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The Concept of Data Journalism

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In 2005, over 10 million Indians switched online for news or information; web and mobile was the ‘big thing’. With credibility and authenticity ‘Data Journalism’ is the ‘survival’ today in online journalism. Data Journalism is all about the presentation of facts, visuals, and investigations of the traditional ‘reporting first’… The digital transition in Journalism can be witnessed by the popularizing demand and need for digital platforms. According to the new digital trends in Journalism or the entire Media sector, websites are experimenting with new ways of increasing readability. News today contains more and more interactive tools that are accessible, reliable and fostering a culture of impactful stories in unforeseen ways. Journalism, today have embedded visual mediums, and importantly Data.

For the survival of the competitive digital transition, the answer is Data Journalism. What exactly is Data Journalism? A simple answer to this can be journalism done with data. But Data journalism is more than adding numbers to a story. It is a combination of ‘nose for news’ from the available accessible ‘data’. In practical references, Data Journalism refers to developing a story out of the available exclusive statistical sources, analyzing the numbers, structuring them into an informative descriptive story, and making it visually impactful to the readers by incorporating media tools.

Shajan Kumar, Assistant Professor, Bennett University, defines Data Journalism as journalism which deals more with researched numerical figures. He explains, “Figures that supports facts! Data journalism helps you to enhance clarity to focus on a point that you want to explain. In today’s evolving ‘new media’ world data journalism has an upper hand. Data journalism helps a journalist tell a very complex story using engaging Infographics.” Data journalism helps to enhance clarity on complex stories to focus on a point that needs to be explained. In today’s evolving ‘new media’ world data journalism has an upper hand. Why we need Data Journalism? News stories are flowing from multiple sources and mediums. Besides the traditional mediums, the blogs, social media flows news as they happen. There is ignorance of credibility, zero filtration, and the trend of fake news to get more readability. This is where Data Journalism plays a crucial role. Data in stories act as readers connection to authenticity.

Less relevant stats that gets ignored in important stories, when viewed with right data presents itself as a rightful information. Gathering, filtering and visualizing what is happening beyond what the eye can see has a growing value. Nick Routley, Director and Data Journalist at VisualCapitalist comments on the need for Data Journalism, in the globally evolving Journalistic times. He says,“With the recent proliferation of fake news across the globe, people are looking for more reliable information. Articles anchored by credible data sources are more trustworthy sources of information of the public.” The social generation needs information which is short, more visual and backed with data.

Using Data as a tool to present compelling stories, Data Journalism caters to the needs of such readers. To keep par with the constantly evolving social media trends, Journalism focus must shift to ‘present developing stories’ rather than ‘reporting first’. With more adaption of Data Journalism in the country, the workflow will boost, the reader’s credibility will increase, and fake news will diminish. Pioneers as the Guardian, the New York Times, are constantly revolutionizing Data Journalism with their data-driven stories. One of the prominent examples of a revolution in Data Journalism is the Mumbai based independent non-profit website, IndiaSpend. Founded in 2011, describing itself as ‘the country’s first data journalism initiative. One such data-driven story was a content analysis of English media by IndiaSpend that attracted attention was that Muslims were the target of 52% of violence on bovine issues for over nearly eight years (2010 to 2017).

Another breakthrough Data story was by The Hindu, presenting that DMK, AIADMK, TDP make up more than 60% of all regional parties’ earnings. Such stories bring accountability to the website and transparency among the people. Data Journalism is moving towards becoming a vital component of ‘reporting’ an era of digital media. How to get into Data Journalism? The range of topics for Data Journalism can be far and wide. The next economy boost, financial crisis, political exposures, and similar topics. There is no specific area attached to work as a Data Journalist. All required is creativity and ‘eyes and nose’ for data.

Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, Consulting Editor, Business Standard mentions that the need for data-investigation is required across every story. He opines, “Earlier, data typically was for the business people to analyze and crunch numbers. But what has happened now, is people demand more facts. You can use data to count the number of homeless to graph the chemical needs. Today data-driven stories come in any face, form or sector, it depends on the creativity of the journalist on how they use it. Readers need data in every story, it is as simple. ” Similar to no expert area, there is also no specialized degree required to become a Data Journalist. All a journalist need is an act of analyzing data for stories. The need is to be able to cut through the noise of reporting first and quantity, determine what people really need to know. Nick Routley further mentions, that having a basic knowledge of how statistics work, being able to assess white-paper and report methodologies, and a sense of where to find reliable data-sets are all good skills to manage your way in Data Journalism. With the need of the hour, Data Science and Investigative reporting must be taught seriously by Journalism Schools. Shajan Kumar adds learning the art and science of data analysis will make our journalists understand the data points in a much user-friendly manner. Some Skills and Responsibilities…

Foremost, one must have some experience in news and editorial department, but also a knack for stats and media tools. An important skill is the ability to question, visualize, and analyze the numbers. This helps Data Journalist to uncover a hidden fact and report them to the readers. Basically, a learner with capabilities to tackle complex stats in the understandable visually appealing way; similar to what Journalism is. According to a survey report by Google News Lab and PolicyViz, 42% of journalists said they use data regularly to tell stories, and 51% of news organizations have a dedicated data journalist on staff. Despite its huge growth, data journalism, in India, still faces challenges. Explaining one of the reasons for such disparity, Subhomoy Bhattacharjee explains, “The core challenge is the weak internal housekeeping of data within newspapers and channels. Journalists have neither studied data analysis nor they practice it. This is the gap we need to bridge.”

Adding to the challenges, Shajan Kumar says, “India’s journalism practices have been totally different. We love to emotionalize news. Facts and figures come in very late! Data science need to be studied seriously by all journalism students. But it is changing. Journalists in India are now curious about data journalism.” With challenges of understanding Data Journalism from grass-root level, there are many unexplored opportunities in the sector. Some of the most compelling articles have been driven from data. And with skilled training and resources, the challenges can be turned into opportunities.

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