Do journalists need to learn to code? And other thoughts on data

Will journalists of the future be coders too? That was one of the questions on my mind when I went to this recent event on data journalism and open data in Europe. Some of it was interesting, some of it less so. Here are some titbits I picked up:

1. Make interfaces, not graphics

People don’t just want general data, they want to know how it relates to them. Where possible, present data in a way that is interactive, and allows the reader to rejig the data to view it through the prism of what matters to them.

Where not possible, try and at least frame it in a way that is more personal.  Here’s a tweet that does so:

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-15-49-20

2. Don’t assume connections always exist

Correlation doesn’t always mean causation. 

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-15-53-04

3. Data journalists will all need to know how to code one day

Except that no one at the conference seemed to know when that day will be. In America they teach it at journalism schools (mostly in data courses) and some employers do look for those skills in data journalists. In Europe, we are rather behind the curve in both supply and demand.

If you do want to learn (I do!), apparently the Python language is a great starting point. Not least because you can get it to do useful data visualisation things for you after just a few months of casual study.

4. The next big thing in data journalism is three big things

More mobile, more VR, and more emerging countries, apparently. The same as 2012 then.

Is gamification ever going to happen in a big way? No one really seems sure.

5. There’s loads of open data sources hanging around the internet

Did you know? I didn’t. Here’s a good one on European data. Here’s one that uses linked data, a concept I also didn’t know anything about (still don’t).

6. Data is never neutral

It should go without saying. But it was said, so I am saying it again. Data is non-neutral. Consider who collected it and why.

Want more? Read this great thing by the Guardian’s Chris Moran.

The final word goes to W. Edwards Deming.

“In God we trust. All others must bring data.”

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