Facts and the Rise of Data Journalism


It’s time for the media to reject spin and for governments to cancel their PR contracts, make way for the truth, make way for data journalism.

Recent history has shown that lazy, sensationalist journalism does nothing but harm to the reputation of good journalism. The problem after the Leveson inquiry was where to look for good, fact based journalism. Like so many aspects of our lives nowadays in society, there is an overwhelming lack of trust and legitimacy in the media; the role of data journalism therefore must be as saviour, reinstating society’s trust  in the media, and ultimately, democratic processes such as policy making, which relies on the media for transparency.

This week, in the media, we found out that up to an estimated $32 trillion is hidden offshore by society’s wealthy. A network of data journalists working under the umbrella of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism worked for 15 months sifting through 200 gigabytes of data (Wiki Leaks used a mere 2 gigabytes of data back in 2010).

Data is everywhere, with every tap of a keypad we input information, with every transaction we leave a trail, and through all this data, in our digital age, it has never been more easy to mine data. Raw data is like mineral gold; it is potentially high in value, just not in its current form. Even those who try to hide information are vulnerable when their methods are exposed by data prospectors.

I’ll try not get too paranoid about this, so I’ll use a day to day example of personalised advertisements on social media sites as evidence of data mining.  Data regarding a users relationship status is mined to reveal which users might be open to specific advertising such as wedding cakes when a user updates their status to engaged. You may regard this as either clever or an infringement of your human rights, but that is one value and use of data which companies pay good money  for.

Data journalism uses data to find patterns and indicators worthy of further investigation, resulting in a piece based on facts with, hopefully,  good journalistic merit  (A term we haven’t heard in a while).

Click here to access a free book entitled What is Data Journalism? an interesting read if you believe the place in society for the media is with it’s feet firmly planted in facts.  It also gives examples  from the likes of Gapminder.

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