Reporting with Data: How the New York Times Uses APIs

Adam DuVander
Jul. 14 2010, 12:01AM EDT

A couple of recent posts give great insight into how the New York Times uses APIs to enhance its news coverage. It uses its own APIs, both internal and open, to create responsive applications that can explain sports, politics and more.

Times database editor Derek Willis provides an overview of how APIs help the newsroom on his personal blog. Willis provides glimpses behind the development of the Kagan vote tracker and House healthcare vote. Both make use of the Times Congress API (our New York Times Congress API).

Willis goes on to explain how creating APIs becomes useful in the newsroom:

For newsrooms, the utility of APIs goes beyond creating Web apps. Making data available via APIs is a little like giving the newsroom the ability to ask and answer questions without having to tie down a CAR person for long periods of time. APIs can provide data in whatever format you choose, which means that a wider range of people can take advantage, from graphic artists used to working with XML to reporters comfortable with CSV files. When your data is more accessible and flexible, the possibilities for doing things with it expands.

The Times "Open" blog has a tech-heavy explanation of the World Cup tracker, a look behind the scenes of the site's live game coverage. The game data was a private API, provided by Match Analysis. Still, it's a great look at how the Times used live feeds.

Plus, in addition to the game data, the tracker also used open APIs, such as Amazon S3 for storage and a term frequency API for Facebook.

Of course, many other newspapers have APIs, such as the Guardian's Open Platform, which it expanded in March. With short-staffed newsrooms comes an even greater need for getting creating methods to easily access data so that busy reporters and editors can do their work.

Adam DuVander Hi! I'm Developer Communications Director for SendGrid and former Executive Editor of ProgrammableWeb. I currently serve as a Contributing Editor. If you have API news, or are interested in writing for ProgrammableWeb, please contact editor@programmableweb.com Though I'm a fan of anything API-related, my particular interest is in mapping. I've published a how-to book, Map Scripting 101, to get anyone started making maps on websites. In a not-so-distant past life I wrote for Wired and Webmonkey.

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