Exploring the Possibilities of Data Journalism

The Data Journalism Handbook, Second Edition

Combining the vast amount of digital information available with a journalist’s “nose for news” opens up new possibilities. The second edition of this handbook profiles emerging practices, projects and techniques in data journalism around the world.

Alongside contributions from practitioners, chapters offer critical reflections and broader consequences of datafication in journalism. This includes perspectives from anthropology, (new) media studies and science and technology studies.

Getting Started

As an introductory book on data journalism, this collection is not intended to be a practical guidebook of tutorials or ‘how tos’. Instead, it aims to advance critical reflection on the practice of data journalism. It does so by bringing together contributions from researchers in a wide range of fields such as anthropology, science and technology studies, (new) media studies, internet studies, platforms, sociology of quantification and journalism studies.

Chapters explore the ways that different formats may be used for doing issues with data, from mapping segregation in New York City to tracing how women are affected by climate change and highlighting Internet shutdowns. They also consider affinities between digital methods research and data journalism and a number of emerging approaches to investigating online platforms, algorithms and information manipulation.

Assembling Data

Rather than a conventional division between researchers and practitioners, this edition invites both to contribute. The book includes chapters from researchers in the fields of anthropology, science and technology studies, (new) media studies, internet and platform studies, the sociology of quantification, journalism studies and indigenous studies that advance critical reflection on data journalistic practices, alongside those of practitioners who offer more instrumental tips.

The first section of the book discusses working with and experiencing data, investigating data, platforms and algorithms and organising data journalism in a newsroom. It features projects such as tracing segregation patterns in Detroit and tracking home demolitions in Bogotá, investigating ‘data sovereignty’ for indigenous communities and mapping police violence against women. It also examines the impact of feminism and colonialism on these efforts.

Visualizing Data

Using visuals to present data helps a journalist understand the data and communicate it to others. These visualizations can include graphs, charts and maps that show a data set or trend. They can also include a word cloud, which shows significant words in textual data, or a network diagram that displays relationships between qualitative data points.

Visuals can also be used to compare different sets of data, including a scatter plot for revealing the relationship between two variables, a violin plot that visualizes numeric value distributions and a box plot that summarizes statistics. When creating a visualization it is important to keep in mind the audience and avoid using any visual “tricks” that could mislead them.

For example, a bar chart that starts on a negative number may mislead your audience into thinking the numbers are related in some way.

Using Data to Investigate

The ability to investigate and uncover stories through data is a valuable skill for journalists. This book presents a collection of tips and techniques to help journalists better understand how to work with data as part of their reporting.

It covers everything from locating data and creating visualisations to interpreting the complexities of information. It also introduces readers to the process of requesting and analysing public information, including navigating Freedom of Information requests and finding useful data sources.

It includes chapters by academics from diverse fields, including anthropology, science and technology studies, and social media and digital culture. These contribute to the rich scholarly conversation about data journalism and its implications for news organizations and journalists. Using these chapters, we hope readers will further examine the ways in which this practice challenges and alters existing norms, routines and ethics of reporting.

Developing Data Journalism Skills

In a chapter on doing issues with data, a “taste menu” of formats opens the book, with examples of tracing connections between agricultural commodities, crime and colonialism across several countries (Sanchez and Villagran), mapping segregation in the United States (Williams), multiplying memories of trees in Bogotá (Magana), building campaigns for road safety in the Philippines (Rey) and tracking worker deaths in Turkey (Dag).

Other chapters look at how different types of work in data journalism can be experienced. These include an exploration of contemporary visualization practices (Aisch and Rost) and a discussion of how readers participate in making sense of visualizations (Kennedy and de Jong). Other sections take up emerging approaches to investigating data, platforms and algorithms (Candea); and ways of organizing data journalism.

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