Altering Docs? Now There’s a Tool for That in DocumentCloud

    by Amanda Hickman
    December 9, 2010

    When we embarked on the DocumentCloud project, tools for altering documents were the furthest thing from our minds. After all, a responsible journalist doesn’t tweak source documents!

    But one of the first papers to embed material using DocumentCloud needed to do just that. The Chicago Tribune accompanied their coverage of a troubled foster home with a collection of letters and court orders. Though the documents offered an excellent illustration of the state child services agency’s lax oversight and slipped follow-ups, they were predictably full of personal information about children in the foster care system, individual agency staff names and other personal and identifying details about private individuals that the Tribune opted to omit from their reporting. That decision, however, left the news apps team replacing the whole stack of letters multiple times before the package was finally ready to post.

    A tool, right inside of DocumentCloud, for replacing, removing and re-ordering the pages of a document would have helped them a lot.


    When the “PBS NewsHour” shared a century old hand-written Mark Twain essay, our OCR tools were not nearly up to the task of reading his handwriting. NewsHour transcribed the 10-page essay by hand and we worked with them to replace the text stored in DocumentCloud and displayed on the embedded letters.

    By the time that Memphis’ Commercial Appeal wanted to run a lengthy series of handwritten letters from Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a young Memphis-born man who opened fire on a military recruiting center in Little Rock last summer, we at DocumentCloud were busy supporting nearly 200 newsrooms — offering to hide the text tab was the best we could do.

    What NewsHour and Commercial Appeal really needed was a tool, right inside of DocumentCloud, with which to edit the text of each document.


    And so, we’ve assembled what we think is a sweet suite of tools to let you re-order pages, insert new ones, delete old ones and edit the text that will appear in your embedded document. Check out our user guide to see how it all works. We welcome your bugs, feedback, rants, raves and, as ever, your documents.

    Tagged: chicago tribune documentcloud documents mark twain ocr pbs newshour

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