Data journalism

March 25, 2011

Things I think about data journalism:

  • Timing the article is everything ( or at least really very important). No-one cares about public spending on the day we go to war.
  • There are two sorts of data journalism: those that generate the news and those that follow the news and ride on trending google searches. They are effective at different times in the news cycle. In crisis times the latter work really well and there is a true skill in getting fast enough to respond.
  • It is a battle against time for both types of data journalism. The cost per word of data journalism is high and the risk a story will pay off is high. You have to know what you’re looking for and be focused.
  • Choosing the right data set is a ++ important skill. There is lots of data out there but what do people care about? Choosing data well reduces the risk of a story not emerging.
  • Coping with big data sets to show patterns where a poltical or buisness system is not working or is corrupt and then digging down to find individuals responsible is the big new offering that data journalism can bring.
  • Specialism in an area of data is how data journalism can be really impressive, just to cope with the jargon in each profession. But the core skills of manipulating data, putting it in a database and scraping and so forth are needed for all big data stories.
  • If all else fails in terms of making data interesting latch the story into something tantalising e.g. hooking into dating never hurts as you can see from Tim Harford’s article about the inflation basket compared to mine .
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2 Responses to “Data journalism”

  1. Ellie K Says:

    Has Ian Katz of The Guardian UK read this? I’m guessing he would appreciate it. If he hasn’t read it, he should.

  2. Francis Irving Says:

    Are you assuming here a high-traffic get advertising business model?

    I’m guessing that data journalism at the Financial Times or the Economist (high value subscription based) would be quite different. Or, indeed, in a detailed investigative news programme like Panorama (effectively tax funded, with resource to do investigations).

    Really interesting list!


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