Data journalism: A product of Information Age

Pages of writing, can be finished off in a lot fewer words

The advent of computers has resulted in a revolution in information sharing around the world. As computer assisted programming came to the fore-front, a new facet was added to journalism; data journalism.

Data journalism combines the availability of digital information or information from various sources and the ability to explain all aspects of an issue in gripping detail.

It aids journalists and social science researchers to explain the subject of concern using infographics that reduces the trouble of detailed explanation of statistics involved.

For the general public, infographics are more appealing than descriptive details, opine experts involved in the field.

Subash Rai, web-editor of Economic and Political Weekly, said data journalism is a thriving field due to the availability of huge databases of government.

For any person to analyse data and present an issue appealingly, basic knowledge of spreadsheet softwares is enough, which can be used to generate engaging graphics from the available data.

“Data journalism allows journalists to compile all necessary information in a few graphs, thereby making it easier for the general public to understand an issue,” he said. What a journalist has to write in pages, can be finished off in a lot fewer words with the assistance of a graph or a chart.

Free maps

With the availability of free maps and other statistical softwares, the number of softwares that can be used to analyse data and to present it appealingly is large and growing in number.

Journalist N A H Ismail spoke on the opportunities and challenges of data journalism in the country. “There are websites like www.data.gov.in, where about 13-14 departments upload their data.

“These data are excellent resources for analysis, from which various interesting trends in governance can be gauged,” he said.

One of the objectives of data journalism is to make available for the general public, an analysis of large chunks of data.

However, data journalism faces a major problem as the data uploaded in websites are not in a ‘machine-friendly’ format. The data is either in PDF or document format and has to be manually uploaded into the software for analysis. Irrespective of the constraints, the scope of the field is expanding with an increase in the availability of data.

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