Tag Archives: data churnalism

10 principles for data journalism in its second decade

10 principles Data journalism

In 2007 Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel published The Elements of Journalism. With the concept of ‘journalism’ increasingly challenged by the fact that anyone could now publish to mass audiences, their principles represented a welcome platform-neutral attempt to articulate exactly how journalism could be untangled from the vehicles that carried it and the audiences it commanded.

In this extract from a forthcoming book chapter* I attempt to use Kovach and Rosenstiel’s principles (outlined in part 1 here) as the basis for a set that might form a basis for (modern) data journalism as it enters its second and third decades.

Principle 1: Data journalists should strive to interrogate data as a power in its own right

When data journalist Jean-Marc Manach set out to find out how many people had died while migrating to Europe he discovered that no EU member state held any data on migrants’ deaths. As one public official put it, dead migrants “aren’t migrating anymore, so why care?

Similarly, when the BBC sent Freedom of Information requests to mental health trusts about their use of face-down restraint, six replied saying they could not say how often any form of restraint was used — despite being statutorily obliged to “document and review every episode of physical restraint which should include a detailed account of the restraint” under the Mental Health Act 1983.

The collection of data, the definitions used, and the ways that data informs decision making, are all exercises of power in their own right. The availability, accuracy and employment should all be particular focuses for data journalism as we see the expansion of smart cities and wearable technology. Continue reading

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Bad data PR: how the NSPCC sunk to a new low in data churnalism

One of the oldest forms of data churnalism is the dodgy poll. Typically used by holiday firms to invent the saddest day of the year, or by property websites to find the happiest places to live you can sometimes excuse journalists for playing along. It’s only a bit of fun, right?

But when the dodgy poll is done with children and relates to porn and sexually explicit videos, you’d expect journalists to exercise a little scepticism.

Unfortunately, when the NSPCC sent out a press release saying that one in ten 12-13 year olds are worried that they are addicted to porn and 12% have participated in sexually explicit videos, dozens of journalists appear to have simply played along – despite there being no report and little explanation of where the figures came from.

Articles on the NSPCC dodgy poll

Dozens of news websites repeated the NSPCC’s claims about porn addiction in children

Only Vice magazine decided to ask questions of the stats. And this is what they found: Continue reading