Readers respond better to visual presentations than reams of dense facts. GUGU MPUNGOSE investigates why data journalism is an essential tool for future journalists.


With the emerging of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), evolution is mandatory. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an era of accelerated technological progress characterized by new innovations whose rapid application and diffusion cause an abrupt change in the society. So, what used to work before, might not work in years to come. The journalism fraternity is no exception. Finding new ways to gather data and tell stories is something journalists should embrace. And hence the emergence of data journalism.  

In his Tow Centre paper, Alex Howard offered a more detailed definition for data journalism: “gathering, cleaning, organizing, analyzing, visualizing and publishing data to support the creation of acts of journalism.”

That being said, traditional newsgathering techniques are still an integral part of what journalists do. Data journalism is just the media attempt to adapt and respond to the changes in the digital era. 

Image result for data journalism

Source: Monday Note

Here is why journalists should consider data journalism

Data can be used to tell richer stories.

Through data, journalists can analyze the dynamics of a complex situation like a political debate, riots and help everyone to see possible solutions to complex problems. 

Using data means there’s less guessing and more facts

Journalists don’t have to rely on quotes of sources who tend to deny everything when they come under pressure. 

Furthermore, they can reveal how abstract such as unemployment affects people based on age, gender, education, 

Data makes reporting more efficient

Reporters frequently collect information from the same sources over and over again: census surveys, police reports, health reports. Obtaining and organizing this information can be made infinitely more efficient, even totally automatic, by keying into the data behind the reports.

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Data can provide deeper insights into information that would be difficult to find or prove.  

Data journalism locates outliers and identify trends that are not just statistically significant, but relevant to de-compiling the inherently complex world of today. 

The journalist use data to pinpoint outliers, areas of interest, or things which are surprising.

Journalists can use data to transform something abstract into something everyone can understand

They can create personalized calculators to help people make informed decisions when buying a car, house, deciding on education or professional path. 

“Computers are great when it comes to discovering things faster or discovering things you didn’t expect,” said Jue Yang, a technologist-in-residence at the City University of New York, where she helps shape its innovative Social Journalism program.

You can enrol for a Data Journalism course at Code for South Africa Data Journalism Academy. Their courses provide Data-Driven Journalism training for newsrooms, full-time and freelance journalists.

About the Author

Gugu Mpungose is an avid inspirational writer. A founding editor of Womanity Magazine. Her passion is to inspire women to be their best self. Regardless of what life throws at them. She has published a small bookshelf of inspirational journals for women and girls. When Gugu is not writing, you’ll find her inspiring women from all walks of like through her empowerment seminars, or planning her next travel destination.