World
Antebellum Data Journalism: Or, How Big Data Busted Abe Lincoln
An 1848 investigative news story that relied on heavy data analysis snared big fish, including two future presidents
 
This story was prepared for the March 2014 conference, "Big Data Future," at Ohio State's Moritz College of Law, and will be published in I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, 10:2 (2015). For more information, see http://bigdatafuture.org.
 
It’s easy to think of data journalism as a modern invention. With all the hype, a casual reader might assume that it was invented sometime during the 2012 presidential campaign. Better-informed observers can push the start date back a few decades, noting with self-satisfaction that Philip Meyer did his pioneering work during the Detroit riots in the late 1960s. Some go back even further, archly telling the tale of Election Night 1952, when a UNIVAC computer used its thousands of vacuum tubes to predict the presidential election within four electoral votes.
 
But all of these estimates are wrong – in fact, they’re off by centuries. The real history of data journalism pre-dates newspapers, and traces the history of news itself. The earliest regularly published periodicals of the 17th century, little more than letters home from correspondents hired by international merchants to report on the business details and the court gossip of faraway cities, were data-rich reports.
 
Early 18th century newspapers were also rich with data. If it were ever in doubt that the unavoidable facts of human existence are death and taxes, early newspapers published tables of property tax liens and of mortality and its causes. Commodity prices and the contents of arriving ships — cargo and visiting dignitaries — were a regular and prominent feature of newspapers throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
 
Beyond business figures and population statistics, data was used in a wide variety of contexts. The very first issue of the Manchester Guardian on May 5, 1821 contains on the last of its four pages a large table showing that the real number of students in church schools far exceeded the estimates of the student population made by proponents of education reform. 
 
Data was also used, as it is today, as both the input to and the output of investigative exposés. This is the story of one such investigative story, and of its author, New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley. It’s a remarkable tale, and one with important lessons for “big data” journalism today.
 
Though he’s no longer a household name, Horace Greeley was one of the most important public figures of the 19th century. His Tribune had a circulation larger than any paper in the city except for cross-town rival James Gordon Bennett’s New York Herald. More than 286,000 copies of the Tribune’s daily, weekly and semi-weekly editions were sold in the city and across the country by 1860, which by its own reckoning made it the largest-circulation newspaper in the U.S. Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “Greeley does the thinking for the whole West at $2 per year for his paper.”
 
Greeley himself was a popular public speaker and a hugely influential national figure. He was a fascinating, frustrating, contradictory man. He was a leading abolitionist whose support for the Civil War was limited at best, yet his abolitionist writing in the Tribune made the paper the target of an angry mob during the Draft Riots in 1863. He was a vegetarian and a utopian socialist who published Karl Marx in the Tribune, but believed fervently in manifest destiny and America’s western expansion. He was a New York icon who thought the city was a terrible influence on working people and encouraged them to “Go West” to escape it. Though he was one of the founders of the Republican Party, his relationship with Abraham Lincoln was strained, and he ran for president in 1872 on what amounted to the Democratic ticket, losing big and dying broken-hearted before the Electoral College could meet to certify Grant’s election.
 
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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Urban Inflation

Combined inflation for urban and rural areas increased marginally, to 5.37% in February 2015, from 5.19% in January. Inflation in urban areas was steady at 4.95% in February. Food inflation in urban areas rose to 7.29% in February from 6.93% in January. In urban areas, prices of vegetables increased by 18% year-on-year, in February. Inflation related to fuel & power increased to 2.61% from 2.16% in January. Inflation for housing declined to 4.98% in February from 5.11% in January. Inflation for clothing declined to 5.14% and for miscellaneous items to 1.98% in February from 3.62% in January. 

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International Women’s Day: ‘Women are no longer proxies’

Women entrepreneurs are keen on adopting new technologies to reach out to the world, and it is for Digital India and institutional funding to reach them

 

Union minister for commerce and industries, Nirmala Sitharaman, said that women are no longer proxies and are taking their own decisions whether it is in politics or as entrepreneurs. “Women are no longer shadows of men. In business, women do most ruthless cost-benefit analyses. Therefore, it is only beneficial to enhance their role in business and entrepreneurships by using digital media,” she said, while speaking at the International Women’s Day function organised by Moneylife Foundation in Mumbai. 
 
The minister also felicitated two extraordinary activists, Dr Maria Barretto, CEO of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Society (PDMDS), and Shaheen Mistri, founder of Teach for India and Akanksha Foundation.
 
Talking about the enhanced role of women in changing times, Ms Sitharaman said, “Earlier women were assumed to be proxies for their male relatives. However, this is rapidly changing. Especially, during my frequent visits to some southern states, I have often found women asking questions on development. In fact, in local panchayats and gramsabhas, these women representatives have brought development agenda to the forefront.”
 
 
Describing how women in rural areas are now coming forward to adopt technology to reach the outer world, Ms Sitharaman said, “When I proposed to build a community hall for women at these places, one woman asked me whether it will have computers as well. The woman told me that she wanted her daughter to help her through the computers and Internet and not her son who was working in the city. This, however, is just one of the several examples, how women from rural areas are keen on adopting technology to grow their business.”
 
Last year, the minister adopted two villages, namely, Pedamainavani Lanka and Thruputalla in West Godavari district, under the prime minister’s Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana.
 
Referring to a National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report, Ms Sitharaman said, “Over half the country’s workforce is self-employed. Out of this, about 8.9% are rural women, while the percentage of self-employed women in urban area is just over 1%. In short, about 10% women are self-employed. But there are no facilities, like funding, obtaining registrations and other necessary permissions from government bodies. Nothing is available for them and they do not even get easy help. Women are already making a difference. However, they are not cared. In this situation, institutional mechanism for funding, like Mudra Bank, need to not only help but also make them understand the nitty-gritty of the trade and business,” Ms Sitharaman added.
 
 
Further, she said, “Digital India, the one-step-shop for government services, needs to reach these women entrepreneurs in rural areas,” and added, “Women are not shy of new technologies. They want to be on the Internet. They want the world to see their business. So it is up to us how we can provide them facilities like computers and Internet so that the products from these women entrepreneurs reach to better markets.”
 
Digital India, an initiative of the Narendra Modi government, promises to transform India into a connected knowledge economy offering world-class services at the click of a mouse. It will be implemented in a phased manner.
 
At the end of the function, Nirali Kartik enthralled the audience with her beautiful voice. She sang on the theme, “Mrig Nayanee: A Woman’s Eyes and Expression”. She started the session with a bandish in raag Jog, followed by a song expressing the various moods of Radha and Kaali through tarana, a Holi song and a Sufi song, before ending her recital on a high note with popular songs like “Chhap Tilak” and “Duma Dum Mast Kalandar”.

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