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 a 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. Most recently, they’ve leaked data about the Democratic National Committee and its candidate, Hillary Clinton. Some have described this as a test of transparency; others have accused them of pursuing vendettas. Outside the realm of partisan politics, they’ve been criticized for 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 and the readings as a comment to this post by 1159p Sunday, February 19.

14 Responses to Read & Respond week 7: Data

  1. Rebecca Toro says:

    Journalism has incorporated technology into the business. Briggs Chapter 4 discussed the positive impact of mobile use to get the news out there. Briggs discussed being a “gear head” which means you carry around numerous types of technology that you can use to report on the scene. Such gears include a laptop, a camera, tripod, headphones, microphone, etc. But, that is a lot of gear to carry around constantly. I like to think of myself as a “light packer” which is just using smaller items such as my iPhone. My iPhone has a microphone, it can record, livestream, tweet, etc. It’s fast, and it’s simple. I can get my news out there quickly, and efficiently. Data journalism is not just numbers. According to the Data Journalism Handbook, it is “The new possibilities that open up when you combine the traditional ‘nose for news’ and ability to tell a compelling story, with the sheer scale and range of digital information now available.” Infographics are a good example. You can create an image and link them to facts to get information out there on the internet through a visual perspective. It’s taking the numbers and turning it into something relatable. That is why technology is positive with 2016. The news can be Tweeted, it can be recorded, it can be turned into a graphic and thus data journalism and microblogging change the way the news is given to society v. print.

  2. Cara Devenney says:

    The data that I have personally used when it came to my journalism career are my iPhone, a DSLR camera, my iPhone with a mic for audio for interviews, my laptop, and a video recorder. For feature stories that I have done, I have used a DSLR camera and a video recorder because the shots are more clear and “professional” looking than my iPhone 6. However, when I am out and about and doing man-on-the-street interviews or if I see something news-worthy happening right at that moment, I will of course use my iPhone because it is convenient.

    I loved the definition of “gearhead” in our text. However, for some previous classes I’ve had to carry around all of this gear in backpacks all day and let me tell you…it is not always easy! I understand that you have to do, what you have to do…but, I find it to be a pain in the butt sometimes to carry all of that stuff which is why just having a smart phone that can do everything is more convenient; but once again I learned and know what the news outlets want and do. I also like how Briggs breaks it down in our text and created a list for journalists to think about when thinking of a story to cover. Because not only is the story itself important, but HOW you cover the story is also important too.

  3. Data is very important for enhancing news and data can be used in many ways. Briggs touches on how reporters can enter all data and information that they gather into spreadsheets or databases, which allows readers to easily search and use the data for their own use. By creating data sources the news can be targeted to the right people through push notifications, e-mail and personalized streams. In many news stories data is typically gathered and journalists are responsible for relaying this information to readers so that they can easily comprehend the facts and figures. Briggs uses an earthquake in Nevada as an example of map usage. People called into the news room to report earthquake activity in their areas. The map was then updated with each call to keep readers updated on effected areas. Data has an endless potential, but it’s up to journalists to make it easily and readily available to readers.

    I have used data only once in my blog, but the image that I used was not my own. This was my first post and I should have known not to use someone else’s graph. In the past I have created maps, informational graphs and charts to help show data to readers. I had to also find data for my beat reporting class by going to the court house and circuit clerks office and searching their databases and books.

    The Data Journalism Handbook site that you linked is very interesting to read. I was not aware of how many sites you can go to for finding data. I always knew about a FOI Request but I hadn’t heard of sites such as Data Hub. It’s a really helpful link and it goes into a lot of detail on all of the stages of data gathering.

