What if newspapers and reporters used Git & GitHub?

Chip Oglesby bio photo By Chip Oglesby

I’ve been reading more about bookdown the past few days which is a really interesting concept using R to publish statistics books. That led me to think more about how newspapers operate.

I started thinking this morning back to my days at a newspaper and the workflow that we used to publish our articles. This was in 2010 before most people had thought about reverse publishing a newspaper, online first and then reflowing the xml to indesign to be published in print.

That got me thinking. Would it be possible for a newspaper website to work exclusively using the open collaborative nature of git and host it on a site like GitHub?

Then I started thinking about it. Github has:

  • Projects: Which are good for working on daily stories
  • Issues: Which the public could use to request coverage of a particular topic.
  • Pull Requests: Which could be used for building the daily site/issue
  • GitHub Pages: Which can be used for special projects and even hosting a static version of the site.

Reporters would be able to create branches for their stories, Editors could use review requests to request changes. Since you can version control almost anything you could host data, visualizations, code for analysis and images here as well.

Special projects and exposés could be stored in an individual private repo and then pushed upstream when being published to ensure others won’t get the scoop that you’re working on.

If the size of repo became an issue, you could also house images on Google Cloud or Amazon buckets, or you could create an organization on data.world and version control you data files there, giving the public access to everything you publish.

By using an open-source model like Git it may cut down on the perceived bias in news because it would give people insight to how newspapers operate. For analyses, it would give experts the chance to weigh in on visualizations and analyses.

By using Git, you would be able to see the entire change history of an article from beginning to end.

I have seen some newsrooms do this. Fivethirtyeight for example publishes their data and and code behind their graphics on github.