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Why should You Care about Data Journalism?

Why should You Care about Data Journalism?

Learn what data journalism is all about and why data stories are different.
Vivien Götz

Why is Data Journalism Important?

We are living in the age of data and journalism must keep up with it. From smart watches, to search engines, to the Tik Tok algorithm: as soon as people access digital devices or the internet, they are constantly creating heaps of data. Information has always been valuable to those in power and contrary to economic assumptions, its rapidly increasing supply has only skyrocketed the demand. 

Ast tools for data analysis are growing more sophisticated, data is the means by which companies analyze their customers and governments determine the effects of their policies. Data can make people a lot of money and a lot of information can be concentrated in one hand. Therefore it is also directly tied to questions of power and accountability. 

What is Data Journalism? 

Data journalism aims to keep up with these developments. It enables journalists to fulfill their watchdog function in the digitalized era, by telling the stories hidden inside the data. New technologies are changing the realities of millions of people around the globe. If journalists want to stay relevant, they have to learn how to use these technologies for research and reporting alike. Data journalism is one important aspect of that but artificial intelligence and the so called “journalism of things” are related topics that are also worth exploring. 

Why Become a Data Journalist? 

At the very latest since the Covid19-Pandemic, data journalism is no longer a niche topic and newsrooms from India, to Nigeria and Europe are establishing teams specifically dedicated to the topic. But it is still a relatively new field and skilled reporters who know their way around tables and charts are in high demand. Data journalism can also offer you new approaches to do investigative reporting. Especially in contexts where it was not possible before. Satellite images are a great example of data that is even available for countries, with very secretive governments. From illegal mining to military activities or the destruction of the rainforest, there are a lot of topics you could approach, if you know how to  utilize such data for journalistic purposes. 

What are the Types of Data Journalism? 

Data stories are usually approached from two sides: data journalists either analyze data that is already available or they systematically collect information from several different sources. What differentiates Data-journalism from other kinds of reporting is the fact that it does not tell the story of a single incident or of one individual person. It rather tells the story that emerges when a lot of single incidents are observed together. It looks at the information that only becomes available, when we move from the individual to the group level. 

Data Stories are Different

Stories in Data-Journalism usually do not have individual protagonists. The leading figures of Data-Stories are the patterns that emerge when the data is analyzed. Since it is difficult to write a colorful and emotionally touching story about patterns, Data-Journalists use other means to engage their audience. Mostly, they rely on visualizations to bring their message across. Really good visualizations tell their own stories with very little text necessary to explain the context. The goal is that readers look at the visualization and understand what is important about the story. 

How do You Become a Data Journalist? 

Consequently, becoming a data journalist means being able to do two things: First, you have to be able to find the interesting patterns within the data. And second, you need to know how to present these patterns in a way that is interesting and easily understandable for your audience. In the other chapters of this section, we provide you with an overview of everything you need to know to get started and with tutorials and resources to acquire these skills. 

Get Inspired to Get Started: 

To better understand the many possibilities of data journalism, it is  best to look at examples. The Sigma Awards honor the best data stories from around the world and have a collection of winning stories on their website.

About author
Vivien Götz

Vivien Götz is a German journalist, mainly covering climate change, science and politics. She is a fellow of the Young Journalist Programme (JONA) of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and volunteers as a data-analyst for the German NGO Netzwerk Chancen. She is a M.A. candidate for International Relations and Development Policy.

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