Read & Respond week 7: Data

This week we delve into data. You’re surrounded by it, but do you know how to use it as a blogger? As a journalist? As we discussed in our Mobility week, we’re increasingly devoted to technologies that track our movements, habits, and preferences, and these trackers produce a wealth of data.

Consider Wikileaks, arguably “The game-changer in data journalism.” Approached with this massive wealth of data, The Guardian compiled phenomenally complex accounts of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a collection of cables (communication dispatches) from the U.S. Embassy. Not only this, they made the data itself available to readers to make their own stories out of it.

Oh, and also the guy who gave them the data threatened to sue them.

What can you do with data in your own writing? What, if anything, have you done already? Here are a few more supplements to give you some ideas:

Be sure to post your response to Briggs – note: There is a syllabus error, so please read chapter 8 (on data) rather than chapter 9 – and the readings as a comment to this post by 11:50p Sunday, February 21.


20 Responses to Read & Respond week 7: Data

  1. In the world of Journalism (and Web) 2.0 it seems like everything has been thought of and every avenue covered. However, data journalism is one aspect of the industry that appears by all counts to be in its infancy. This is where aspiring journalists who are about to enter in the professional (paid) world can carve their niche. By all accounts if one can incorporate this relatively untapped segment of the news game into their storytelling, then they will be writing stories that will bring new readers in (“snackers”) and create brand loyalty with them and deepen the relationship with those who regularly read (“lovers”). As someone who didn’t get a Facebook account until last summer, I feel overwhelmed by all of this social media journalism, but I would be a fool not to recognize its impact and future potential. I feel that I am math illiterate, but knowing how to incorporate deep and voluminous data can create story lines that can last months. I will say that journalism needs to balance popularity with news judgement, because if a news organization just wants traffic on its website and social media platforms Kim Kardashian 24/7 would make a lot of sense, but there is also the matter of being loyal to the mission and responsibility to the readers and the community the news organization covers. This discernment is also important when dealing with feedback from readers. It must be kept in mind that only a fraction of the readership will interact and that this fraction is not necessarily a reflection of the breadth, width, and depth of the readership. I have dealt with newsroom leaders who “claimed” to know what the public wanted, and it was funny how the public always wanted what this person thought was best. These days claims like this need to be backed up with data, and this data is now easily accessible. I am looking forward to reentering the journalism industry in 2.0.

  2. During the chapter, Briggs mentioned all the different types of digital components that journalists have to use. With all the different technologies in this day and age, it can get overwhelming, so Briggs stressed the importance of staying organized with our technology. Because most news sources have their own individual databases, its important to understand how to use these databases in order to report an accurate story. It’s easy to make a mistake when reporting data that can potentially cost you or your company a lawsuit.

    Personally, I’m not too tech-savvy, so when I see data and statistics I automatically get nervous. So, I appreciated the tips Briggs included in this chapter on how to create spreadsheets, interactive data maps, and databases. Data journalism doesn’t seem all that interesting to me, but it’s nice to know how it works just in case I need to use this information for future classes. Paul Bradshaw’s “Scraping for Journalism” book is another great source for how to use data journalism and how to correctly get information from online sources.

  3. First and foremost, as talked about in the Briggs chapter, I can use data from my blog to grow my audience. Also, the additional readings provided a lot of different ways to work with data, with gathering and displaying data. I’ll get into the displaying data portion in the next paragraph, but I found the Scraping for Journalists PDF interesting, but a little bit confusing. It could most definitely by useful for getting data! I personally haven’t really done anything with data in my blog posts, but I have used screenshots from a website to show a little bit of data related to body image.

