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The history of precision journalism (and why it matters)


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CW Anderson's presentation at the Data Journalism UK conference in Birmingham, December 2017

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The history of precision journalism (and why it matters)

  1. 1. The History of Precision Journalism (and Why it Matters) C.W. Anderson (University of Leeds) December 5, 2017
  2. 2. Apostles of Certainty  Part of a larger book project; Oxford University Press 2018  The history of how American journalists have used documents and data-(non-oral evidence- in news reporting.  Attempt to draw journalism more into dialog with other fields, like sociology, anthropology, and economics.  How these shifts relate to larger changes in U.S. culture, politics.
  3. 3. The Rise of “Data” Journalism  Increasing attention being paid to various forms of “quantified journalism” (Coddington 2015, Diakopoulos 2015, Usher 2017)  Growth in the profession:, The Upshot, The Guardian  Often lump different forms of “quantified” journalism together.  Simplistic origin stories- primarily a story about technology and “entrepreneurial innovators.”  Not just antiquarian concern; lack of clarity on topics makes current state of data journalism difficult to understand.
  4. 4. The Basic History of Precision Journalism
  5. 5. The Institutional and Cultural History  Foundations and Social Science  The long history of “interpretive journalism.”  New Visions of Technology- Computers and Databases  CAR and NICAR  Changing J-School Faculty
  6. 6. NICAR and Rethinking Investigations  Quantitative and data-based journalism found their institutional home in IRE / NICAR  Irony: Weapons of the bureaucracy now turned against the government. QuickTime™ and a decompressor are needed to see this picture.
  7. 7. What Do Computers and Databases Do?  Computer: back of the shop to the front of the shop  Database: Real driver. Digitization of public records.
  8. 8. Why Does this Matter in 2017? • Context vs Individual Incidents • Can we clearly state the “truth” • Fake news and fact-checking