Is the future of journalism going to be largely data-driven?


The inventor of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee believes he’s glimpsed what will become of journalism in years to come. Its future lies in analysing data, lots of data. As the inventor of the world wide web, you may be hard-pressed to counter-argue this man’s opinion.

He was asked, at a launch for the first government datasets in November 2010, who would analyse data once the ‘geeks’ had moved on.

What was the real point to disclosing government data? Who’s really going to hold the government, or anyone else, accountable for analysing data?

“The responsibility needs to be with the press,” Berners-Lee responded with authoratitave conviction.

“Journalists need to be data-savvy. But now it’s also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country.”

Today, I spoke to the Deputy City Production Editor at the Evening Standard, Oscar Blend. I asked him what he thought about the idea that data analysis is really the future of journalism.

He stated, ‘I have to say that not enough journalists know enough about data, computers, statistics and all the technological stuff that used to drive me up the wall.’

‘I agree that people really ought to know more about this sort of stuff but seasoned journalists such as myself didn’t receive this sort of training back in the day!’

‘Also, I don’t think now is a time that the heads of departments are going to fund this sort of training but as it becomes more apparent, and it is beginning to look that way, we will need to recruit people that have the ability to use technology and analyse this sort of data.’

‘People need to be able to search for stories in datasets and not just leave it to the ‘online segment’ in any given publication. There are often great council, government or even TFL stories there that people miss when they don’t know what they’re doing.’

‘If I heard myself saying this fifteen to twenty years ago I may have laughed, or not completely understood what I was talking about! But I can assure you, it’s no laughing matter now.’

I will feature an phone interview with Oscar Blend on the future of journalism later on in the blog.

By Alex Lawton (@AlexandraLawton).

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About Alexandra Lawton

Having completed a degree at Durham University in Anthropology, i'm now doing a masters at City University in Broadcast Journalism. I am 23 years old.
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