Why Data Journalism is interesting

The discovery which propelled data journalism to nationwide recognition was undoubtedly the expenses scandal of 2009. It was the Telegraph’s close examination of dormant web-based information that led to the leaking of the claiming, tax evading and mortgage dodging by MP’s.

The sensitive data, presumably in the form of internal documents, provided the catalyst for a journalistic investigation of some magnitude. The public reaction to the discoveries was voracious: Who? When? How much? It certainly made me sit up and acknowledge the importance of numbers, statistics, and hard facts.

A data driven journalism is one that is refreshingly divorced from the personality of the writer. In a sense number, percentages, statistics and info-graphics are self explanatory .The person writing about them becomes anonymous, and the data becomes its own author. It is extremely effective because it sidesteps being story-centric.

With information being so readily available through portable mediums like the i-phone, it makes sense that we should be generating a media ‘app’ for the busy reader. Providing data driven facts is quicker, and the visuals of info-graphics simulate the same visual excitement of a computer game/video game, making them infinitely more appealing than text dense articles.

So are the simplistic visuals used in info graphics in danger of dumbing down the information they contain?

Or are they a strikingly clever tool for tapping into the tech-conditioned modern mind?

The founder of Technology Entertainment and Design Richard Saul Wurman is considered the originator of the phrase, ‘information architect’. Similarly Adrian Holovaty, author of ChicagoCrime.org, writes that most material collected by journalists is ‘structured information: the type of information that can be sliced-and-diced, in an automated fashion, by computers’. For both it seems that database journalism is opposed to traditional journalism in the sense that it is not a static facility. Wurman, certainly, seems to view himself as being the collector and curator of information.

It is an ongoing process, and the information which he collects is monitored closely, and constantly re-editing under his watch. An example which seems to fit in with this is the data journalism used to cover elections. The use of swingometers within maps, calculators and search fields meant that the results could be constantly changing, and that the public could interact readily with the available data.

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About Emily Lingard

Ma Broadcast Journalism student
This entry was posted in How is data journalism used?, Introduction to Data Journalism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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