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DocumentCloud is an essential part of the news ecosystem. It is a well-designed, easy-to-use tool that journalists around the world depend on for publishing documents that are in the public interest. In an industry built on deadlines, having a reliable go-to service like DocumentCloud is the difference between information being open, and being locked up in screenshots in proprietary CMSes.
At the Guardian, we’ve used DocumentCloud on countless articles. On my team, the Guardian US interactive team, it’s been a crucial feature of many of our most important stories. Most recently, a trove of 1,500 documents – firmly in the public interest, but ordered destroyed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court – were put in the public domain following our investigation into the questionable campaign finance arrangements used by 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker during his 2012 recall election.
Thanks to DocumentCloud we were able to highlight and link to specific parts of the Walker documents, including a photocopy of a check with the damning handwritten phrase “Because Scott Walker Asked”:
As a direct result of having the entire document set online in a linkable, searchable form, local reporters in Wisconsin who had been following the story for a long time were very quickly able to follow up our reporting with fresh angles. Powerful public officials were held to account by an empowered fourth estate.
Part of DocumentCloud’s success is that they keenly understand the needs of journalists, with an advisory group that includes some of the best-known names in digital media. The staff are fully part of the journalism community, and are familiar faces at media conferences.
I can think of few open source projects more deserving of financial support.
Here's how I used DocumentCloud. “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”, published by ProPublica and The Marshall Project, could not have happened without DocumentCloud.
In order to tell the story, Ken Armstrong, my co-author, and I gathered thousands of pages of police department reports, court transcripts, academic studies and other documents. We stored them in DocumentCloud for many reasons. DocumentCloud’s OCR system, which scans documents to convert them into searchable text, allowed us to quickly locate information. The notes feature allowed us to highlight important sections or themes, becoming a sort of outline on the fly. With two organizations working together, DocumentCloud made collaboration easier, too.