  4. miaswanegan says:

    The first half of our Briggs reading for this week started off with organization. This is something that I personally have a bit of a struggle with and until this year I had refused to use a planner having convinced myself that I didn’t need one. They focused in on a technique that dealt with emails and how organizing this one thing in your life could also bring order. I am someone who has over 11,000 unopened emails between two email accounts and honestly it is overwhelming, every day I tell myself to go in and open them or delete them but I never do. To try to live a more organized lifestyle I think I will try to go through them but go the route of not spending so much time on them that I wont want to come back for another three weeks. The second half of Briggs focused on data driven journalism. We browse so many data bases daily that don’t even deal with numbers, just information and it honestly rules our life, but without it we would be lost. As our textbook pointed out, telling stories with data is a big thing and with websites just posting all of the data and leaving us readers there to browse and choose what we want instead of them choosing for us makes it more enjoyable. It also leaves it up for us to interpret all of it the way we want. This is where this week’s online articles come in play. WikiLeaks has a big role in a lot of things news wise and had a big contribution to the big email leak scandal during the election. Since Clinton had more of a political background than Trump, WikiLeaks was able to dig up more dirt on her therefore releasing all they knew on her about the scandal. Having the access to such data can control what we see in the news and how we interpret things so in the end, data plays a major role in every aspect.

  5. mglamastro says:

    I really want to use data to show how many subscribers there were/are to certain magazines throughout the years, especially Vogue. It would be really interesting, in my opinion, to show how that number has grown or shrunk with the rise in publications that offer digital subscriptions, and I think it would be important to differentiate between print and digital subscribers (like with one of those bar graphs that use two colors stacked on top of one another). So far in my writing, I have used mostly qualitative research, so I do not really have that much experience working with data. However, I did write a piece on the harmful effects of dairy consumption two years ago that required a little data. Some of which I gathered from interviews with nutritionists and professional dietitians, and the rest I got from a medical doctor and NYT bestselling author (Dr. Mark Hyman) who is “famous” on the Internet, especially YouTube. I definitely need to learn a couple more methods for gathering quantitative research, such as finding and using databases.

    I definitely agree with Briggs in chapter 8 when he emphasizes the importance of organizing your email. I know so many people who have the little red bubble on their email app with something like 3,000 unopened emails in it–I do not know how they live like that! It would drive me absolutely crazy. Organizing emails into specific/appropriate folders can make day-to-day life a lot less stressful, because we as humans tend to use email a ton nowadays. Many people do not realize how beneficial it can be to stay organized.

    Briggs also recommends to-do lists as a personal productivity tool, which I also believe is a great idea. I have been using daily to-do lists since my freshmen year of high school (9th grade), and I definitely would not have made it this far if I hadn’t. I love using specially designed life planners to plan my life week by week and day by day. I know there are also people who use hourly or even half hourly planners to really map out their busy schedules. To-do lists help you meet deadlines, stay on track and plan ahead–all of which are super important.

    Lastly, Briggs mentions “vital statistics” such as births, deaths and divorces on page 263 of the class text. This is something I believe is really overlooked when it comes to data journalism. So many people are so caught up in getting the latest breaking news, that they forget about the background information, which is equally important to a story. Without background information the audience can get a little confused, and the audience is not really able to do any research on their own–which is what journalism is for. It is also important to list a person’s age, hometown and current city in most stories. This is something I make sure I do almost always; it is simple, but I believe it really goes a long way. It helps the audience to visualize and make personal connections.


    Madalyn LaMastro

  6. zamuhammad says:

    In journalism, data plays a very important role. In order for journalist to find the most recent information or even just to be updated with what goes on in our world we browse with the technology we own. As last week we talked about how the growth of technology advances our ways of learning new information and data this week is more of how we use this data as a blogger. In my opinion, we gather data everyday as most college student surf the web as we have our faces glued to the screens while looking at our social media accounts. The phrase “gear head” really stood out to me, I am currently in a sports reporting course and we have to also carry around our tri-pod, laptop, camera, mic and cell phone to always be ready to catch and report action in a game. It seems to be a little inconvenient and annoying to carry around all the time but, I do understand why we have to (to collect data). In chapter 8 the talk is about organizing your email which, I probably am one of the most unorganized person when it comes to this. And, I can admit that it is annoying. I can never find an email I need because everything is “new” and has a blue bubble because I have not opened it.

