It was a nice evening at the Washington Post for this month’s @DataCommunityDC event. The informative discussion hosted panelists from all walks of the field of journalism, and was moderated by @franksesno, from George Washington University (formerly of CNN).

The esteemed panel of experts:

So what is data journalism?

According to the panel, its all the rage. And as you might expect, its powering traditional journalism with data to make consumable content for the public by leveraging technology to increase relevancy to the end consumer. (That’s you and me)

What is new and different in journalism today compared to “old school” journalism?

Derek said it best:

“Journalists interview people, but data journalists interview data.”

However, the discussion made it clear that the answer is very little, and everything at the same time. Great journalism is founded on the principles of identifying compelling stories and articulating them to your audience. Data is supplying a different way of articulating those stories.

As the amount of information being collected increases, there are more opportunities for journalists to collect and utilize rich data sets. 

How is data helpful to journalists?

The panel notes a couple of ways:

  1. It creates context
  2. It helps to develop immersive experiences
  3. It results in more impactful reporting

As you can imagine, social media has increased the information and content that people want to talk about. It allows us to make direct connections with one another. 

Hurdles for Data in Journalism?

Kat Downs says it’s all about being new:

Journalism is old and the people on the front lines don’t know how to look and analyze the data they are receiving.

But it was pretty clear based on the discussion that the top news agencies, at the national level, are taking data serious. It all starts with culture:

Building a data culture and compose teams?

The old school hiring model for a journalism organization is you either hire interns/students or you poach someone with journalism experience. With data journalism on the rise, the needs have changed substantially, according to the panel.

The main issue is that smaller, or more local organizations do not know how to hire outside this spectrum yet. A journalist can learn the new technology and tools needed, but if they do not know what to look for in a dataset, then they cannot tell a good story with it. Today, progressive reporting outlets are hiring programmers, UI experts, and graphic designers to help tell a compelling and complete story.  

Kudos to the host, @SeanMGonzalez, he and his team of volunteers organized an awesome Meetup. See you there next month.

 – Nick

Check out #datadc to see what others were saying about the event.


**Images by Michelle Kwajafa