During high school, I enjoyed math contrary to popular hysteria. I Didn’t say I was good at it but I enjoyed it. But there was one small thing I hated and that was DATA HANDLING (cue the dramatic music).
Little did I know that I would never escape data, at least not in Journalism?
So what is data journalism and why does it sound like automated robots can do it better than me?
“Data journalism refers to a new set of tools that can help journalists work with large amounts of information, to dig deeper and communicate better.”
But this concept isn’t new. At a time, it was known as computer-aided reporting, whereby computers would to help the process of analyzing large amounts of data by ordering information in the database.
Journalism is an ever changing environment and that’s because technology and journalism are synonymous with one another. Data is new content and that’s music to media company’s ears. It also allows us to tell our stories in a different way, one with a bigger stance on facts.
But why is data important? Data tells us about how our media company’s sales are doing. The next possible financial crisis that’s could be on its way. The economics behind the decisions our government makes. The misuse of funds from the government that are presented with data that leaves little room to argue with it.
Many believe that South Africa media isn’t taking advantage of its free rights compared to other countries because we can’t analyze data. If our media can’t get hold of documents then they can just turn to the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to request it.
Journalism has become such a competitive industry today due to the thousands of blogs and millions of people with mobile phones with cameras taking pictures of videos of something interesting/newsworthy. They all fall part of the category “Citizen Journalists”.
This is why data journalism is so vital for the future of journalism. Having the ability to filter through what the human eye can see is one of advantages journalists still have and should hold on to.
But it’s not for us as journalists to be selfish with because if you look at the initiative that The Guardian started with an astounding 28,800 readers helped review almost 225,000 documents and by involving the readers in the investigation process about where tax pounds are being spent.
This led to a widespread public interest and momentum that carried on for well over a year. Loopholes and conflicts of interest ended up being found. So the quality of journalism went up but at the same time journalists weren’t made to feel insecure about their jobs because this was a collective movement and in the end that’s where our priorities should be or maybe that’s what we should strive to be.