June 19, 2015

How to tell stories with data and what's the future of journalism?

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and editor of the New York Times data journalism website The Upshot, David Leonhardt, shares the tricks of the master storyteller's trade. In conversation with Google News Lab data editor Simon Rogers, he shows how data is changing the world - and your part in the revolution.


Key points
  • Journalism is not in decline. Journalism (at least American journalism) is better today than it has ever been - even as little as 10 years ago. Yes there are challenges, and the business model is changing. But journalism is still keeping people informed about the world and has not been replaced by click-bait articles. 
  • Why journalism is better today than 10-20 years ago:
    • Journalism is more accurate than it used to be (but not perfectly accurate). One reason is that it is easier to change inaccurate information in articles when the articles are digital, like spelling errors, compared with printed articles. It is also easier for the audience to interact with articles and journalists today when everything is digital. The audience can improve the articles. 
    • The tools and techniques for telling a story has improved. It is today easy to create interactive visualizations, like maps and let the map zoom in on the area, and give the reader different information, depending on where the reader is living. These techniques didn't exist 20 years ago.
    • Journalists are using better data than before. As long as the journalists are using the data in the correct way, the result is better than it used to be. 
    • The audience for ambitious journalism is larger than it was just a few years ago. People from across the globe can read the New York Times. 
  • The most articles in the New York Times are not traditional articles with blocks of text - they are interactive visualizations, essays, Q&A's, and videos. But they are not click-baits - they are about serious topics and the people behind them have put a lot of effort into them. The smartest and clearest way to tell a story isn't anymore the traditional article.
  • New York Times is sometimes writing 2 articles, one traditional with just text and a similar article with more visualizations. In one example, the article with the more visualizations got 8 times the traffic compared with the traditional article with just text.
  • Journalists are becoming more and more specialized within a certain area.
  • You can probably find big opportunities within local news, but only if you are using data. 

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