What YOU need to know about Data Journalism…Behind the Numbers and Into a Story

Data journalism is becoming more and more common in the field of mass communications.  Take a look at The New York Times website; they have a WHOLE page dedicated to data journalism and multimedia publications.

When I first heard about ‘data journalism,’ my first question was “how is this different than other types of journalism?” And maybe you have the same question, as well.

What makes data journalism so different is the new possibilities that open up when you combine the traditional ‘nose for news’ and ability to tell a compelling story, with the sheer scale and range of digital information now available.

Data journalism is so important in the field because it requires that gathering, the filtering, and the visualization of data beyond what the eye can see.  Now, in this day of social media, anyone can be a ‘journalist.’ But it will really take a true journalist to be able to mine and sift through data to tell a compelling and dramatic story.

Journalists, including we, the up-and-coming journalists, should see data as an opportunity to help the public. They can, for example, reveal how some abstract threat such as unemployment affects people based on their age, gender, education.  Our goal is to make sure that we are making this data relatable, instead of thousands of numbers thrown together in a document.

In our field, we are constantly looking for trends in order to tell a story or to inform. Take crime as an example. We can pinpoint the certain spots that crimes happen and then report on a trend, perhaps with possible input from police agencies. This can all be displayed on a map, embedded into the online story. And there you have a great example of data journalism. The best part…it can all be done in a Google Doc along with a free add on of Google Fusion. It even spits out a link that you can embed into your site and/or article.

Thinking about designing for data journalism should make us stop and think about how we write our stories and how we push them out to the audience. Are we drawing the audience in? Can we interact with them? That word ‘interact’ is HUGE these days.

The more we can interact with our audiences, the more effective our work will be.

Data journalism needs experienced journalists, who have the stamina to look at often confusing, often boring raw data… we need to be able to ‘see’ and ‘tell’ the story that lies behind the numbers

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