Datajournalism – Embrace the challenge

Data JournalismIn recent times, the quality of journalism has increasingly been questioned, and challenged from social commentators to members of the general public.

Especially given our very volatile and ever-changing political landscape, partisan journalism has become an issue that many prominent journalist and media houses are being accused of. Favouritism and bias towards certain political parties, is evident even in recent reports on the ANC National General Council.

This phenomenon makes it even more important for journalist to take the time to confirm sources, find supplementary information including data such as statistics, different views on the same issue and verify the authenticity and accuracy of information before publishing.

For this reason , Data Journalism is a concept that is becoming more and more important, to maintain the integrity of journalism. It is best defined as “A speciality reflecting the increased role that numerical data is used in the production and distribution of information in the digital era”(Thibo Deaux , Troy. 2011). It is essentially an overlapping of different competencies, where journalist collaborate with other specialist in areas ranging from design to computer science and statistics.

In the Data Journalism Handbook, Paul Bradshaw expressively describes the benefits of, and the difference between data journalism from traditional journalism. He suggests: “the difference is the new possibilities created when you combine the ability to tell a compelling story, the sheer scale and range of the digital information that is now so widely available.”

I believe that South African journalist should embrace the concept of data journalism, because it improves the manner in which a complex story can be simplified for easier understanding and to encourage engagement with the reader. This can be done by either using specialists analysis of statistics to demonstrate how allocations from the National Treasury, normally given in the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech, can effect an ordinary citizen i.e sin tax.

Data Journalism can also be a supplementary way of reporting to either support, clarify or challenge other forms of media used to tell a story. The chaos in Parliament in recent months has been widely reported in all forms of media. While written articles are the interpretations and opinion of the author, recorded interviews discussing the same issue creates an opportunity for a viewer or listener to form their own opinion on a matter.

The video link below, of an interview on SABC News with EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) Leader Julius Malema, regarding allegations of the EFF deliberately disrupting Parliament proceedings is an example of data journalism being used to create an opportunity for the viewers to form their own opinion on a matter that had received wide media attention and been
interpreted in many, sometimes conflicting, ways.

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