DocumentCloud: New Tool for Gumshoe Reporting

November 2, 2011

If you do investigative reporting, you probably rely often on large numbers of documents to make your case. Now there is a new, free tool called DocumentCloud which can help you manage the evidence in a way that supports your story and helps you move seamlessly from research to publication.

Even when you only have photos of paper documents, DocumentCloud turns them into text. Then it runs them through a state-of-the-web tagging system called OpenCalais to link to background on most of the people, places, things, and events they mention. It easily allows you to highlight and annotate passages in the documents — or construct timelines from them. In the article you eventually write and publish, you can link directly to specific passages or documents that support your statements.

While you are in the research phase, all your documents can stay unpublished and under your control. Once your exclusive scoop is out, they can all be published with one click of a button.

Images of the original documents you use are uploaded to the DocumentCloud server, eventually to be shared with the public and other journalists. The online catalog of documents is searchable in many ways. You interact with the documents through an intuitive web interface.

DocumentCloud was conceived and developed by a team of editors at ProPublica and The New York Times, and was funded in 2009 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In June of 2011, DocumentCloud merged organizationally with Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).