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. Today they’re leaking data about the Democratic National Committee and its candidate, Hillary Clinton; some have praised their “radical transparency” while other have criticized their unwillingness to obscure private information such as email addresses and credit card numbers. Even fellow leaker Edward Snowden took some issue with this:

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 1159p Sunday, September 25.

13 Responses to Read & Respond week 7: Data

  1. Ryan Decker says:

    Audio journalism, in my opinion, can be just as compelling, if not more so, than print and television. It can be better than print because you can clearly hear the speakers’ emotion when he/she speaks, rather than guessing or assuming the authors’ emotion towards a subject in print. And even though the same can be said about TV, television broadcasters can rely on the pictures and video on the screen to do some of the work for them. In radio, it’s all up to the broadcaster to paint the picture.

    After looking at the links at the bottom of the lesson, I’m still not sure exactly what a data journalist is. It seems to be someone that collects data for their stories, or makes stories and graphics almost completely out of data. However, to some degree, and Poynter pointed this out as well, most journalists use data and statistics to prove points in their stories.

    The Scraping for Journalists PDF showed how journalists can easily pull data from websites by using an input on Google Docs. As easy as it may be to do that, I would much rather take the time to write down numbers and statistics. That way it’s one less thing on the screen or that I have to click to while I’m writing my story, and because it makes the process a little more meaningful if you write out statistics by hand. Plus, coming from a sports journalists’ mindset, it is a lot easier to compare statistics when they’re written out than when they’re just on a computer screen.

  2. jayrudolph says:

    In chapter 8 of Briggs they talk about why data-driven journalism is important. They talk about how the format of a newspaper is restricting. But then go on to say “On the Web, it can sing–with depth,customization, searchability, and a long shelf life.” I believe that the internet will have a very long lasting effect on our future and pretty soon the internet will take over everything. No longer will we have newspapers or magazines. Everything will be digital eventually.

    With data I believe the possibilities are endless. Data can allow you to prove a point. Data can back up whatever story you maybe telling and validate it. In 5 tips for getting started they describe data journalism as so “Real data journalism comes down to a couple of predilections: a tendency to look for what is categorizable, quantifiable and comparable in any news topic and a conviction that technology, properly applied to these aspects, can tell us something about the story that is both worth knowing and unknowable in any other way.” So in a way they describe data journalism also as any and all types of journalism cause to some extent everything is data. I have not done much reporting with data thus far in my life.

  3. Beyond Craft Beer says:

    I feel like I do not know how I could put data into my journalistic life because I don’t really understand how to use it properly and to my benefit. Data journalism was not so clearly defined in one of these readings, but I understood it as wearing many different hats and using those hats to interpret and understand information.

    I feel like a lot of data journalists predict changes in information and study how media outlets provide news and control the narrative. I could be totally off here, but this is simply my interpretation from the links and Briggs. But I think they study how people share media, what people read, why they read and don’t read certain things, why people have blank conversations with their best friends but engage in a serious conversation with Siri. It’s all part of a bigger picture to me. It’s all part of a bigger case study that all data journalists are working on.

  4. kameronduncan says:

    Chapter 8 of Briggs talks about the importance of data journalism, and how it has become more prevalent as journalism itself has evolved over the years. Contemporary journalists can tell entire stories and portray entire narratives through their use of data, which was unheard of decades ago. A specific example of this is the site Box Office Mojo, which uses the data of dollars grossed to tell which recently released films are most successful, both in general and compared to the budget used to make the film. The internet has allowed for data to be spread more efficiently and also for it to be sorted in a manner that is easy to access. Databases can be newsworthy by themselves, and information like job listings, test scores and salaries have comprised entire sections of newspapers and pages on websites.

    As far as data in my own writing, I don’t particularly use databases, but numbers and figures are important to a lot of the stories that I write about, because they often revolve around race. Statistics in the context of race and how many people of a certain demographic are doing or not doing something is often the basis of what I write. Therefore, it would be next to impossible to write many of the stories I’ve written so far without data.

  5. michalalynn says:

    Chapter 8 of Briggs talked about the utilization of data for journalistic purposes. In another one of my journalism classes, we are currently taking a look at the data created by the secretary of state’s office as provided in the FOIA database and looking for story opportunities created within it. I’m grateful to the database for existing because looking at the data trends really gave me an avenue to look down for a story. In this class, we also talked to an investigative reporter who is using another database that he pulled from the internet and imported into a spreadsheet as a basis for an in-depth piece he is writing.

    The 5 tips for getting started were very helpful because these tips aren’t something I would think of on my own. I love the tips about getting help when you don’t actually know what you should do. The part about being very clear when asking techies for help is a very important reminder because without telling them everything about your computer and your problem they can’t help you. The tip about knowing when to shave the yak is also important because it is simple to get sidetracked when trying to figure out how to do something via Google.

  6. Data journalism for me is a bit confusing and I would not be sure how to use it. As I read the definition of data journalism I was able to understand that it does not only mean numbers but various other things. I would have to spend more time on trying to understand what type of data is applicable to me and how I could benefit from it. I feel like if a journalist was able to use data journalism effectively it could really put them ahead and add a new dimension to blogging.
    Although in my blog I have added a few numbers and data, I feel like if I were able to use it properly it would interest more readers.

