Connecting News Stories and Topic Maps

New WordPress plug-in Catamount aims to connect data sets and stories by Mădălina Ciobanu.

From the post:

Non-profit news organisation VT Digger, based in the United States, is building an open-source WordPress plug-in that can automatically link news stories to relevant information collected in data sets.

The tool, called Catamount, is being developed with a $35,000 (£22,900) grant from Knight Foundation Prototype Fund, and aims to give news organisations a better way of linking existing data to their daily news coverage.

Rather than hyperlinking a person’s name in a story and sending readers to a different website, publishers can use the open-source plug-in to build a small window that pops up when readers hover over a selected section of the text.

“We have this great data set, but if people don’t know it exists, they’re not going to be racing to it every single day.

“The news cycle, however, provides a hook into data,” Diane Zeigler, publisher at VT Digger, told Journalism.co.uk.

If a person is mentioned in a news story and they are also a donor, candidate or representative of an organisation involved in campaign finance, for example, an editor would be able to check the two names coincide, and give Catamount permission to link the individual to all relevant information that exists in the database.

A brief overview of this information will then be available in a pop-up box, which readers can click in order to access the full data in a separate browser window or tab.

“It’s about being able to take large data sets and make them relevant to a daily news story, so thinking about ‘why does it matter that this data has been collected for years and years’?

“In theory, it might just sit there if people don’t have a reason to draw a connection,” said Zeigler.

While Catamount only works with WordPress, the code will be made available for publishers to customise and integrate with their own content management systems.

VTDigger.org reports on the grant and other winners in Knight Foundation awards $35,000 grant to VTDigger.

Assuming that the plugin will be agnostic as to the data source, this looks like an excellent opportunity to bind topic map managed content to news stories.

You could, I suppose, return one of those dreary listings of all the prior related stories from a news source.

But that is always a lot of repetitive text to wade through for very little gain.

If you curated content with a topic map, excerpting paragraphs from prior stories when necessary for quotes, that would be a high value return for a user following your link.

Since the award was made only days ago I assume there isn’t much to be reported on the Catamount tool, as of yet. I will be following the project and will report back when something testable surfaces.

I first saw this story in an alert from Journalism.co.uk. If you aren’t already following them you should be.

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