Five things we learned from a new book on data journalism

City University played host to a book launch and panel discussion that included Nick Phipps of Sky News, Megan Lucero of The Times and The Sunday Times, and City University lecturer Tom Felle last week. All of whom contributed to the book entitled, Data Journalism: Inside the Global Future.  The panel was led by Ray Snoddy, former media editor at The Sunday Times. The topic was the future of journalism and how data plays into that future. Here is what we learned.

1. Data Journalism is changing election coverage

The two big winners of the past election coverage were The Times and Sky News, and data played a huge role in that.

Megan Lucero and her team at The Times looked at the data that was coming out of polling companies and realised it was wrong. The team then took a huge gamble and choose not to project based on the data. The decision was then to run their own polling model using machine learning and basic public data that resulted in the The Times calling some of the most accurate polling reporting of the night.

While Nick Phipps and the team at Sky News provided the most in depth coverage of the night using graphics to tell the story. Sky News made the coverage about the visuals and not the numbers, a huge component of data journalism.

2. FOI almost helped inspire the current data journalism movement

The access to information provided by the Freedom of Information Act nearly a decade ago implemented the framework for data coverage as it is today. As Nick Phipps points out news today: “is all about original content, it’s not longer enough to carry the same [news} as everyone else because it’s all out there anyway. So FOI is an incredibly powerful tool to come up with original stories.”

3. Audiences expect higher standard from broadcast

Modern television audiences are much more sophisticated in the use of technology and expect more presentation when it comes to their news. People are plugged into their phones, laptops, iPads and they want their news to run on all the different platforms they are on. The challenge for broadcasters is now to comply with public demand for more streamline coverage.

4. Social media is great for colour

Social media is a resource that organisations mainly use to provide amusement for audiences. Sky News used social media to track mentions of politicians and parties. While journalist use it as an “echo chamber” to engage their readers and other journalist.

5. In the years to come data journalism will not exist, it will just be journalism

We are generating data everyday and that is the source of where stories come from. Audiences are pushing journalism to be more democratic. Including data in reports allows for transparency because users can look at the data and really analyse it.  Also, data stories can be looked at from various different angels, and data allows for instant interpretation. The advantages of telling stories using data are countless, but the stories are still king.  Data is simply the means to tell the story.


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