Magazine article Nieman Reports

Finding Wisdom in the Crowd: Molly Bingham, NF '05, President and CEO of the D.C. Nonprofit Orb, Is Part of a Team Developing a Tool to Create Scientifically Sound DIY Surveys

Magazine article Nieman Reports

Finding Wisdom in the Crowd: Molly Bingham, NF '05, President and CEO of the D.C. Nonprofit Orb, Is Part of a Team Developing a Tool to Create Scientifically Sound DIY Surveys

Article excerpt

AS JOURNALISTS, WE'VE all heard an editor say "get some vox pop in this piece." For decades, we've used informal polls to gauge what the public thinks about a particular topic. Yet the reality is that we never really knew what the public thought and public opinion surveys were too expensive for most news outlets.

In the last few years companies like Facebook, Twitter, and SurveyMonkey have put survey power in the hands of anyone who wants to "hear" the opinions of a digitally active subset of the population. But there's a catch. Responses to digital surveys need to be appropriately weighted--a first step in any statistical analysis. Otherwise what the survey "says" can be inaccurate.

In January Orb, the D.C.-based nonprofit journalism organization of which I am president, received a $450,000 grant through the Knight Foundation's Knight News Challenge on Data. It will support Orb and its partners, Datassist and Cognite Labs, to develop a tool that will allow people to generate surveys and automate the complex statistical computations needed to deliver accurate, properly weighted results. …

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