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A slide shown showing the AP’s data journalism and interactives workflow during a presentation at Microsoft’s Data Insights Summit this week in Seattle.

The Associated Press will use Microsoft’s Power BI technology to create and share interactive graphics for large-scale data journalism projects under a new pilot project that could impact the analysis, reporting and presentation of everything from election results to scientific data.

The collaboration, announced this morning, aims to streamline and improve the AP’s process of creating visualizations from large data sets such as those used in its national investigative and enterprise journalism projects. Previously, the agency’s interactives team would often code these graphics themselves in Javascript, said Troy Thibodeaux, the AP’s editor for interactive newsroom technology.

“This gives us a new option on the table that we didn’t have before,” Thibodeaux said.

The collaboration is nonfinancial, not generating any direct revenue for Microsoft, but the AP’s reach could help to further raise the profile of Power BI in a competitive market for business intelligence and data visualization technology. Microsoft competes with companies including Qlik and Seattle-based Tableau Software in this market.

As part of the pilot program, the Associated Press is testing the use of Power BI to display elections results, starting with last night’s Virginia gubernatorial primary election. Previously, the AP would have previously distributed tabular results without an interactive graphic.

“This interactive never would have seen the light of day had we not spoken with Microsoft,” said Dan Kempton, a data journalist with the AP, during a presentation at Microsoft’s Data Insights Summit in downtown Seattle on Tuesday. “We would have had coverage of the election but we would not have created a visual for the election.”

Depending on how the pilot goes, the AP may consider using Power BI to create visualizations for other state and national elections in the future, Thibodeaux said.

Here’s an example of an interactive Power BI visualization generated from the AP’s water quality data set.

The technology also makes it possible for more AP reporters and member news organizations to analyze and visualize data as part of their reporting, without coding skills. Through the partnership, AP member news organizations, including broadcast and newspaper outlets, will also receive access to Power BI visualizations and files to further analyze the data and create interactive graphics with angles specific to local markets.

The collaboration with the AP was struck via Microsoft’s Data Journalism Project.

“Sharing data encourages a greater level of transparency and understanding, but comes with the great responsibility of being accurate, useful, significant and comprehensible,” said Frank Shaw, corporate vice president for Microsoft communications, in a post announcing the collaboration. “Interactive data visualizations invite a reader into the role of a journalist, enabling them to dig deeper and uncover the story that is the most relevant, meaningful, and personal to them.”

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