    When looking at a lot of the resources you provided on the blog post, I found a couple of points from Poynter very interesting. Poynter stated that is is difficult to define what data journalism is because the term “data” doesn’t really have a definition. So many different things can be considered data, but more specifically Poynter stated that anything a computer processes is considered data, meaning all journalism today is data journalism. I found that interesting because in some sense, we all as student journalists have already worked with data journalism. Poynter also laid out that real data journalism is about looking for things that are, “…categorizable, quantifiable and comparable in any news topic.” We then can take that data and make it into some form of data visualization, much like the maps that were shown in the Guardian article. Seeing all the dots and maps allowed for better understanding. I also liked that you could interact with the maps and the data points also. The Online Journalism Blog also laid some examples of data visualization examples in the “5 great data visualization pieces from outside the newsroom” example. These are just some great examples of what we can do with data that we may find. The Data Journalism handbook also had some great examples too, some of which I have seen before in other classes. Just knowing that there are so many different ways to show your audience the data is cool because there isn’t just one specific way. You can do a map with data points that provide more information when you click on them, an interactive bar graph, or some type of interactive video, the options are endless.

    Chapter 8 in Briggs supplemented many of the resources you provided that used maps and Briggs laid out how to make those maps interactive. I’m not a super tech-savvy person, but the information provided by Briggs in this chapter helped me to understand “map mashups” more clearly. Briggs also discussed how to build spreadsheets and databases, even though databases are usually more powerful. This could be helpful for future reference whenever I’m working at a specific news organization. I may need to compile either a database or a spreadsheet for the information for sources used and Briggs laid it out very nicely to help me get a grasp on it. Such information could be useful for personal use with data for my blog also.

  4. I liked the Poynter article. It made some good points. The articles says to make learning to code a real-world obligation. I like this because it stops you from making the excuse that you have too many other things to do. I didn’t fully realize how inportant these skills were to journalism. It said in the Poynter article, “…begin with great questions and the desire to find the hardest evidence available to answer those questions.” I think this sentence demystifies how data journalism is done.

    In chapter 8 of Briggs, I like how he outlined the steps of digitzing your life and being organized. It helps to see how these skills can apply even in your everyday, personal life. He outlines the uses of spreadsheets and maps really well. I definitely want to implement a map with supporting data on my blog somehow. The contribution by Ryan Pitts explained how data-driven journalism isn’t just this cool specialty, it can be extremely helpful to readers in their own lives and we should strive to make this data a relevant tool.

    In my own blog, the only thing that popped out to me was possible research on bone health related to heroin use in each state to make a map with statistics and regional information. It’s a story idea I am already working on, and I think presenting the data visually would support it well.

  5. emilyeisenhuth says:

    During the reading, Briggs talks about all types of digital tools and devices to use in the new technology world. Many of my teacher’s say databases are growing and a really good tool to have under your belt when looking for a job. Databases can seem overpowering and a little overwhelming and that is why Briggs talks about how important it is to stay organized. Just like any reporting, it is easy to make a mistake but when doing a database with a bunch of numbers and information, it can be easier to slip up. Databases seem to draw to the peoples eye and I would love to learn how to put one together.

    I found it interesting that no matter what you do or which website you are using you always want to have other sources. You want to show why and where you are coming up with information so that you seem credible. Now that might seem like something obvious for a journalist but I think sometimes in the paper or other websites they don’t credit enough and people still believe what or where they are reading. Another point that really stuck out to me on Poynter was to become an expert. Dive into something that you love and find fascinating so that when someone needs help they come to you. I think this is super important and people don’t really think to do something like that to not just help themselves out but to help others.

  6. matthewfergo says:

    Briggs talks about all the ways we can now digitize our lives, and careers, and making each a little more organized in the process. As a generation, we have so many tools in addition to a wealth of information at our finger tips, quite literally. However, this optimization of our daily lives and careers is not confined to just increasing productivity. Of course that is apart of it, but the real goal of data journalism is to open new doors as a result of the advances in technology. 20 years ago, we would have never been able to access the amount of information we can now and display it in an effective manner. That is what the web does for us as journalists, and Briggs reiterates that sentiment. The problem with this, as Briggs says, is harnessing that data and telling a compelling story. Briggs states that the Washington Post uses data for their political stories – but it’s not as easy as using data and inserting into a story. There has to be an angle there with the use of data, as there must be an angle in any sector of journalism. I found it interesting that data journalism is so infantile in it’s history. Every other area of journalism seems to have become modernized, yet data journalism is still relatively new. This means that there are certainly undiscovered aspects of the industry that are just waiting to be utilized, the only question is – who will be first?

