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All the data that’s fit to print: an
analysis of the coverage in
national newspapers of the 2013
PISA Report.
Megan Knight,
Associate Dean, School of Creative Arts,
University of Hertfordshire
m.knight3@herts.ac.uk http://meganknight.org
We’re all data journalists now
• Data journalism is the latest buzzword in journalism, and news
organisations claim to want data analysis skills from their staff
• Creation and dissemination of data
• Money is a factor – data analysis is expensive
• Most “data journalism” and data visualisations are simplistic, and
taken direct from third party sources
• Data PR
Source: Knight, M., 2015. Data journalism in the UK: a preliminary
analysis of form and content. Journal of Media Practice 16, 55–72.
doi:10.1080/14682753.2015.1015801
Data and approaches
2013 OECD Pisa report
Coverage for the month following release, in UK
national newspapers
Focus of coverage
Mention of sections of the test Mention of key analysis points in the report
Nature of the coverage
• Narrative of failure
• Most articles presented the results as evidence of the inadequacy of the UK
education system
• “Asia is winning , therefore we are losing” education as a zero sum game
• Politicisation
• Politicians were more quoted than experts or the report’s authors
• The majority of the coverage was editorial or commentary
• Simplification
• The data was not discussed, most articles presented it as simply a single score on a
maths test
• Lack of critique
• Only one article attempted any serious critique of the report, and two others
presented critical comment as counterpoint
Superficiality and simplification
• Lack of time
• Lack of expertise, or space to develop it
• Superficiality of news coverage
• Response
• Simplify and focus on one or two details
• Understand the context and tailor material and responses to it
Ambiguity and clarity
• News organisations do not like ambiguity – nor do readers
• Especially true of political stories
• Any hint of one aspect or another being the case will result in that
being hailed as the fact of the matter, no matter how subtle the
variation
• Response
• Be aware of this as a possible response and consider the impact
• Don’t equivocate
Data is scary
• Very few journalists are trained in data analysis
• In the study, all of the information presented from the report that
made it into the newspaper was either included in the press release,
or the textual narrative of the report
• Response
• Simplify and explain
• Don’t assume an understanding of specialised language
Journalists rely on others
• Quotes are essential to the journalistic process
• Journalists rely on people they know, who are responsive and
understand their needs
• Forty per cent of the coverage was commissioned from experts
• Response
• Be proactive – contact journalists directly
• Be responsive – time is important
Conclusions and questions
• Small increase in data journalism and data journalists
• Costs and specialisations
• Impact on policy
• Cherrypicking and retrospective justification
• Do journalists really matter?
• Direct access to public opinion via social media

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All the data that’s fit to print

  • 1. All the data that’s fit to print: an analysis of the coverage in national newspapers of the 2013 PISA Report. Megan Knight, Associate Dean, School of Creative Arts, University of Hertfordshire m.knight3@herts.ac.uk http://meganknight.org
  • 2. We’re all data journalists now • Data journalism is the latest buzzword in journalism, and news organisations claim to want data analysis skills from their staff • Creation and dissemination of data • Money is a factor – data analysis is expensive • Most “data journalism” and data visualisations are simplistic, and taken direct from third party sources • Data PR Source: Knight, M., 2015. Data journalism in the UK: a preliminary analysis of form and content. Journal of Media Practice 16, 55–72. doi:10.1080/14682753.2015.1015801
  • 3. Data and approaches 2013 OECD Pisa report Coverage for the month following release, in UK national newspapers
  • 4. Focus of coverage Mention of sections of the test Mention of key analysis points in the report
  • 5. Nature of the coverage • Narrative of failure • Most articles presented the results as evidence of the inadequacy of the UK education system • “Asia is winning , therefore we are losing” education as a zero sum game • Politicisation • Politicians were more quoted than experts or the report’s authors • The majority of the coverage was editorial or commentary • Simplification • The data was not discussed, most articles presented it as simply a single score on a maths test • Lack of critique • Only one article attempted any serious critique of the report, and two others presented critical comment as counterpoint
  • 6.
  • 7.
  • 8. Superficiality and simplification • Lack of time • Lack of expertise, or space to develop it • Superficiality of news coverage • Response • Simplify and focus on one or two details • Understand the context and tailor material and responses to it
  • 9.
  • 10. Ambiguity and clarity • News organisations do not like ambiguity – nor do readers • Especially true of political stories • Any hint of one aspect or another being the case will result in that being hailed as the fact of the matter, no matter how subtle the variation • Response • Be aware of this as a possible response and consider the impact • Don’t equivocate
  • 11.
  • 12. Data is scary • Very few journalists are trained in data analysis • In the study, all of the information presented from the report that made it into the newspaper was either included in the press release, or the textual narrative of the report • Response • Simplify and explain • Don’t assume an understanding of specialised language
  • 13.
  • 14.
  • 15. Journalists rely on others • Quotes are essential to the journalistic process • Journalists rely on people they know, who are responsive and understand their needs • Forty per cent of the coverage was commissioned from experts • Response • Be proactive – contact journalists directly • Be responsive – time is important
  • 16. Conclusions and questions • Small increase in data journalism and data journalists • Costs and specialisations • Impact on policy • Cherrypicking and retrospective justification • Do journalists really matter? • Direct access to public opinion via social media