10 reasons to learn data journalism

The following is a list of reasons why students should learn data journalism. It was put together by Chad Skelton, an investigative reporter at the Vancouver Sun and journalism professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. It was tweaked from the help of members of the NICAR-L mailing list.

Definition of data journalism: Data journalism is a form of reporting that makes use of data (ie. spreadsheets, databases) as a key component to research and tell stories.

10 reasons:

1. We’re living in an Age of Data. Governments and businesses are producing raw data in massive quantities. If you don’t know how to analyze data, you won’t be able to tell many of the most important stories of our time.

2. Online tools like maps and databases allow you to answer the specific questions your readers/viewers have and let them drill down to their specific location (ie. How safe is my child’s daycare? How much crime is there in my neighbourhood?)

3. Done right, data journalism can generate monster traffic. (ie. 500,000 hits for Sun’s daycare rating database. 10 million for its public-sector salary database)

4. People lie with numbers, especially politicians and business leaders. Data journalism can help you catch those lies.

5. Data journalism can give your reporting more authority. Less “he said/she said”. Sometimes, in fact, you end up knowing more about an agency’s data than it does.

6. Because so few journalists are doing data journalism, you’ll never run out of great stories to tell.

7. You get to take part in inventing the future of journalism and experiment with different ways of telling stories (maps, graphics, interactive timelines).

8. In a sometimes cutthroat industry, data journalists are a tight-knit, helpful community. If you get stuck, someone will help you out.

9. It will help you get a job. Data journalism skills are in high demand right now, for all the reasons listed above. See newsnerdjobs.com.

10. If journalism doesn’t work out for you, or ends up not being your thing, data analysis skills are in high demand in almost every industry.

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