  7. I learned a lot about data journalism in this weeks readings. Briggs discussed the different types of data, how to use data, and strategies to incorporate data into news stories. Just like coding, we use a lot of data without knowing. We use it when we write articles and upload content onto our blogs. It was interesting to learn how to “digitize our life.”

    I also really liked the Poynter article about the five tips to getting started. The article stated that using data will make a story 2-dimensional and help engage the audience. Data journalism describes an overlapping set of competencies drawn from different fields, there isn’t just one thing that defines data journalism, but a combination of a bunch. “Anything that a computer processes is data,” said Troy Thibodeaux.

    As far as my own blog, Engaging Entertainment, I haven’t used much data to show any statistics or numbers about any specific topics. I don’t see how I could use any interactive maps for entertainment, but I am definitely going to look into statistics on how much buzz is going on about the entertainment industry and Broadway world.

    To stay consistent with past posts, I’m going to end with a quote from this chapter, “There is no such thing as information overload, only filter failure,” said Clay Shirky.

  8. EmilyGMartin says:

    In the Briggs’ chapter, he talks about being organized with our technology. With smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. we literally have the world at our fingertips and it is important to know how to use it. Technology has advanced so much in just the last decade or two . But, data journalism is still relatively new. Most other fields and types of journalism are pretty set in their ways, but data is still something we are getting familiar with. Maybe it’s the whole numbers thing that makes it harder to use (because I hate math and numbers stress me out), but people are still uncertain about how to use it within their writing correctly. Not understanding how to use it can lead to mistakes and potential problems.
    Databases are important to journalism and all other writing because you need sources to back up what you say. But, because there are so many databases to choose from, it can be confusing and frustrating. That is why Briggs says to stay organized and outlined the use of spreadsheets, maps and databases, which was very useful. Other than my most recent post on Hozier and his music video for ‘Cherry Wine’, I have not used too much data. But, I will be looking to Briggs’ advice in future posts.

  9. audriek says:

    Briggs makes a point in this chapter to organize your email. I think this is one place where there is extensive stress or “chaos” or it is no burden at all. Doing so will save time and energy because in the end, the whole idea of an email is to only have to view it once!
    I’m sure not all of us do that right now.
    One of the links provided in this assignment was one to 5 tips for getting started in data journalism. I found this link especially helpful because i’m not particularly good at this. I found the first tip to be interesting, it says to “be mercenary.” The meaning behind this was to really just get you tuned in and focused on a goal by learning what you need to know to accomplish that next step.
    Another interesting link was the Wikileaks. The visuals provided in this article helped us as viewers, consume and digest the data.
    Chapter 8 by Briggs shows us all the many platforms that make it possible to bring the data to life.
    Maps are one that can tell a detailed story. For example, in the event of deaths, this is one way to describe the fatalities.

  10. tuellkristen says:

    While I have seen many news stories including statistics and infographics, I never realized they fell under the umbrella of “date journalism.” I also just thought they were very detailed and very researched news stories. After the readings, I realize how important this area of journalism is for budding journalist.

    I really liked the Data Journalism Handbook site. They emphasize that date journalism doesn’t just tell a story, but it tells a story in a way that people will understand. Data journalism is used to help tell people how this will affect them. I think that’s really important. Personally, I pay more attention to stories that may affect me in some way. By using data—numbers and infographics—it’s a lot easier to see how things will affect me. As a future journalist, this is really important for me to realize now. Now, I will have a better grasp on how to entice my views/readers and how to present lots of different information in a comprehensive way.

    After reading Briggs, I realized how many sources there are for utilizing data in news stories. And, I realized how many reputable news stations and papers are using data for their stories. I have never done research into implementing data in to my stories, but now, I will be looking for ways to do so. For my current blog, I’m not sure how much data I can use for celebrity/entertainment news in social media, but I won’t be writing about celebrities forever (most likely), so this new knowledge will definitely be useful in the future.

