Need Data for a Story? You Can Now Buy It From ProPublica

Journalists writing about health, business and transportation issues can now purchase extensive data sets from independent, nonprofit reporting outfit ProPublica via its Data Store.

Launched Feb. 26, the store allows news organizations and individual reporters to “shop” for research that ProPublica has either been given access to by the federal government through FOI requests, or data resources gathered by ProPublica’s internal team. The site is launching the experiment to see whether the store might add a unique revenue stream to ProPublica.

Let’s say you need some figures on mortality rates along with cause-of-death data: ProPublica will link you directly to the data they have found from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for free (they’re linking from their site to ensure you’re getting the most current numbers). The same goes for data on nursing home deficiencies and documented oil/gas pipeline incidents, which ProPublica also provides links to.

But for the datasets that the investigative journalism provider has collected as a “result of significant expenditures of time and effort,” ProPublica will impose a one-time fee: $200 for journalists and $2,000 for academic researchers.

All of ProPublica’s paid datasets will be available at that price, except for one larger treasury of national data, detailing the payments pharmaceutical companies make to doctors, which can be yours for $1,000 if you’re a journalist (and $10K for academics).

Not sure if you want to drop that much cash on a dataset? ProPublica will let you download a small sample of the data to see if it meets your needs, plus a readme file explaining how to decipher it.

Scott Klein, senior editor of news applications at ProPublica, and data reporter Ryann Grochowski Jones wrote about the value the wealth of data will bring to the work investigative reporters must do in the newsroom while introducing the data store on ProPublica:

“The datasets contain a wealth of information for researchers and journalists. The premium datasets are cleaned and ready for analysis. They will save you months of work preparing the data. Each one comes with documentation, including a data dictionary, a list of caveats, and details about how we have used the data here at ProPublica.”

While heavily data-driven reporting has produced high-quality work at ProPublica and positioned the nonprofit newsroom as a leading source of investigative journalism, Klein and Jones added that they’re still not sure how much interest there is for other newsrooms to acquire data. “We’re paying close attention and expect to learn a lot in the first few weeks after launch,” they wrote.

It’s clear ProPublica is hopeful that the Data Store might develop a steady source of income so they can keep accomplishing their reporting goals, but they’re open to suggestions on features for the data store, as well as what type of datasets they should add.

“We hope that providing a clearinghouse for all of our datasets will help this material reach a broader community and will support, in spirit and financially, our journalistic mission,” Klein and Jones wrote.

You can check out ProPublica’s new Data Store here.