Not long ago, journalists who sought to dive deep into government data usually started their investigation with a trip to the local library. Interested in information that government officials want to keep secret? Americans needed to pass laws to make publicly owned data public.
Two forces have combined to blow the doors open on government data: technology and the fast-growing amount of information it collects, generates, and disseminates. (The Obama administration has helped.) Data that might have once been combed through by hand is increasingly being combined into public databases and journalists, researchers and even businesspeople are making use of it.
Here’s our guide to getting the most out of this age of transparency.