Table of contents

About the site

How does the work?

Journalists log into via a Google account where they can create projects, upload data and manage access. Each project can have individual users or a group of users assigned to it. Their work can remain private or be added to our growing repository of open projects.

Who is allowed to use it?

The Big Local News platform is designed for journalists and news organizations. Non-journalists can contribute to projects via a link that gives them permissions to upload files.

What is an open project?

An Open Project gives all users on the Big Local News platform read-only access. That means anyone can download all files associated with the project, though only project administrators can upload or delete files. Only an admin can make a project an Open Project.


What are the different user roles and their associated permissions?

Each project can have three types of users: admin, editor and viewer. There has to be at least one admin in a project.

  • Administrators can download, upload and delete project files, edit project membership and create an open project. Projects and groups can have multiple admins.
  • Editors can download, upload and delete project files.
  • Viewers can only download project files.

Can I just create a project with a single user?

Yes, a project can have a single user, as long as that user is the admin. Whether you add a group — a collection of users — is up to you.

What information will other users have about me?

Users can see the usernames of others when they add others to groups or projects. Users also have access to the preferred contact method of the administrators on groups and projects where they are members.

How do I contact other users on the platform?

Currently, users can connect to the admins of their projects and groups by reaching out via the preferred contact method listed by the project and group admins.

I’m added to a group connected to a project I don’t care about. What should I do?

Users can speak to the group admin about whether they should be a member of the group. Currently, users also can leave projects and groups without admin permissions through the API Console. In the near future, this feature will be available on the front end as well.

How can I ask to be added to a group or project?

To request an invitation to a group, reach out to the administrator. If you are in other groups with the admin, you should have access to that admin’s preferred contact method.

I’m in a group that has admin privileges. Can I add myself as an individual admin to the project and remove the group?

Yes, you can remove the group as long as the project has at least one admin remaining. However, be aware that removing a group from a project will result in loss of access for all other members of the group, unless they are added to the project as individual users.

I want to add a group to a project but there are certain files members don’t need to see. How do I make users can only interact with certain files?

You can’t. You should not add a group to a project unless you are comfortable with everyone in that group having access to the files.

Can I another this group to a project?

If you are an admin on a project, you can add other users and groups as admins. If you are not an admin, you will have to contact a project admin to add the other group.

Can I add users and groups without allowing them to download data?

No. All users who are added to a project, regardless of permission levels, will be able to download files. You should not add individuals or groups to a project unless you are comfortable with everyone having access to the project files.

I’m a part of too many groups. Can I leave them and still access to their projects?

If you want to leave groups but still have access to their projects, you must request that a project administrator add you individually.

How can I log in if I forgot my credentials?

You can log in to Big Local News with a Google account. You won’t need to remember a password for Big Local News. If you have access to your Google account, you’ll be able to get into your Big Local News account. You can handle lost and forgotten passwords directly through Google.

I need my permissions level changed due to a last-minute deadline and my admin is unresponsive. What should I do?

You need to go through your admin to change permission levels. Sorry!


What is the Stanford Digital Repository?

The Stanford Digital Repository, or SDR, is part of Stanford Libraries. Big Local News works closely with the library system to provide long-term storage of data in our Data Archive. The Big Local News platform is designed to have a pipeline to archiving with SDR. Ultimately, data deposited from completed Big Local News projects can be preserved in this robust, reliable and secure environment. To share data or other files with the public, users can archive with the SDR and receive Persistent URLs (PURLs) that provide online links to the data. While a more automated functionality is under development, Big Local News can assist users who would like to archive their data to SDR.

How long does it take to archive data with the SDR?

The archiving process is not meant to be a deadline situation. Typically, allow two weeks for accessioning with the Stanford Digital Repository. Exceptions can be requested via the support form.

Can I publish my story without archiving data with the SDR?

Yes. However, we encourage archiving with the SDR so you can easily share the data with your readers and be sure it will never be lost.


Is there a limit to how many groups I can create and/or be added to?

There is no limit on the number of groups.

Is there a limit to how many projects I can create and/or be added to?

There is no limit on the number of projects.

Is there a size limit for the files I want to upload/store/share on the platform?

There are no size limits for the files.

What types of files can I upload/store/share on the platform?

There are no limits for file types.

Lost data

I accidentally deleted a file. How can I retrieve it?

We are not able to retrieve deleted or lost files. Big Local News suggests that all information stored or shared on the platform be backed up in a secondary location as well.

I accidentally made changes to a file. Can I access an older version?

You cannot. Currently, Big Local News suggests that you should make a copy or back up your files before making changes.


What are plugins?

Plugins are software additions that will add specific features not native to the platform. Platform users already have access to Datasette, a tool for exploring and publishing data. Other plugins are under development — like FOIA Mail for bulk emailing FOIA requests, a FIPS Code tool to populate FIPS codes into csv files that have county or state names and more.

I have a tool I’d to integrate, what is the process for gaining access to the API?

Newsrooms and journalists with accounts on the Big Local News platform can access the API by logging in and clicking on the developer tab, which takes them to the API Console.

Here are some resources to get you started on using the GraphQL API: