follow up. There stories would then be integrated into the Broken Promises dashboard.

So how did we do? Pretty well. Photo Stories won the hackathon and a trip to Silicon Valley, but Team Journalism++ United was happy to be acknowledge by The Guardian for best use of their API.

Win! #mhd2013

Our prototype:  http://brokenpromises.jplusplus.org/#/
Our code on GitHub: https://github.com/jplusplus/broken-promises-client
Our 6 second Vine pitch: https://vine.co/v/hXzlAduwHth
The project of the other J++ team: Why, What, When

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