What can data journalism do for you?

The Queen of all data pictures...

The Queen of all data pictures…picture courtesy of flicker creative commons

Part of my four week series on data journalism and passing the baton of knowledge on is to look at how to get the best tools. I thought it would be useful to look at what data journalism can do for a young journalist or anyone in the profession. I think this would have been a better question to start with prior to looking at the types of data that you can obtain.

……So better late than never and here goes.

I stumbled across this brilliant website called multimedia journalism. It looks at the usefulness of data journalism and how as a journalist you can paint a brilliant picture for your readers when you allow the data to enhance your piece, but not to dominate or control it.

Here are some of the useful ways data is enhancing journalism, from Mirko Lorenz, as quoted at a Data-driven Journalism conference.

1.Data is used increasingly to visualise very complex issues. The use of infographics and videos have been enhancing data journalism and providing very compelling visuals for readers.

2.The publication of the Afghanistan war logs by the New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian have raised awareness that better use of data might lead to very big stories.

3. Similarly, the way The Guardian handled the expenses scandal of British MPs in 2009 has sparked interest in various elements [that] might be involved in this.

4. Think crowdsourcing. Think opening up large stores of public data and turning it into open data that everyone can share.

5.Think uncovering scandals and being able to prove it with numbers.

6.Think providing people with dependable services, helping them to decide when buying, insuring, participating or making life choices.

7.To do that journalists will have to learn new tricks. They have to get used to working with tools that will help them to make data flow.

The site also discusses some of the stories that have used data journalism and how it enhanced the story -telling. The Guardian has had some compelling stories which have used data:

1.Afghanistan War Logs

Special report page, providing information from many angles, based on the leaked documents published by Wikileaks http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/the-war-logs

2.Investigate your MP’s expenses

An innovative crowdsourcing application allowing users to check 458,832 documents, adding indications whether the documents should be investigated further or not http://mps-expenses.guardian.co.uk/

MP Expenses: Who claimed what? The full list

Including an open spreadsheet for every MP http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/feb/04/mps-expenses-claims-full-list

Since using data within my journalism, I have found that it is all about the data enhancing the piece and not dominating. Many pieces within print journalism, will list reams of statistics or numbers, but will place no substance behind what they mean or how they help with the story that they are trying to tell the reader.

I have come to the central conclusion that data is powerful, if used to enhance the story and not as just a list of numbers.

If you want to find out more about how data can help you-why not check out the website for yourself-

http://www.multimedia-journalism.co.uk/node/1272

Thanks for reading!

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