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Cronkite School Builds Campaign Finance Database for Gannett

September 22, 2010

The New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University has built a Web-based campaign finance database that will be integrated into about 100 U.S. news sites owned by Gannett Co.

The database enables visitors to search for the latest campaign contribution and expenditure information for congressional races nationwide. Users can search campaign finance records by race, candidate, party and state. The database is updated regularly with data from the Federal Election Commission.

The New Media Innovation Lab, a research and development lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, contracts with media companies to develop cutting-edge technologies and applications for news and media organizations.

Gannett placed running the campaign finance widget on 30 of its news sites in September and will expand to about 100 by the end of the month.

“We worked closely with ASU on this project for many months,” said Laura Rehrmann, managing editor for enterprise at Gannett ContentOne, which brings content and resources together across Gannett outlets. “The New Media Innovation Lab got a real-world example of the kinds of interactives and data displays media companies are seeking, and readers of websites at Gannett's 81 newspapers and 23 TV stations got an easy-to-browse look at the huge amounts of cash fueling today's congressional elections.”

Gannett is the publisher of the nation’s largest daily newspaper, USA Today, and 81 other daily newspapers in communities nationwide. The company also operates across media platforms as the publisher of more than 600 magazines, owner of 23 U.S. television stations and a distributor of news across the Internet and mobile devices.

The NMIL has worked on prior projects for Gannett. Among these, the lab developed MomSwap, a Craig’s List-style exchange for local mothers that will become part of The Arizona Republic’s Moms Like Me section.

Students in the lab also have developed the AZ Political Directory, a smart-phone application that enables users to geolocate their elected representatives at the touch of their mobile device. The product, developed for the startup political news site the Arizona Guardian, won a “notable mention” in the prestigious Knight-Batten Awards in July.

Lab Director Retha Hill said the project was a good learning experience for the students who worked together on the project and came from both journalism and computer science backgrounds.

“This project is a good example of what happens when you pair smart journalism graduate students with technologists,” Hill said. “The result was a win-win for both the students, who gained real-world experience, and Gannett, which now has a product that adds value for their users.”