Data-Driven Journalism

People tell stories. They always have and they always will.

But numbers can tell stories too, right? Sometimes even better than people can?

Being able to tell stories through numbers is nothing new. People have been able to measure, count, and approximate the number of things since the beginning of time. But only in the last decade or so have we been able to tell a story using numbers that is so compelling that perhaps the numbers are all that are needed to illustrate what’s going on.

Databases and maps are great ways to show readers what’s happening in a story that’s more engaging than words on a page or screen, and Chapter 9 in Briggs lays out some useful tools to get you started in changing the way news is conveyed online. The interactivity allows them to tell the story to themselves rather than the journalist telling them the story. The reader can decide what’s important and what’s not based on what their eye is attracted to on the screen or page. Here’s an example from the Los Angeles Times Homicide Report that visualizes the homicides in the city.

The effort to tell stories through data and map visualization has led to newspapers telling all kinds of news differently online. Displaying news based on geography is the latest trend in covering news, and it makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t you want to know everything going on in your neighborhood but also be able to interactively see what is located around the news stories? If a car crashes into a store front, you can see what other stores are around the crash scene that may be impacted by using data visualization software.

The best part about the new data visualization softwares that are available is that readers can interactively contribute information to share with the community. This allows a community to get “smarter” and to have conversations with community members in your neighborhood that may not be possible otherwise. Telling stories through data and letting readers sift through that data for themselves is one of the futures of journalism as journalists continue giving readers more power in deciding what the news is.


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