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Journalism in an Age of Big Data: What It Is, Why It Matters and Where to Start


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Invited lecture and workshop at the European University Institute Boot Camp for Journalists: Tools for Better Reporting, Florence, Italy, 10 June 2014.

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Journalism in an Age of Big Data: What It Is, Why It Matters and Where to Start

  1. 1. Journalism  in  an  Age  of  Big  Data   What  it  is,  why  it  ma8ers  and  where  to  start       Liliana  Bounegru   European  Journalism  Centre/  University  of  Amsterdam   University  of  Ghent/  University  of  Groningen   Web:   TwiAer:  @bb_liliana  
  2. 2. New  York  Times  Interac2ve  News  and  Graphics  team   Chicago  Tribune  News  Apps  team   “There  is  something  about  not  just  being  able  to  think  and  act  like  a  programmer  but  also  to  be  able  to   think  and  act  like  a  journalist,  which  is  quite  demanding.  […]  Newsrooms  are  crying  out  for  these   skills.”  (Emily  Bell,  Professor  &  Director,  Tow  Center  for  Digital  Journalism,  ‘Columbia  is  launching  a  new   post-­‐bac  program  to  breed  journalism  unicorns’,  Nieman  Lab,  2013)   Guardian  Interac2ve  Team   “Journalism  Unicorn”  
  4. 4. Examples     1.  PuPng  news  into  context  with  data   h8p://­‐ unemployment-­‐rate-­‐by-­‐country-­‐eurozone  
  5. 5. “Most  of  what  we  do  is  this  kind  of  very  newsy,  quick  pieces  of  data  journalism,  that  are  based  around   stories  that  just  happen  to  be  in  the  news  that  day.    Every  news  story  has  some  data  behind  it  and  we’re  here   to  make  that  accessible  and  surface  it.”  (interview  with  Simon  Rogers,  6  September  2012)   The  Guardian  Datablog:   ‘journalism  as  a  source  of  data’    
  6. 6. The  Guardian  Datablog:   ‘journalism  as  a  source  of  data’    
  7. 7. 2.  Data-­‐driven  invesYgaYve  journalism  
  8. 8. 3.  News  apps  as  research  tools   for  journalists  and  audiences   h8p://  
  10. 10. “One  of  the  most  important  quesRons  for  journalism’s  sustainability  will  be   how  individuals  and  organizaRons  respond  to  this  availability  of  data.”     (Emily  Bell,  Professor  &  Director,  Tow  Center  for  Digital  Journalism,  2012)     “Data-­‐driven  journalism  is  the  future.”   (Tim  Berners-­‐Lee,  founder  of  the  World  Wide  Web,  2012)       Why  does  it  ma8er?  
  11. 11. 1.  New  forms  of  gathering  informaYon,  new  forms  of   knowledge  producYon,  new  forms  of  presentaYon  and   disseminaYon  of  stories.     Why  does  it  ma8er?  
  12. 12. "Nate  Silver  says  this  is  a  73.6  percent  chance  that  the  president  is  going   to  win?  Nobody  in  that  campaign  thinks  they  have  a  73  percent  chance   —  they  think  they  have  a  50.1  percent  chance  of  winning.  And  you  talk   to  the  Romney  people,  it’s  the  same  thing.  .  .  .  Anybody  that  thinks  that   this  race  is  anything  but  a  toss-­‐up  right  now  is  such  an  ideologue,  they   should  be  kept  away  from  typewriters,  computers,  laptops  and   microphones  for  the  next  10  days,  because  they're  jokes."  (Joe   Scarborough,  MSNBC,  2012)     Geeks  vs.  pundits:  The  clash  of  two  epistemological  cultures  
  13. 13. “I  am  Nate  Silver,  Lord  and  God  of  the  Algorithm”  (Jon  Stewart,  2012)   Geeks  vs.  pundits:  The  clash  of  two  epistemological  cultures  
  14. 14. New  forms  of  knowledge   “Part  of  what  we’ve  been  trained,  as  a  society,  to  expect  out  of  the  Big  Deal   JournalisYc  Story  is  something  “new,”  something  we  didn’t  know   before.  Nixon  was  a  crook!  Osama  Bin  Laden  was  found  by  the  CIA  and  then   allowed  to  escape!  But  in  these  recent  stories,  it’s  not  the  presence  of   something  new,  but  the  ability  to  tease  a  paAern  out  of  a  lot  of  liAle  things   we  already  know  that’s  the  big  deal.  It’s  not  the  newsness  of  failure;  .  .  .  it’s   the  weight  of  failure.”   (C.W.  Anderson,  lead  researcher   Columbia  University  Graduate  School  of  Journalism,  2010)  
