MPs expenses, The Telegraph, The Guardian, and the 'open' and 'closed' models of 21st century journalism
The MPs expenses scandal has been the defining political story of the year, and with the final publication of the information by the House Of Commons we can now see another potentially defining battle emerge for the future of news - that between the cheque book, bunker and 'traditional' journalism, and an alternative path of open crowd-sourced data-driven journalism.
I want to start by saying hats off to The Telegraph. I think what they have achieved with their coverage of MPs expenses has been absolutely phenomenal, and unlike anything else I can remember in my lifetime. They have led the news agenda for a couple of months, put on sales, piled on extra electronic users, and have had the established political order on the run. Indeed, you could argue that The Telegraph aided UKIP and the BNP to their European Election success, although, personally, I think the Labour Government had been doing a good enough job of imploding on their own anyway.
Yet as I said at MTM London's "Do online newspapers have a future in a Digital Britain" event, there was something I found a bit unsavoury about the way the paper tackled the data, that smacked not of transparency and accountability, but of good old-fashioned patronage.
In essence, the political agenda of the nation was being driven by a bunch of 25 middle class white guys in suits in a bunker near Victoria, picking and choosing the order in which they exposed to public derision another bunch of (mostly) middle class white guys in suits in what became a bunker in Westminster.
Of course it was right for the Telegraph to concentrate their fire first on the Government of the day, but by the time they turned their attention to the Conservatives, the divorce of Peter Andre and Katie Price had effectively removed direct reporting of the scandal from the front pages of the most popular papers in the UK.
Now, unfortunately, as has been pointed out to me, this rather sounds like I'm in agreement with maverick MP Nadine Dorries, which I can't imagine is a comfortable position for anyone.
However, the point I was making at the event was that whilst this professional and diligent exposure of the data was telling, and needed the amplified voice of the mainstream media to gain traction, releasing the data into the open is also a powerful tool. It was The Guardian that assembled a spreadsheet from the data published by The Telegraph, which allowed third party hacks like Tony Hirst's maps and charts.
And there was, I believe, a further significant moment this week.
The Government released the MP expenses files in difficult to parse hand-scanned PDF format, and there are hundreds of thousands of pages to wade through. Within hours, The Guardian had launched a crowd-sourcing application, inviting users to help collaborate with journalists in sifting through this massive pile of information.
The application allows users to point out whether an individual page from the PDFs is interesting and worth further scrutiny, and to transcribe the line item figures on the page in a glorified version of the reCAPTCHA project.
I think the Telegraph's bunkered attitude to their scoop, and their insistence that they alone determined what was 'in the public interest' from the documents is a marked contrast to the approach taken by The Guardian. The Telegraph are physically publishing a selection of their data on Saturday, but there is, as yet, no sign of it being made online in machine readable format. 
Both are news organisations passionately committed to what they do, and both have a strategy that they believe will deliver their digital future. As I say, I have a massive admiration for the scoop that The Telegraph pulled off, and I'm a strong believer in media plurality. As we endlessly debate 'the future of news™' I think both approaches have a role to play in our media landscape. I don't expect this to be the last time we end up debating the pros and cons of the 'closed' and 'open' approaches to data driven journalism
Please note, this is a personal blog. The views expressed on currybetdotnet are my own, and do not reflect the views of Guardian News and Media Limited, or any current or former employers or clients.