A resource for news innovators powered by American Press Institute
Complexity: Beginner
Article Complexity Bar Graph

When people talk about “data journalism,” what do they mean?

Develop a more sophisticated understanding of what the term “data journalism” means and encompasses.

This crowdsourced book on data journalism aggregates the knowledge and experience of dozens of the world’s leading data journalists. In this introduction, readers will learn the what and why of data journalism, with specific examples demonstrating the form’s benefits. Often data journalism is used to reference the raw material in a story — the numbers gathered and used as a basis for further reporting — and as the method by which the story is told, for example through interactive data visualizations. As this reading explains, these manifestations of data journalism are separate, but equally legitimate.

The reading goes on to explain why data is useful to journalists. As the authors explain, “using data transforms something abstract into something everyone can understand and relate to.” 

It also highlights a shift journalists face: from an era where information as scarce to one where information is abundant (if not always valuable.) Philip Meyer says this shift has created a new urgency on reporters being able to “process data,” which data journalism makes possible through rigorous and reproducible methods.

Others describe data journalism almost as a defensive skill, to offset what Nicolas Kayser-Bril calls data-driven PR. Journalists need to be armed with the tools to question figures and statistics that may “carry an aura of seriousness, even when they are entirely fabricated.”

Finally, the piece describes how data journalism, done right, can lead to engaging new ways to tell stories. Numbers are not known for their native narrative prowess, but combined with compelling visuals or interactive graphics, they can come to life and connect with readers on a deeper level.