Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wichita Eagle has a neat feature on its Web site: A map, which is updated every weekday, of all the crimes that took place in Wichita in the past day. The part I like best is the fine print that says, "Data is based on information from the Wichita Police Department."
Lots of police departments are mapping crime data and lots are putting the maps online. Usually, though, they end up buried deep within government Web sites. I'd guess that most are rarely visited. So, if governments really want the public to see their data (and, in some cases, that might be a pretty big "if"), working with the media on projects like this one makes a lot of sense.
It also helps prevent those pesky journalists from taking information out of context. When he or she has each day's crime map at hand, a reporter is less likely to cast a single incident as part of a disturbing trend, unless, of course, it's part of a disturbing trend.
Speaking of cool online collaborations between media and government, the San Diego Union Tribune has a new searchable database: "Structures burned in the 2007 San Diego County wildfires."
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.