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Will Robots report the News and make Data journalism a thing of the Past?

The only con­stant is that jour­nal­ism has to re-invent itself. With tech­no­log­i­cal out­lets ooz­ing into every­day cul­ture, the way we get what’s hap­pen­ing out in the real-world is chang­ing and it appears the new word on the streets is Data Jour­nal­ism. Data is king, and we have become like machines who only acknowl­edge the val­ues of num­bers and statistics.

More data; less social sci­ence based inves­ti­ga­tions and sto­ry­telling, towards data col­lect­ing, analy­sis and pub­lish­ing based on code, algo­rithms and soft­ware from the com­put­er sciences?
Don’t wor­ry just yet jour­nal­ism is still all about sto­ry­telling, but the sto­ries are being told from new­er more sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly inte­grat­ed methods.

Start-ups are most def­i­nite­ly try­ing to cre­ate a mar­ket posi­tion for data jour­nal­ism. Per­haps in the future coders will be tak­ing over the news­room. It is amaz­ing how quick­ly feeds from drones were imple­ment­ed as a report­ing tool. Right now we have pro­grams that can be instruct­ed to cre­ate rudi­men­ta­ry sto­ries and rewrite them a myr­i­ad num­ber of ways.

Arduinos have allowed a num­ber of indi­vid­u­als to cre­ate cus­tom sen­sors that can be applied in the field for sen­sor-based jour­nal­ism, where you can cat­a­logue real world envi­ron­men­tal data. You can cap­ture any­thing from water pol­lu­tion, air­borne con­t­a­m­i­nants, chem­i­cal tox­i­c­i­ty, you name it, think it and build it. It’s the Mak­er Age. It is unde­ni­able that the influ­ence of tech­nol­o­gy on jour­nal­ism is growing.

Some key things to rec­og­nize is that Data jour­nal­ism began with jour­nal­ists using com­put­er-based tools from the social sci­ences to enhance their report­ing. The next devel­op­ment came from the open data source move­ment. When you look at it through this lens jour­nal­ism feels more like com­put­er sci­ences and big data.

So in the new jour­nal­ism, a small­er focus on sto­ry, more tan­gi­ble con­tent through datasets and analy­sis are pub­lished togeth­er with info­graph­ics. The read­er then becomes involved in the process of inter­pret­ing and ana­lyz­ing data. Typ­i­cal­ly the data is pro­vid­ed in com­plete sets and not just samples.

Coders are find­ing their skills being put to good use in a few of the big media hous­es and some direct­ly in the news­rooms. If you’re doing data jour­nal­ism on the reg­u­lar then these coders should be taught some jour­nal­ism 101, because teach­ing jour­nal­ist to code may be a bit hard­er. Jour­nal­ists should be trained in foun­da­tion­al data jour­nal­ism tools in order to do the eas­i­er data projects them­selves. Jour­nal­ist and coders/developers should team up on the more demand­ing research jobs.

The new data tools are mak­ing it eas­i­er for any­one to be a holis­tic dig­i­tal jour­nal­ist. Maybe it’s time for every­one to get with the data before com­put­ers get so good at all the rest, no one will have a job.

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