What is Data Journalism?

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

/ by mansuralisaha


News Cover: this is true, so I don't we didn't talk about what you do now that you're a dated journalist. I kind of skipped past that now you were a computer science major at Harvard and then how did you beat was data journalism a subject at that point I know it wasn't I really I wish that it was so data journalism is a term that dates to about 2006 and I it is the current incarnation of what we use to call computer-assisted reporting that was a term that came about in the 80s when reporters all got computers on their desktops for the first time and people started doing reporting with spreadsheets and with databases and then before that it was called precision reporting which actually dates to 1968 which is the first time that the tools of social science were used an investigative reporting so Phil Meyer a pioneer in the field used a mainframe computer to crunch some survey data and do an investigative story about the Detroit race riots. 

so there's a pretty reasonably long history of using computers or investigative journalism purposes and so data journalism is the most recent incarnation of that so what I do is I write computer code in order to commit acts of investigative reporting I do a kind of reporting that's called algorithmic accountability reporting and so there are two ways to do it one way is I like what ProPublica does or what Julia Angwin does with her new newsroom the markup I and that is investigating algorithms black box alpha block black-box algorithms that are used to make decisions on our behalf right so that's the compass algorithm or the algorithm that is used to decide if you are worthy of getting a new credit card or the algorithms that decide who gets into which new york city public high school all right so that's investigating algorithms that are out there I do the other side of that which is I write my own algorithms in order to investigate social issues so it's a relatively new field. 

I in the sense that we are using advanced computational methods I for investigative journalism nowadays and so you mentioned Julia Angwin who used to be a ProPublica and now started her own thing is so is that what she used to uncover I know she was the one that I think uncovered the ads that were people were racists in Facebook and other things like that is that does that is that data journalism yes yes that is data journalism and that is algorithmic accountability reporting um and that's a particular strain of it I'm sorry we're gonna really walk you around putting on my journalism professor hat so there are lots of people who are investigating platforms so tech platforms have all of the same problems that everything else in the real world has and they need to be held accountable in the same way. 

so I people are starting to do investigative reporting projects on the different tech platforms in order to find out what are you know how are these platforms discriminating against citizens what are the threats to democracy posed by odd things happening on these platforms what is an illegal activity that's happening on these platforms so that's a very important function that journalism serves in democracy is finding these things out so citizens could be more aware and can be empowered and so journalists now are looking at TACC like we look at anything else in the world and we're saying okay let's be realistic about the problems that we find.

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