Data-driven journalism: a beginner’s guide

The European Journalism Centre’s (EJC) data-driven journalism round table in Amsterdam came up with a 78-page crash course on the rising industry.

The paper, titled “Data-driven journalism: what is there to learn?” offers information about data tools, data-driven journalism innovators and lists of recommended websites and articles. EJC hopes the paper will help improve access for interested journalists, identify training needs and break down some of the “barriers holding back coders and non-coders alike from starting to experiment.”

EJC writes:

“We need better solutions, good platforms and better reporting. Data is not an entirely new field, nor is storytelling. But deep changes are afoot: while journalism’s old business models are crumbling, working with data provides new and attractive opportunities. Should you agree or disagree with anything in this paper, please drop us a line. It can only improve.”

Why data? EJC writes:

“Developing the know-how to use the available data more effectively, to understand it, communicate and generate stories based on it, could be a huge opportunity to breathe new life into journalism. Reporters can find new roles as ‘sense-makers’ by digging deep into data, in turn making journalism more socially relevant. If done well, delivering credible information and advice could even generate revenues,opening up new business models beyond subscriptions and advertising.”

The paper opens with a quote from Adam Westbrook, author of Next Generation Journalist:

“I think data-driven journalism is one of the big potential growth areas in the future of journalism. A lot of the forward-thinking discussion about the future of news focuses on the ‘glamorous’ possibilities, like video journalism and interactivity, but I often see data journalism being ignored.

“In fact, I believe it is journalism in its truest essence: uncovering and mining through information the public do not have enough time to do themselves, interrogating it, and making sense of it before sharing it with the audience. If more journalists did this (rather than relying on ‘data’ from press releases) we would be a far more enlightened public.

“My message to the next generation of journalists – or any journalist looking for a new niche or direction – would be to learn the skills and tools of data interrogation. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a skill not many journalists have, and one which will give one an edge in the market.”

The paper also quotes Brian Storm of Mediastorm:

“One of our big goals in the storytelling process is to humanize the statistics. It’s hard for people to care about numbers, especially large numbers. How do you get your head around the death of 800,000 people in the Rwandan genocide? I think if you meet the individuals — see and hear the stories of the survivors — you can gain a better insight into the tragedy.”