    Briggs and the article of five tips for getting started in journalism both offer a lot of advice on how to be a good data journalism and how to organize and collect data. It all seems a little overwhelming, and right now, I have no clue how to become a data journalist. However, I’m good at searching things online, and one of the tips is to develop sources. Briggs offers numerous ways and applications for becoming a data journalist, and if I develop technology sources, they will be able to help me better my data collecting skills.

  11. pmlilly says:

    I really like what briggs had to say right out of the gate “it’s time for everyone to accept that the amount of information in our lives is only going to keep growing”. All he is saying is that we as people are just going to have to learn more, and as journalists are going to have to do more research and really look at data and research before writing anything. I also liked what Briggs had to say about building a spreadsheet out of a story. Just entering in the facts of the story into a spreadsheet to keep things nice and organized, that is a really good idea.

    I never thought about it before or knew that it is called data journalism, but I feel like everyone who has ever written a paper for class has done this is one way or another. It is always necessary no matter what story you are writing you always have to have some sort of a work sited page to prove where you got your information from. Thats to prove that you just didn’t make it up or steel it from someone else, so you could say everyone in our major has participated in data journalism unknowingly. I really used data journalism in JRL-225 though when we had to make graphs and maps showing the population of certain towns. It is cool to know I have participated in a new form of journalism.

  12. davidstatman says:

    In the reading, Briggs gives a few tips to better streamline your personal and professional life: organizing your email, finding the right personal productivity tools, developing a strategy for personal productivity and just generally bringing more order to your life. The amount of information in our lives is growing and growing, and it’s more important than ever to stay on top of things and making sure to keep organized.
    I see the rise of data journalism as a parallel to something I deeply care about: analytics in sports, which has exploded over the past decade and is similar in its new approaches to quantifying the world. It’s more important than ever to understand data and statistics, which can allow new approaches to everything.

  13. Sierra says:

    Data journalism can be in many different ways. One of the ways that I can use data journalism is my aid in the stories I tell and news I present to the public. Data would help with putting together infographics and statistics to show the positive and negative effects of the body positive awareness movement. I could also use data journalism to build a following. Using and collecting data would be a great way to figure out what people want to see and hear, what they respond to, and what would get them motivated to join the movement. Considering that there is so much data around us already being used as a tool, I would like to use it as a source for my storytelling and news reporting.

    In the readings, Briggs talks about all of the tools we use in our personal and professional lives which was actually kind of daunting. Looking at the list of things we use just to manage our lives on a daily basis kind of made me want to disconnect completely. Briggs also discusses data journalisms importance. Everything from storytelling, reporting, and managing statistics involves the usage of data among many other functions and programs. After reading Briggs, it seems that nothing can be done without the usage of data when it comes to everything. Very important and positive things can be done with data but of course there is a serious potential for negative impacts to happen, some we have already seen. But of course this is the same as everything else.

  14. coreymac94 says:

    For journalists, and many other professionals, data and statistics level the playing field. They communicate a story that needs no particular angle and exhibits no bias: bare naked facts. The Briggs chapter on data points particularly to a story using electronic and paper campaign finance filings to build a database of flights on corporate jets by members of congress. The journalists who were with The Washington Post at the time had to organize it first of course, but once the research had been done it told a compelling story. For my capstone project this semester, I am working on a similar project concerning campaign and lobbying contributions to WV state and federal lawmakers. Before the internet, this would have been a challenging task. But the information age has provided us with a wealth of data waiting to be compiled. Government websites such as the federal elections commission disclose campaign and lobbying data – you just have to know how to find it. I have spent much of my time doing intense research online. Many non-profit websites such as follow the money .org and open secrets .org compile the information from government websites, organize it, and then categorize it to tailor to specific information you may be interested in finding. Websites such as these have been incredibly helpful in writing my story. The rise of data journalism is just another example of how technology – and its free informational facet – is leveling the playing field for anyone who is interested in a particular subject.

