A number of reports by leading centers of journalism have been published this year regarding data-driven or data-centered journalism. This includes a new report that details the outcomes of a survey of newsrooms by the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy, and a series of recommendations and predictions in a study by the TOW Center at the Columbia Journalism School.
The authors of the Sanford School report, Mark Stencel, Bill Adair, and Prashanth Kamalakanthan concluded from their newsroom survey that, “The local newsrooms that have made smart use of digital tools have leaders who are willing to make difficult trade-offs in their coverage,” prioritizing stories that reveal the meaning and implications and consider the work they can do with digital tools to tell untold stories.
The TOW Center recommendations include predictions about the importance of: data skills and tools, being data-centric, studying statistics, higher standards for accuracy, greater transparency, and skepticism by journalists in their reporting. Of particular impact is that, with data-driven journalism, the standards for accuracy will have a higher bar to meet, as a FiveThirtyEight.com case study shows. Thus, the need for skepticism and transparency, along with greater data skills.
As a result of these important factors, tools for data-driven journalism are coming into high demand. A number of organizations are rising to the challenge to serve this growing need for data-savvy journalists. Below is a list of some of the best in data journalism resources, from online courses, to recommended processes, to visualization tools. In implementing a data-driven newsroom, Datassist is the go-to resource.
- Guardian has a huge online section devoted to data journalism. In 2011 they wrote an article titled “Data journalism at the Guardian: what is it and how do we do it?” which explains their process for finding and producing their data-driven journalism stories.
- KDMC Berkley has produced a series of one-hour courses in a free online training series to help improve essential skills and understanding of effective data storytelling.
- The Global Investigative Journalism Network provides a list of resources for journalists to get started in computer-assisted reporting, “learning how to obtain, clean, and analyze” data.
- The Center for Investigative Journalism published a manual on data journalism “for all journalists who want to master the art of interrogating and questioning numbers competently.”
Every good data journalist needs visualization tools in their repertoire of tools. “Visualization is not decoration. It’s not something that merely accompanies and illustrates data journalism; it’s central to the task. A good visualization will allow you to see outliers and trends in ways that can profoundly alter your understanding of the data.”
- The Poynter Institute has put together a list of “10 tools that can help data journalists do better work, and be more efficient”, including visualization.
- In his Visualize This: Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics, Nathan Yau (Flowing Data) teaches data journalists how to create graphics that tell stories with real data.
Though many things about journalism will not change, such as making the stories relate to the people that they serve, the platforms and tools for journalism are evolving. Thus, the goal of data journalism is beyond the data itself, in finding out what story the data tells, and how the data can be interpreted to tell the why behind the what.