  15. 15. 2.  Improving  the  democraYc  funcYon  of  the  media:   -­‐  enhancing  journalisYc  objecYvity   -­‐  more  accountable  journalism   -­‐  more  efficient  journalism  workflows   -­‐  increasing  ciYzen  parYcipaYon  in  public  life   Why  does  it  ma8er?  
  16. 16. 3.  PotenYal  for  the  media  as  a  business   Why  does  it  ma8er?  
  17. 17. databases  comprise  75%   of  overall  traffic  
  18. 18. Yme  on  page  substanYally  higher  than   on  other  secYons  of  the  Guardian  
  19. 19. IS  DATA  JOURNALISM  NEW?  
  20. 20. Data  journalism  wasn’t  born  yesterday  
  21. 21. John  Snow’s  map  of  cholera  outbreaks     in  19th  century  London  
  23. 23. Apply  for  grants:   h8p://­‐files  
  24. 24. Find  a  media  partner   h8p://­‐content/uploads/ data_art/en/  
  25. 25. More  examples  of  data  journalism  in  small  newsrooms:­‐journalism-­‐ awards/  
  26. 26. WHAT  SKILLS  DO  YOU  NEED?  
  27. 27. Source:  Cindy  Royal,  2013,  
  28. 28. Why  learn  these  skills?     “There  is  a  data  science  skills  gap  in  journalism.”  (Alex  Howard,  Tow  Center   report  “The  Art  and  Science  of  Data-­‐Driven  Journalism”,  2014)     “There  is  something  about  not  just  being  able  to  think  and  act  like  a  programmer   but  also  to  be  able  to  think  and  act  like  a  journalist,  which  is  quite  demanding.  […]   Newsrooms  are  crying  out  for  these  skills.”  (Emily  Bell,  Professor  &  Director,  Tow   Center  for  Digital  Journalism,  ‘Columbia  is  launching  a  new  post-­‐bac  program  to  breed   journalism  unicorns’,  Nieman  Lab,  2013)  
  29. 29. data  journalism  in  the   newsroom   Lone   rangers:   Guardian   Datablog   Two-­‐person   team:   Guardian  US     Small-­‐scale   team:   WNYC     Large  team:   New  York   Times   Source:  Simon  Rogers,  
  30. 30. WHERE  TO  START  
  31. 31. launched  in  2010.       dedicated  to  acceleraYng  the  diffusion  and   improving  the  quality  of  data  journalism  around  the   world.       through  conferences,  training  courses,  manuals  and   community  building.     community  of  1.500+  journalists.  
  32. 32.  
  33. 33. 70+  authors  including:  the  New  York  Times,  the   Australian  BroadcasYng  CorporaYon,  the  BBC,   the  Chicago  Tribune,  Deutsche  Welle,  the   Guardian,  the  Financial  Times,  La  Nacion,   ProPublica,  the  Washington  Post,  Zeit  Online     translated  into  Russian,  Spanish,   Georgian,  Ukrainian,  French,  Chinese,   Portuguese,  Greek,  Macedonian   (Arabic  coming  soon).  
  34. 34.
  35. 35. School  of  Data  Journalism   Europe’s  biggest  data  journalism  event       300+  parYcipants       speakers  and  instructors  from    Reuters,  New  York   Times,  Spiegel,  Guardian,  Walter  Cronkite  School  of   Journalism.  
  36. 36. Free  5-­‐week  online  introductory  course   Instructors  and  advisors  from  the  New  York  Times,  Wired,   Twi8er,  Zeit  Online  and  others.   21.000+  parYcipants  
  37. 37. Module  1  -­‐  Data  journalism  in  the  newsroom   Module  2  -­‐  Finding  data  to  support  stories   Module  3  -­‐  Finding  story  ideas  with  data  analysis   Module  4  -­‐  Dealing  with  messy  data   Module  5  -­‐  Telling  stories  with  visualisaYon  
  38. 38.  
  39. 39.  
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  41. 41.  
  42. 42. Subscribe  to  a  mailing  list:­‐center/listservs/subscribe-­‐nicar-­‐l/       Find  or  create  a  group  in  your  area:     CommuniYes  of  support  
  43. 43. WEBSITE:   BOOK:   COURSE:     MAILING  LIST:­‐list   TWITTER:  @ddjournalism         EMAIL:     WEBSITE:   EMAIL:   TWITTER:  @bb_liliana