Prairie Portrait: Matt Wynn of the Omaha World-Herald
Name: Matt Wynn
Bio: I like telling people about where we live. I do it by making the Internet with data for the biggest and best newsroom around.
Title: Reporter and developer at Omaha World-Herald
Residence: O Town, NE
Intro music: "X Chuck Berry Holiday" by Nobunny
Silicon Prairie News: What outcomes would you like to see Hack Omaha produce?
Matt Wynn: When we (at the World-Herald) create something, it's undoubtedly ours. It answers questions we want asked, it solves problems we think exist. Well, we're journalists. We're wired funny. We want to see how the same basic goal — make something neat out of local data — can be interpreted by folks with entirely different backgrounds. Plus, this stuff makes Omaha better. We truly hope to come out with a handful of new tools that make this an easier place to live.
SPN: As someone who has worked in data journalism for years and even taught classes on the subject, what are some rules of thumb for distilling raw data into information that can be understood by — and make a difference in the lives of — readers?
MW: Data is just a tool. It's great because it gives us a window into the broad story. It also provides the anecdotes that make boring policy/process stories meaningful. On the other hand, it's dangerous. Some of the most embarrassing corrections come from data-driven stories because minute details can dramatically affect findings. That's a meandering way of saying two things: Put on your tinfoil hat and find the people the data's about.
SPN: You've been a driving force behind the local chapter of Hacks/Hackers. For those unfamiliar with the organization, can you explain what it is and why you believe it's important?
MW: Hacks/Hackers is a group that explores the intersection of technology and journalism. That encompasses a lot, but generally we get together to talk about interesting things then go grab beer somewhere. It’s a national organization, and UNL’s Matt Waite and I run the local chapter. We’ve been lax lately, but I hope to dive back into it full bore this summer. If anyone’s interested in learning more or getting on board as an organizer, they should shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com.
SPN: There's been no shortage of attempts to monetize online content from traditional media outlets, but no one seems to have figured out an effective solution. What's your take on the best way to do that?
MW: In 75 words?! ;) I wrote about this for Poynter last year. (http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/media-lab/mobile-media/148871/lets-take-news-apps-out-of-the-newsroom-and-create-products-instead-of-content/) Depends what you mean by "content." News organizations can make local information so useful and easy that it's worth money to people. I don't know if stories are the ideal way to do that, as we explored in the article. News organizations do important work. It's never been directly profitable. It's been propped up by wrapping it in a bunch of expensive ads. We don't necessarily need content to make money, though it's worth exploring that idea. We just need to do something to make money so we can continue doing important journalism. One thing I love about the OWH is they're as interested in this idea as I am, and they're supportive of a lot of experimentation to that end.
SPN: As a Missouri graduate and sports fan, where do you stand on the Tigers' impending move to the SEC?
MW: We'll see. I'm still having nightmares about Norfolk State. I'm a bandwagon fan at best who could always get up for Nebraska or Kansas. Not sure I care about anything south of the bootheel, but I hope that changes.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Wynn.
Prairie Portraits: To learn more about this series, see our introduction post, or visit our archives for past Prairie Portraits. To suggest an individual for a future Prairie Portrait, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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