  7. The use of data and statistics is very important when reporting on a subject. In the Poynter article, I liked how it said, don’t admit to ignorance right off the bat. You don’t want to talk about how little you know about a topic if you are trying to bring attention to your article. Briggs mentioned that every story is a field of data. When writing an informative article, you should find information that will easily fit into a database or spreadsheet. The things Briggs suggests you should document are: company name, location of headquarters, address, city, other locations, CEO/president/owner, number of employees, years in business, annual revenue, market segment, awards.

    Like the example with Wikileaks and the government, Briggs mentions an example of The Washington Post using data to tell a story. The example used was regarding its coverage of the federal government. With the research collected, they build a database about how the House and Senate leaders flew on corporate jets 360 times in a span of 4 years. I find it interesting how journalists can do that by their research.

  8. Laura Andrea says:

    It was surprising to learn from Briggs all the different ways to collect data and transform that into an article or make it newsworthy. Collecting data can be a good place to start when you’re circling an idea for a story but have no idea on how to proceed from there. Compiling and organizing it so as to see any patterns or abnormalities can help us realize something that’s newsworthy that perhaps hasn’t been noticed before.

  9. Ashley Conley says:

    I am a huge sports fan and have wrote for multiple sports platforms, so data is obviously a large part what I do. The Date Journalism Handbook, in the Favorite Examples section, uses a data chart to show stats from the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.

    Data in sports is important because it allows viewers and fans to get a visual along with the statistics. It makes things easier to read and understand without just seeing a bunch of random numbers. As data graphics become more in-depth, colorful and well-designed, it also becomes more interesting and intriguing and something that fans tend to actually enjoy. For example, ESPN literally keeps track of the craziest data and stats nowadays, like this one: The average golfball has 336 dimples – or this one: If three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw were to break Young’s record of 511 wins, he’d need to stay at his current pace for the next 41 years, until he were 68 years old.

    This data is quite odd, but super interesting for a sports fan, especially if it’s put into a vibrant chart!

    In our class text, Briggs describes the process of telling stories with data (pg. 266). In this section of the book, I learned that building your story based on data, statistics, and the usual set of basic info, such as location, subject, date and action, can make for a story that’s “more useful to you and your audience” because you are growing an information resource.

  10. The Briggs reading for this week covers two important topics that are especially relevant this week with the blog-a-day. Organization is key for this week and for many things involved with blogging and journalism. Organization is definitely something I lack, but is definitely key to be successful. Especially for this week, making sure we are organized and on track will be essential to getting this assignment completed.

    Briggs references the term “gear head.” For many journalist several different types of gear is required. However, I feel for a blogger it is more easy to get by without as much gear. An iPhone technically can be used for a majority of content needed to create a blog post.

    In the Poynter article the writer references “Yak Shaving.” Basically you have a simple task and next thing you know you are at the zoo shaving a yak, all so you can do that simple task. I analyzed this as skip the difficult steps and that essentially there is an easier way to get to a solution if the previous steps were just taken correctly.

    In our own writing data could be used in several ways. Data can be used to visualize information with an infographic. It can also be used to contextualized a posts but adding numbers and statistics to give a more factual take on the topic.

  11. Data is important to just about every story you tell. Without it, your story is pretty much a (maybe) well-written hot take on whatever your subject it. Data makes the narrative stronger and more believable to the reader. Briggs talked about creating databases to share information, and when you think about it, we do that regularly. In a way, backing up all of our files to an external hard drive or a cloud is almost like creating a database of information on everything you’ve every written/filmed/photographed…though it may not be the easiest to navigate. It can share the same basic function—sharing data. I’ve been in plenty of classes where we’ve dumped all of our work onto one shared hard drive, or uploaded everything to Google Drive so that we could share the information amongst the class.

    Personally, the kind of data I like is social media analytics. I like to see how different messaging works across different platforms, and without analytics, I wouldn’t know to change my messaging in something isn’t working. For instance, Facebook’s more mature audience is very different from Twitter’s younger audience, so we use a much more formal tone than the gifs and emojis we can use on Twitter.

