What Is Data Journalism?


What is Data Journalism (d.j.)?

I honestly thought this would be an easy question to answer, but then I had to sit down and write this blog and try to explain what exactly data journalism (d.j.) is. Whether the fact that I am writing this late in the evening and cannot think straight or if the radio in the background is distracting me, I just cannot purely define what data journalism is.

I used Google to find out what (d.j.) is, and although there were about 299,000 results, I couldn’t find one that told me specifically what it was. I spent ages reading through tons of blogs, websites, articles and other comments I could find. Admittedly, I didn’t read through most of the 299,000 results that Google produced, but then it hit me; “could the results I found be what I was looking for in the first place? Were the results essentially data?”

Simply, data is information presented in qualitative and quantitative forms. Qualitative data can be articles, blogs, transcripts (anything that is information that is in depth and lyrically descriptive). Quantitative data on the other hand is information that is concrete and has set numerical figures which are then presented in graphs, charts, tables etc.

So really, when I searched in Google “what is data journalism?” the quantitative data I unveiled was the approximately 299,000 websites listed, and the qualitative data was the content of those sites (although, not everyone of those sites is likely to give me the specific information I require).

So how is using data in journalism, “data journalism” exactly? – It’s something I still cannot quite figure out. Part of me wants to think that it is journalism about data, reporting on facts and figures, and things such as press releases, statements etc, court reports etc as these are all data used by journalists to write stories to give them validity and meaning.

Can data journalism just be “journalism” without having to label it? All information that is reported in the news is data essentially. First source data will be getting an original story and reporting it. Second source data can be by finding information whether it be qualitative or quantitative and reporting on it.

Being new to this term (d.j.) I have time to sit down and read through the masses of data to be able to distinguish just what it is, as there are many interpretations no doubt. However, I need to find out if there is a specific practice of (d.j.) that is industry recognised.

Throughout the remainder of this module, the group blog will be updated fortnightly with each writers contributions to the tasks we have set ourselves to write about. All the blogs will be about (d.j.) and the various ways, uses, and impacts it has in the field of journalism.

The aim is that by the end of the module, we will all have either a universal or varied opinions about just what is data journalism.

In an interview with Simon Rogers, who edits the DataBlog at the Guardian, I asked him what is data journalism. He simply answered, “Using numbers and data to tell stories.”

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