  7. It is very common for journalists to use data and analytical information when publishing stories for their readers. Right now as the election is going on, journalists for national media outlets are analyzing polling data released by various polling firms and publishing both the raw numbers and their own interpretations of the data. These journalists use this data to evaluate the state of the election both in the past and present and make their own predictions for the future.

    Briggs discusses data-driven journalism in considerable detail. It talks about how news organizations upload data into spreadsheets and databases so that readers can access them and better read and compare the data within. I could similarly incorporate data into my blog posts through spreadsheets that contain data retrieved from sources such as WordPress and Twitter.

    As of right now, I have not really taken a strong approach towards incorporating data into my posts, but if I was to discuss alumni fundraising efforts in the future, I could include data that shows my readers what past fundraising efforts have amounted to and how the current fundraising efforts were faring in relation to the former.

  8. lmalexander1 says:

    Briggs uses a quote in chapter 8 that is as follows: “There is no such thing as information overload, only filter failure.” This really helped me understand data journalism because I was always afraid to use it in my writing at the risk of overloading with data. Now i understand that as long as I filter it properly, I can be successful at data journalism.

    The tips in Chapter 8 that brigs gives for digitizing your life really make sense for data journalists. It gives steps and advice on how to be a successful data journalist which I found very helpful. The two sections that stuck out to me were the “every story is a field of data section” and that “telling stories with data” section. These were helpful to me because the first one taught me where to find data in my stories, and the second one taught me how to incorporate it into my stories. This is where I got the most out of chapter 8. I really haven’t incorporated data into my posts, but after reading chapter 8 I definitely feel more comfortable doing so.

  9. alexaciattarelli says:

    Alexa Ciattarelli

    Chapter 8 and the readings primarily focus on the importance, and impact of data-driven journalism. While there isn’t an exact definition for the term, as the Data Journalism Handbook states, data journalism differs from the rest of journalism in the sense that is presents new possibilities by combining traditional news with a “range of digital information” that is now readily available to all.

    This combination can create a compelling stories, and as Briggs states, it can also help “solve the problem today’s journalists face with gradual, turn-of-the-screw news stories that can’t find the light of day when competing with short, quick news of the new.”

    I think data-journalism is being used a great deal at the moment with the upcoming elections. Providing viewers with analytics is fascinating, and I think many find the information reliable.

    For my blog, I think it would be interesting to use data-journalism to provide statistics in regards to how many social media posts have been made on a certain topic.

  10. ostarabanova says:

    Data driven journalism is essential in the digital age.
    Online databases help journalists find for example statistics for their stories. This is great for research and investigative journalism. It also helps to track the sources for reporting and helps make search be not so time consuming as in the past.
    A good journalist should know how to find and analyze data, as there is so much data out there nowadays, that previously wasn’t available.
    I liked the idea of using maps in order to show the audience recent news stories based on location. It’s very interactive as the audience can contribute information to the map.

  11. rmsurella says:

    One thing I’ve been saving as a good piece of data for my blog is the number of athletes per sport who are members of my target demographic as opposed to past periods in time. The reading on how to develop a scraper will help me a significant deal with this because I doubt there is one definitive source of information on the number of Italian/Jewish athletes that could provide me with this information. The table in Chapter 8 of Briggs gave me some affirmation of the kind of data presentation I want to have in my blog with their example from USA Today. Even though it is an extensive collection of data it serves a sound purpose in informing the reader of very important information regarding professional athletes.

  12. Data journalism seems like the next frontier of investigative reporting. I’m actually in an investigative reporting class and we have already thoroughly used and talked about finding story worth figures in databases and scraping them into spreadsheets like mentioned in the mercenary section of the poynter article. Poynter went on to mention “shaving the yak” or having to go through a pre-set of steps in order to find valuable data. I think this is the most challenging thing for lots of journalists in our generation and those before us. In 10 years, I’m sure everyone will know coding and programming by the time they can walk – but for a lot of us and older generations, it is still pretty uncharted territory. Briggs made a great point about why this new strategy could be so valuable when the mentioned how databases can help reporters get info on gradual, more in depth stories that don’t fit in with the constant news cycle. Those features and long haul stories that tell a bigger, more abstract story than the usual need to be thoroughly researched in a quick amount of time and databases are a way to do that in some cases. It’s daunting territory though, particularly for me and I think that fear is why some journalists sink into the shadows.

  13. smarino92 says:

    I am a big believer in giving facts- probably too many fact sometimes. Iam very information heavy sometimes when I am writing a story. Sometimes data can be the driest thing though, and you might find that information compelling but your audience might find it a bore. I too am in investigative reporting right now, and learning how to sift through information is essential as any kind of journalist, but I also think making that information come out interesting is what the challenge can be sometimes. Statistics can be boring, but they make the story real. People want to be interested, so find that right niche of information is what can make or break a story.

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