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Connecting Data, Computation and Journalism: The Epistemological Models of The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica


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Invited lecture at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, 16 May 2014.

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Connecting Data, Computation and Journalism: The Epistemological Models of The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica

  1. 1. Connec&ng Data, Computa&on and Journalism: Liliana Bounegru and Thomas Poell (Research project in progress) The Epistemological Models of The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica
  2. 2. Examples The Guardian Datablog h@p:// unemployment-rate-by-country-eurozone
  3. 3. The New York Times InteracOve News unit h@p://
  4. 4. ProPublica’s News Apps unit h@p://
  5. 5. “Could compu+ng technology - which has played no small part in the decline of the tradi+onal news media - turn out to be a saviour of journalism’s watchdog tradi+on?” (Cohen, Sarah, Chengkai Li, Jun Yang, and Cong Yu. 2011. "ComputaOonal Journalism: A Call to Arms to Database Researchers." CIDR 2011: 148-151) “If there’s a silver lining in this situa+on, it is the ability of computer scien+sts to strengthen the hands of the remaining professional reporters and engage new players in the watchdog process” (Cohen, Sarah, James F. Hamilton, and Fred Turner. 2011. “ComputaOonal journalism.” Communica+ons of the ACM 54 (10): 66-71) How have these recent developments been discussed in academic literature?
  6. 6. Flew, T., Spurgeon, C., Daniel, A., & Swic, A. (2012). The promise of computaOonal journalism. Cohen, S., Li, C., Yang, J., & Yu, C. (2011). ComputaOonal journalism: A call to arms to database researchers Hamilton, J. & Turner F. (July, 2009). Accountability through algorithm: Developing the field of computaOonal journalism. How have these recent developments been discussed in academic literature?
  7. 7. How are data and computer science used in journalism? What epistemological assumpOons about the role of data, computer science and audiences underlie this work? Our research
  8. 8. I. Mapping data journalism and computaOonal journalism outside the newsroom – the hybrid network of academic and non-governmental organisaOons II. Mapping how data and computaOon are used in newsrooms Our approach
  9. 9. I. Mapping data journalism and computaOonal journalism outside newsrooms
  10. 10. ComputaOonal journalism in the academic space
  11. 11. Data journalism and computer- assisted reporOng in the NGO space
  12. 12. II. Mapping how data and computaOon are used in newsrooms
  13. 13. Royal, Cindy. 2010. “The Journalist as Programmer: a Case Study of the New York Times InteracOve News Technology Department.” Presented at the Interna+onal Symposium on Online Journalism, AusOn, Texas. Parasie, Sylvain, and Eric Dagiral. 2012. ‘‘Data-driven Journalism and the Public Good: ‘Computer-assisted-reporters’ and ‘Programmer-journalists’ in Chicago.’’ New Media & Society 15 (6): 853-871. ExisOng research
  14. 14. Three case studies: •  Guardian Datablog •  ProPublica’s News Apps division •  New York Times’ InteracOve News unit Method: •  In-depth interviews with journalists •  Analysis of outcomes of their work •  Analysis of press coverage of these developments Our case studies and method
  15. 15. “Most of what we do is this kind of very newsy, quick pieces of data journalism, that are based around stories that just happen to be in the news that day. Every news story has some data behind it and we’re here to make that accessible and surface it.” (interview with Simon Rogers, 6 September 2012) “When we launched the Datablog, we thought the audiences would be developers building applica+ons. In fact, it’s people wan+ng to know more about carbon emissions or Eastern European immigra+on or the breakdown of deaths in Afghanistan — or even the number of +mes the Beatles used the word ‘love’ in their songs.” (Rogers, Simon. 2012. “Behind the scenes at The Guardian Datablog.” In The Data Journalism Handbook, edited by Gray, Jonathan, Liliana Bounegru, and Lucy Chambers, 34-37. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media) The Guardian Datablog: ‘journalism as a source of data’
  16. 16. The Guardian Datablog: ‘journalism as a source of data’
  17. 17. “I don’t see that [publishing data] as necessarily an act of journalism. I see that as an act of technology. And, I think that’s sort of shirking responsibility. The journalists’ responsibility is data analysis. It always has been. If all reporters did was report every fact, how would you be able to dis+nguish an important from an unimportant fact? What journalists say is: ‘This is not important, and this is.’ I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.” (interview with Aron Pilhofer, 19 September, 2012). The New York Times InteracOve News unit: ‘the data experience’
  18. 18. ProPublica’s News Apps unit: ‘journalism as a data research tool’ “By showing each reader data that is specific to them, a news app can help each reader understand a story in a way that’s personally meaningful to them. It can help a reader understand their personal connec+on to a broad na+onal phenomenon, and help them aXach what they know to what they don’t know, and thereby encourage a deep understanding of abstract concepts.” (Klein, S. (2012). News apps at ProPublica. In J. Gray, L. Bounegru, & L. Chambers (Eds.), The data journalism handbook (pp. 185-186). Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media)
  19. 19. A criOcal examinaOon of this much celebrated phenomenon is needed. Journalists should reflect on how the integraOon of data and computaOonal tools in news producOon might impact the nature of the stories they are telling. Journalists should be more criOcal and creaOve in the way they source the data they use for their reportage. What does this mean for journalism?
  20. 20. h@p:// journalism-and-computaOonal-journalism/ List of academic literature on data journalism
  21. 21. THANK YOU! WEBSITE: EMAIL: TWITTER: @bb_liliana
  22. 22. Resources for pracOOoners
  23. 23. Website dedicated to data journalism is a hub for data journalism news and resources, featuring case studies, tools, methods, events and job opportuniOes.
  24. 24. 70+ authors from: New York Times BBC Guardian Financial Times Washington Post Zeit Online Chicago Tribune Deutsche Welle La Nacion ProPublica Australian BroadcasOng CorporaOon 10+ transla&ons: Russian Spanish Georgian Ukrainian French Italian Chinese Macedonian Arabic Portuguese Greek Czech Data journalism book New York Times Guardian ScienOfic American LiberaOon TechCrunch NiemanLab ReadWriteWeb Gigaom Global Voices PBS 10101 abc Dubbed the “bible” of data journalism, The Data Journalism Handbook is a reference book on how journalists can use data to improve their work. Featured in:
  25. 25. Biggest data journalism event in Europe 300+ parOcipants 50+ countries Speakers from: Reuters New York Times Spiegel Guardian Walter Cronkite School of Journalism LocaOon: Italy Featuring a mix of panel discussions and hands-on sessions, the School of Data Journalism gives parOcipants an opportunity to discuss developments and challenges in the field, learn about new tools, techniques and iniOaOves, and meet and network face- to-face with like-minded pracOOoners.
  26. 26. 20.000+ parOcipants 170+ countries Top professions: Journalist CommunicaOon specialist Editor Programmer Graphic designer StaOsOcian Biggest journalism MOOC Doing Journalism with Data is a free 5-module online introductory course that gives parOcipants the essenOal concepts, techniques and skills to effecOvely work with data and produce compelling data stories under Oght deadlines. Instructors and advisors from: New York Times |Wired | Twi@er | Zeit Online