We live in the digital era. An era where digital technology is greatly involved in our lives and numbers can illustrate many things (for example, analyzing when the next financial crisis might be upon through the use of figures). As Paul Bradshaw from Birmingham City University explained, “[data journalism] are the new possibilities that open up when you combine the traditional ‘nose for news’ and ability to tell a compelling story, with the sheer scale and range of digital information now available”.
It is not surprising that many people have questioned if data journalism was “real” journalism, if it could be classified as story telling and if it was to be a successful part of the industry. The use of numbers, data, graphs and spreadsheets in an article is so far from your traditional text piece however, the use of data journalism has been welcomed with open arms in the media of today.
When asked why journalists need to learn data skills, Online Journalism Blog explained, “there has been a massive expansion in data provision in the last decade, which is continuing, and a more recent expansion in data services being sold by media groups, whether that’s selling data to customers and writing reports around it, or needing data to develop apps”.
Wikileaks, a non-profit, journalistic organisation that focuses on revealing undisclosed and confidential information to inform the public, has based many of their so-called “leaks” on data journalism.
Many news agencies will take the data that Wikileaks has revealed, analyze it and then proceed to use it in a story for the public. As The Guardian’s Simon Rogers said, “the Wikileaks story was a combination of the two: traditional journalistic skills and the power of the technology, harnessed to tell an amazing story”.
“Data journalism is 80% perspiration, 10% great idea, 10% output” – Simon Rogers, The Guardian
The difference between the usual text story and the use of data within a story is that the journalist would need to find data, analyze it and scope it, polish it and lastly, exchange the information with the public through the use of graphic representation. Although many traditional reporters don’t have the time to sit at a desk and analyze intricate data, data journalism is still growing in popularity, slowly but surely.
South African journalists should embrace data journalism for what it is: a tool to create interesting stories, with the use of various aids. It gives journalists the chance to create stories with data that gives the public a different insight on the world around them.