Posted by: marshamwhite | April 4, 2010

Database Journalism

Anyone familiar with the term “database journalism”? Well, Matt Carroll, Northeastern alumni, specializes in database journalism at the Boston Globe. For the past 15 years, Carroll has helped coin the term database journalism which refers to the inclusion of data, charts, graphs, etc to demonstrate or reveal specific trends or occurrences in society. Carroll explains that one must “look for data to wirte the nut graf of a story” and provide the numbers to back it up. Carroll made a visit to my class on Wednesday, and encouraged everyone of us to get involved into database journalism.

Carroll said that he “realized that journalists hardly do stuff with data” and that digging for numbers and using that data for stories, sets him “apart from other journalists.”

In addition, Carroll explained to us that because of this specialty, he has become a resource in the newsroom and teaches his co-workers how to work with excel.

For one of his stories, Carroll had acquired data showed that gun licensing was down. After retrieving more recent information, Carroll revealed data that showed that for the last two years,  gun licensing has increased.

“People are more concerned about their safety,” he said.

In addition to this type of journalism, Carroll informed us that the journalism world is morphing and that sites such as Many Eyes, have been developed to take data and conveniently transform that data into charts and graphs in the form of visualizations.

Database journalism is an evolution of the traditional style of journalism. By incorporating visuals, the story ultimately displays more credibility. Often times we come across stories that offer general statements about certain topics and we, as readers, mistake these stories as factual. When journalists incorporate data and show it visually, the story provides more evidence to back the data presented in the story. It is exciting to see that journalims has included mapping and database to accessorize the truth and make it more credible. Traditional style journalism will remain the foundation of journalism but to forecast the future of journalism, I think it’s safe to say that database journalism is a step in the right direction.


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