    Briggs also talked about maps. Last semester, in the Innovator-in-Residence course, the group I was in tried to create an interactive story map with 360 photos and information we gathered in McDowell County. Unfortunately, the photos didn’t populate the way we wanted them to on the map, and only appeared as panoramas, so we scraped that idea.

    Speaking of scraping…for journalists…the PDF laid out creating spreadsheets nicely, which is good because they can be pretty intimidating.

  12. Clutter Mama says:

    Data is at our fingertips constantly. No matter what questions we have, chances are we can find it or the source for it on the web. It is no surprise that is showing more prominence in journalism as well. I don’t think I have used a lot of number data for this class yet, but throughout my studies, data has been important. In advertising and social media classes, collecting data on target audiences was crucial.
    Briggs talks about “telling the story with data” (p. 266), and he uses the example of the Florida newspaper that published data about payouts for hurricane damage. Instead of filtering the data and presenting it in a story, the paper just published the data and allowed its readers to perform their own searches. It resulted in over 60,000 searches, was minimal work for the paper, and gave the public the information they needed quickly.
    One of the case studies from the Data Journalism Handbook (, discussed how people uploading their water bills to the “Price of Water” project helped bring awareness to the oligopoly on tap water that is present in France. This was an effective way of using both data and crowdsourcing to find relevant information.
    My very favorite is from Data is displayed in an artistic way. I think it is interesting and beautiful. I’m even trying to figure out a way to incorporate it into my Capstone class!

  13. Cayla Nolder says:

    In journalism, data plays a pivotal role because it provides backing to claims which will ensure credibility, showing that you’re not fabricating data from thin air (But according to Trump the media fabricates lies/fake news all the time). Collecting data is not only used for substantial backing but can allow us to recognize patterns or abnormalities that lead to a deeper analysis. Although data is useful it can also be hard to interpret. When journalists use data, they have to convey it in a way that the audience is going to understand. Furthermore, the audience wants quick, easy access to the data. Briggs mentions in this chapter that news organizations fall behind in posting the desired data or they become repetitive when reproducing/updating the data (p. 262). Meaning, organizations must recognize this niche and cater to it.

    When using data in my own posts, I view it as supporting evidence. It reinforces the claims I’m making so people can’t discredit the information. However, I often find it difficult, given my topics, to find supporting data. I typically find qualitative data versus quantitive data because of my chosen topic (public speaking). I think that it having data in my blog posts is critical thus I should focus on using more sources to add validity to my posts.

  14. dshedrick says:

    I definitely identify with the opening of chapter 8 of Briggs – I suppose there isn’t a such thing as information overload, but I have definitely experience filter failure. I’m a busy person, with two jobs, six classes, and really needy friends. I am also a member of several clubs and I handle my own finances, so my email is pretty much always popping off. I used to be insane about my email, reading every line and categorizing it by folders. I have since lost a lot of that zeal and have become rather delete happy – de-dataing and destressing my life.
    I don’t really plan on becoming a journalist of a popular blogger or a PR/ADV professional – I want to go to law school. But regardless, when I am a lawyer one day, I am certain the use of these online organizational systems will be nonnegotiable. You can’t really just delete client emails, and I’m sure I’ll be receiving a lot of information I’ll want to refer to later.
    Databases have undoubtedly made searching for information to reference a lot easier. You don’t really thing about the work that this puts on people who curate these sites, like any of the databases WVU students have access to through the libraries or even the databases that news sites give some readers access to, but as future journalists this would be something to consider. However, the range of tools that are available now for gathering information in large quantities assists with that, as well.
    Of course, there is always a dark side to all of this convenience. The availability of information leads it inevitably into the wrong hands at times, and that has caused a lot of damage in the world today. Despite the convenience, storing virtually all information online has become a great liability. It is more important than ever to protect private data, so credit card numbers don’t wind up being posted on WikiLeaks, since apparently they have no conscience.

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