Open Data

We, at PublicSource, frequently use data in our reporting about Pittsburgh. Using data is the difference between talking to the police chief and getting anecdotal evidence about a problem and leveraging data to find the real answer.

Data can be empowering, and we now want to teach our readers to have those tools at their disposal. Empowering citizens is one of the critical roles we can play at a time, when public distrust in the media is so high.

So, here is your chance to learn more about Pittsburgh, its people and how the city is changing in an upcoming PublicSource class about finding and using local data. We’ll give you an independent guide to publicly available data to make you a more engaged, savvy citizen.

PublicSource has partnered with Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation to host the Citizen’s Toolkit class from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 305 Wood St., Downtown.

I will teach you how to find out whether your favorite restaurant is dirty or how safe are your children walking to school. We’ll learn how to find the right Census data for different kinds of projects and give participants additional resources to take home. Sign up here.

We use data to push back against prevailing wisdom and preconceptions.

For instance, when we created a diversity map of Pittsburgh last month, it showed Marshall-Shadeland on the North Side was the city’s most diverse neighborhood. A reader on Reddit mentioned that they knew Marshall-Shadeland was diverse, but not that diverse. Our data work can provide readers with a new perspective.

When we originally calculated grades based on restaurant health inspections, we published that data so you could see how your favorite restaurant was rated.

By publishing all of the data, we encourage our readers to find their own stories in the data or identify what’s interesting to them.

Using data is one of the ways PublicSource is different from other Pittsburgh media outlets, so we hope you’ll join us on Thursday to learn more about your city and your neighborhood.

The class is not free, at least not yet. Tickets for students are $5 a piece and PublicSource newsletter subscribers can get in for a discounted price $20 (sign up for the newsletter here). If the course is popular, we will find a way to continue it with a hope to secure a sponsor.

Reach Eric Holmberg at 412-515-0064 or at eric@publicsource.org. Follow him on Twitter @holmberges.

This fact-based local reporting drives impact and creates change. Help power that impact.

James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” PublicSource exists to help the Pittsburgh region face its realities and create opportunities for change. When we shine a light on inequity in our region, like the “completely unacceptable” conditions in low-income housing in McKeesport, things change. When we ask questions about policymakers’ decisions, like how Allegheny County is handling COVID-19 safety for its employees, things change. When we push for transparency on issues that affect the public, like in the use of facial recognition software by Pittsburgh police, things change.

It takes a lot of time, skill and resources to produce journalism like this. Our stories are always made available for free so that they can benefit the most people, regardless of ability to pay. But as an independent, nonprofit newsroom, we count on donations from our readers to support this crucial work. Can you make a contribution of any amount (or better yet, set up a recurring monthly gift) to help ensure we can continue to report on what matters and tell stories for a better Pittsburgh?