[ddj] Defining datajournalism
mirko.lorenz at dw-world.de
Thu Oct 6 10:23:50 BST 2011
Dear Nicolas, everyone --
thanks so much for taking the time to do this. It's needed in that
sense that when speaking about ddj there is much confusion among
journalists. Defining and clarifying what data-journalism might seem
boring to some, but can help to focus energies of journalists into the
The one thing I would like to add is a structured approach to "levels"
of data-driven journalism. The description I personally found most
useful came from Michelle Minkoff. She distinguishes three levels of
data-driven journalism (as published in her post "Bringing data-driven
journalism into curricula").
Level 1: Data into Story
This is what every newsroom can do. The idea is to use data as the
starting point of stories, not as an afterthought. A great example how
this can be done is "How did the deficit get so big" from the New York
Times. The chart they used is a very simple bar chart of budgets,
displaying both the original projections and the actual outcome. Using
such data brings journalists into the position of having a "longer
memory" when discussing big projects. I like this one example so much,
because it can be re-applied on all levels of local, national and
global journalism - for local building projects that go over budget,
Plus I would argue that the Guardian is often doing just this: Using
data, writing a story based on the findings and moving forward. They
surely do more. Currently most other publications do it the other way
round - a story is written and then there is a quest for some
supporting figures to be used as an illustration. This can work, but
often is prone to errors, missed opportunities, etc.
Level 2: Data Specials
These are the creative, more complicated, deeper data stories, going
over a wide range - from what the NYT does to the Guardians Expense
Scandal to Wikileaks to the Vorratsdaten App from Open Data City.
There is a need for teams here, ideally with journalists being good
conductors of the process to higher level visualization - guiding the
data examination like a "new camera" to clarify what is really
Here there is a need for considerable more expertise and creativity.
Without motivated and insightful developers and creative visual
experts it is a very hard to reach this level. There are some
practioners who can do it all alone, but from trainings and
discussions this is viewed as very high level by most journalists. I
think it is important to have super-performers and just great, but if
one goal is to open the field to many journalists and strengthen
journalism as a profession, it should be understood what is needed to
get such projects done. Sending people out on missions that only
create a lot of frustration can not be the goal.
This is more the approach of the NYT.
Level 3: Data Apps
These would include - as you mention - games, interactive
applications, self measurement, calculators, etc.
Feel free to use whatever you see fit, these are just my suggestions
in this process.
2011/10/6 Nicolas Kayser-Bril <n.kayserbril at gmail.com>:
> Dear ddj enthusiasts,
> I'm always embarrassed at how little definition there is of what constitutes
> datajournalism. That's why I'm trying to define it and, in doing so,
> reworking the related Wikipedia entries.
> I want to create a 'datajournalism' article along those lines:
> Datajournalism is a portmanteau word describing a trend in journalism and
> information management. It designates the increased amount of numerical data
> used in the production and distribution of information and the interaction
> between content producers (journalists) and several other fields such
> as design, computer science and statistics.
> Datajournalism has been widely used to unite several concepts and link them
> to journalism. Among these are:
> Computer assisted reporting and data-driven journalism, where journalists
> make use of large databases to produce stories,
> Data visualization,
> Interactive visualization,
> Serious games, in the sense that they take interaction a step further, and
> Database journalism or structured journalism, an information management
> system where pieces of information are organized in a database (as opposed
> to a traditional story-centric organizational structure).
> I also plan to rework several entries, notably:
> Recreate the 'Computer-assisted reporting' page, which I merge with
> 'database journalism' several years ago. It seems to me that the 2 don't
> mean the same thing today.
> Clean up the data-driven journalism page to focus on Mirko Lorenz's and Paul
> Bradshaw's definitions with a historical bit on CAR, too.
> Update the 'database journalism' page so that it reflects more Holovaty's
> vision and Reg Shua's idea of 'structured journalism'.
> Any feedback welcome, and I'd be very glad if the Wikipedians among us could
> help me in this project!
> Datajournalist since 2007
> +336 50 57 53 80
> data-driven-journalism mailing list
> data-driven-journalism at lists.okfn.org
vG, Mirko Lorenz
T. +49 228 429 4356
F. +49 228 429 2670
E. mirko.lorenz at dw-world.de
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