  15. Briggs brings up many valid points regarding developing a strategy for collecting and saving data. Organizing your data according to type can help you get a clearer idea of the data that you do have. I also appreciated Briggs input about how “every story is a field of data.” He discussed how publications, such as The Washington Post uses data bases for things such a government hearings and policy matters. Data in a more local setting can be applicable to stories about city council meetings or school board meetings. I think this is a really innovative way to consolidate data in a story. Working at the DA, many of the suggestions for data would simplify our methods of reporting. Being able to use a data table for events, such as a Morgantown City Council meeting or a WVU SGA meeting, would create a pool of ongoing data and help a reader better visualize the story.

    I think I can apply some of these data practices to my blog posts by incorporating things like infographics (as suggested in the data journalism handbook). I also will take the advice from the poynter source that encourages writers to be the type of data project they want to see on the web. In my posts, I will aim to create data collections that bring together new concepts about music and media.

  16. Kaitlyn Powers says:

    Like Briggs says, technology is always changing to make journalism more meaningful to our audiences, and it’s imperative as journalists that we are well-versed in the latest technology trends. Data-driven journalism is becoming increasingly more prevalent as the rate at which information is being transferred increases. Data journalism is important so that news sources can keep up with the information that they receive, as well as providing readers with databases of information, like USA Today’s databases for the salaries of professional athletes.
    So far, I haven’t really used data in my writing, but I can definitely see ways I could use it, even in my blog. Databases would be useful for reporting on various statistics related to the presidential race, including voter turnout, candidate information, and ad views. Maps would also be extremely useful.
    I found it interesting and funny that he focused on organizing your email, because that’s something I really struggle with (I currently have 1000 unread messages in my inbox). Becoming more streamlined with my technology would certainly help me to become more organized and much more productive.

  17. John Mark says:

    Fingers crossed that this isn’t spam anymore…

    Using data and primary documents in journalism is absolutely essential. Briggs talks about how journalists must take data and present it in an easily digestible way, which is a lot harder than it sounds. In my writing, for both class and the DA, I’ve fallen under the classic journalism plague of assuming my readers know as much about a topic as I do, and I fail to properly explain or present evidence in a way that a layman can understand.

    Readers need things spoonfed to them. As mentioned in post, Wikileaks was a pretty huge deal, but how many people actually know what was leaked? What secrets were revealed? A lot of people don’t know or passed on it because people either don’t care about or are too confused by raw data to look deep enough into it. That’s where journalists come in. We break hard data down for a reader to clearly grasp.

    Data can also be used as an important primary source, as long as it’s from a reputable source. Reporting with reliable data can also help a journalist root out corruption from human sources, who may alter their reported data or numbers (as seen in several of this week’s links). In many cases, data is more important than human sources, because numbers don’t have agendas.

  18. jadenarth says:

    Data journalism is something that has always really interested me. It’s a great way to take your story one step further and give readers a great interactive visual to make the whole thing come together. This week, Briggs discussed how we use data in our every day lives, which I never really thought about until now. He also explains how important data journalism is because we can use it so much to our advantage. It can make things more clear when someone may be confused. It’s also the perfect way to track traffic on your blog. Even with a free website like WordPress, users are able to see how many clicks an article gets, where those clicks are coming from, and it tracks your blog over time to see long-term data.

    I really liked the Poynter article because while I think data journalism is great, I have not used it. This article will definitely be a nice reference to me when I use some data journalism on my blog.

  19. mtshadle says:

    It only make sense in any evolving field that the use of technology and data are becoming more incorporated into every aspect of the field. Briggs offers some pointers early on in the chapter on streamlining and managing these technologies which can become overwhelming quickly. The tip that stood out to me the most had to do with organizing your emails.. I currently have 2,259 unread emails in my inbox. I am afraid of them, yes actually afraid… and a little confused how it got so out of hand. I am definitely going to take time in the near future to go over the tips mentioned in this chapter again and hopefully alleviate some of my stress and anxiety.

    Data driven journalism offers journalists the opportunity to tell stories and present information in different ways through databases, spreadsheets,map mashups,or things such as location aware devices. I personally have not had much experience with data driven journalism but it is an area I would liked to experiment with more in order to be able to produce more interactive, credible, and visually interesting stories, as well as learn how to analyze and contextualize data in those stories.

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