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Data and Action in Times of Tragedy

When I was little, I learned that "Knowing was half the battle." More recently, I've learned another phrase--that "data is the new journalism."

In times of national tragedy, more and more people take to the internet on data research missions after reading news narratives. It's not enough for them to just hear a story. They want to know actionable facts. They want to understand the backdrop of politics, votes, and moneyflows that have enabled certain events to happen--and they want to know what immediate actions can can be taken to change things. Terrible events, in the eyes of many, are not just times for relection and sorrow, but they are calls to action.

"Who do we need to vote out to change things?" "Who can I support with a check?" "What vote do I need to go all SOPA/PIPA on if I care about X?"

No perusal of an article about gun control is going to go without a search for who gets NRA lobbyist money. It's a huge data gathering task--more than any one media property can maintain for every last factoid--so those searches wind up heading offsite.

One of the things I like about my job as an investor is that I can back companies that innovate around things that I care about--because making a positive impact is often a great way to be hugely successful. Government transparancy is an area that I think we all have a stake in, and it dovetails nicely with the growing move towards data centered journalism. If you're a media company looking to boost your on site data capabilities or you're a small investor who cares about government transparency, just reply to this note. I'd love to talk to you about a company I'm working with.

The internet affords us the opportunity to hold our elected officials a lot more accountable for their actions--but I think it's critical that this isn't only a fringe, hackavist endeavor. It's important to find sustainable business models that align with the pursuit of transparency and accountability. If we can do it with restaurants, I think we can find a way to do it with our government.

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