What I Have Learned

The multiplatform reporting class taught me the importance of data journalism in today’s digitalized world and identified aspects I was not aware of.

Organizing information is key, not only on the journalist end but also on the consumer end. If data is put into spreadsheets and charts, it becomes searchable and the information has a much higher value to the news consumer.

Accurate data does not only make a story more detailed and vivid, but also more credible. When percentages, statistics etc. are expressed in actual figures, it makes the whole piece of information that is given more trustworthy. And building trust within consumers by giving accurate information is exactly what a successful, reliable news outlet should do.

Data can be a helpful addition to a story, but stories can also be completely built out of data. The data can regard any topic and if put into a for news consumer appealing and interactive fashion, data can for sure serve many people’s interests.

FiveThirtyEight Example

The outlet FiveThirtyEight released an example of a story that is completely build with data on its website Oct. 31.

The story is written by David Wassermann and features three clearly arranged and labeled tables with data. Each table shows votes cast as a share of the previous election in one of three states.

Wassermann’s story focuses on comparing Clinton’s supporters with Obama’s supporters, therefore, comparing 2016 and 2012 votes casts assists with this comparison. If readers would only look at the three tables, they already get the important facts. Wassermann builds his story around these facts.

I found it important to notice is that the author only uses some figures in the written part. The data containing tables do that for him. He then summarizes, explains and puts these figures into a wider context.

The data provided in the story makes the story’s statement about how Clinton’s support among Hispanic and Black voters changed in comparison to Obama much more trustworthy and lively.

Guest speakers

One thing that I have learned from all guest speakers we had coming in this semester is that all platforms merge more and more together and news stories become more and more interactive with the news consumer.

Photo taken from Angela Hutti's Twitter page

Photo taken from Angela Hutti’s Twitter page

More specifically, I remember Angela Hutti, meteorologist at Fox 2, talking about how fast the news industry is changing and that a willingness to learn new things is critical. She also said that the focus shifts more and more toward the internet. These two outlooks can be applied data journalism because first of all, it is somewhat new thing that journalists need to learn more about and get more familiar with, and secondly, data journalism works great on the internet. Graphics and tables can be easily inserted in a for the news consumer interactive way.

Rachel Lippmann -Photo credit: linkedin

Rachel Lippmann -Photo credit: linkedi

Moreover, Rachel Lippmann, reporter for the St. Louis Public Radio, talked about avoiding mistakes at all costs.

“No one remembers who got it first, but surely people will remember when someone got it wrong,” she said. This applies even more to data journalism, because mistakes can happen easily but the facts should be a 100 percent accurate. Wrong data will make a data-driven story look non-credible and shady.

Mark Greenblatt Photo from LinkedIn.com

Mark Greenblatt
Photo from LinkedIn.com

Another aspect of data journalism was brought to us by Mark Greenblatt, who works at Scripps Washington Bureau and whom we had a phone conversation with about a month ago. He provided us with an example of how to use data journalism troughout longer, in-depth stories to keep readers engaged. Large bulks of texts are not attractive to most readers, but data can that change and provide information from a different angle.

WSB-TV Example

The Atlanta, Georgia based TV station WSB-TV generally does not engage in a lot of data journalism. However, I found them using data throughout one of the stories in the community section on their website about birds dying from building collisions in Atlanta.  WSB-TV provides some data about birds dying in 

What WSB-TV also does, especially for stories that cover nationwide topics, is providing articles by the Associated Press to their audience. These articles usually use engage more in data journalism.

A reporter at the Associated Press, Hope Yen, wrote one of these articles analyzing in which states/regions Clinton leads at the time of the story and also in which geographical area Trump and the Republicans holds strength.

What I have noticed throughout this story, is that Yen states how many people are expected to vote in total and in some selected states with a figure, she always explains what percentage that figure is out of the total of people eligible to vote. This makes the numbers more vivid for readers.

In addition, Yen does not only provide this year’s data, but also data from the past elections in 2012 and 2008. This helps readers to put the number in a bigger picture, since most of them will remember the situation from the two previous elections.

Overall, the data provided in this story makes the facts told by Yen more vivid and more credible. The story is written in an organized way based on this data. However, maybe some graphics could have lead to more clarification and visualization.