Doing Data Journalism: Reading Wk11

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Quite possibly the best part about this panel discussion was finding out how data journalists in major news organizations still use basic journalism concepts when doing a data driven story.
Mo Tamman made an important point about not using data as an illustration or something to buttress the story. This is unfortunately a mindset that still exists out there as news organizations are slow to realize the potential of stories residing in the data itself. Old school reporters will often come back after anecdotally supporting their hypothesis only to find the data refuting or not fully supporting their claims. In this case, the text wins over data, exposing the publication to resourceful people dying to prove them wrong.
Another important concept is the hypothesis coming before the story or the data. Much like any journalism story, there has to be a central question you want to answer before you can progress.  In this way the data and the story emerge together rather than one coming before the other.
The panel showed that the imagined separation between the journalists and the data geeks is much less than imagined and increasingly disappearing. However,  you still get the feeling that there’s a long way to go when it comes to embracing data journalism as a legitimate storytelling medium, much like audio or video. It’s not just an embellishment anymore.
Courtesy a study by Bit.ly, we study how long a link ‘stays alive’, or how long it keeps  getting shared an accessed after it has first appeared. As we expect, there is an exponential decrease in how much the link is viewed after its initial spike. Bit.ly uses the concept of “half-life” to compare the duration of each link. The half-life of the link is the the amount of time at which this link will receive half of the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak.
Interestingly news items have a shorter half life than interest stories that aren’t timely (such as the baby otter link). This is probably an accurate reflection of our media consumption, where the 24-hour news cycle churns out so much news that any particular news item dies in the public consciousness pretty quickly.
The study also shows that Facebook gives links a longer lifespan than Twitter, definitely reflecting the design of each interface. Most of what everyone says on Twitter goes down the drain or the ‘firehose’ but on Facebook, there’s a greater chance of visibility, important things to note for online content creators looking to give their work the maximum amount of online exposure.
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