Is data journalism for everyone?


A recent study, conducted by Turo Uskali and Heikki Kuutti from the University of Jyväskylä, asked five prominent data journalists their thoughts on whether all journalists should learn to work with data. We conducted a roundup of their answers.

1.       Sisi Wei, an investigative journalist at ProPublica:

“I think no matter what kind of journalism you are doing, having that skill to be able to fact check your sources. It is just another empowering tool. So, I think it is probably for everyone, knowing using Excel or use Python, it does not matter how little of how little programming you know as long as you know how to use it. To do this kind of thing. It is definitely everybody.”

2.       Paul Bradshaw, author of several leading data journalism handbooks and associate professor in online journalism at Birmingham City University:

“If you are a journalist, you have to deal all types of information then you have to work with that. Speed and accuracy are the two key assets for a journalist. And if you deal with data, you have to do with that. There will be some sort of journalism that does not deal with the data. It will be increasingly small area.”

3.       Ben Welsh, editor at the Los Angeles Times Data Desk:

“Well, I think it is a little bit of both. There are more difficult, require more technical skills that you need people to specialize to do. - - But there is a lot of data work that is really looking stuff up and like doing basic math, and I think that it is things that any smart journalist is really capable of.”

4.       Jens Finnäs, freelance data journalist:

“Not every journalist should have coding skills, but all journalists could at least know one person, who can code, and that he or she can ask for help.”

5.       Martin Stabe, head of interactive news at the Financial Times:

“If we cannot do our own independent analysis, we are at the mercy of the PR machine, which has this firepower behind them. There is this absolutely essential need to be able to do independent quantitative analysis based on raw data...So I think that is really the key in journalism. It is not only the flashing new things that you can do fancy graphics. It is not only numbers. It is about responding to the way information is now stored, controlled, processed and allowing journalism to fulfill its mission, independently accessing those things, and without data journalism that is going to be impossible.”

Read the full research paper here.

Photo: Medialab Katowice