The Freedom of Information act, despite becoming common practice amongst the new wave of journalism, is still a very new concept to a great deal of the public, and finding the best way to present data that is acquired through this act can be a difficult task.
AcademicFOI are the perfect example of an organisation who are doing great things with useful data.
First of all, they ask questions and make sure everyone knows what questions they asked; the whole process not just public but easy to understand.
Take, for example, the most recent investigation into workplace bullying at UK universities.
The Freedom of Information request covered fourteen questions, covering all the universities.
This data is daunting, even to the most experienced, so for the public to even attempt to consume this raw data there must be a lot of work done.
They immediately outline the key findings, the mission groups and the extremes; the ‘newsworthy’ data that provides the key news angles and gives the most interesting answers. Further interesting findings are then outlined and explained, clearly.
The next section is where they really come into their own; they unveil every question asked, explain what they should have asked with hindsight, and where they could or have encountered problems.
This is not your standard public process as they make public every aspect of the investigation. The basic excel data is available for download and their findings are presented in tables categorised by the question they apply to, so nothing is hidden, their news values are openly identified and the data is there for you to find answers to any questions you may have.
Although, it would be useful if then information were available in Google Docs formats as well, to help move along the adaption of data for other journalists.
All in all, if there was a way to deal with data that best represented what the Freedom of Information Act is all about, it is this way. Making everything public is what the act was created for, and allowing your audience to interpret the data rather than consume it is something that more organisations need to become open to.