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The future of journalism lies in data [Highway Africa]

The way news is produced and consumed has changed and media houses need to be aware of it. According to Data Journalist Peter Verweij, the current turbulent landscape that journalism faces can be resolved with data journalism.

Speaking at the 17th edition of the Highway Africa conference, Verweij points out that newspaper circulation has seen consistent decline in the last decade and online counterparts are gaining traction. He argues that journalists need to be analytical in their storytelling by mining the data already available to them.

“Journalism is in crisis and in desperate need for reinvention and data journalism could be one of the ways to do that,” says Verweij.

Keeping with Highway Africa theme: “speaking truth to power”, he argues that data can help. “Journalism needs to change and speak the truth and data speaks truth to power,” says Verweij.

According to Verweij, readers don’t want to read the same thing in print that they have seen online either on news platforms or social media. He says that journalism should be about producing news, not rehashing it. For the data journalist this is where data comes in. He argues that people want good quality reporting and analytical stories that inform them.

He says that this data is available and that all journalists need is to do is use the technologies that are available to them to understand that data and construct it into a story.

“When you use the various tools, it’s easy to create a story. Most of these information is online and these can easily be plugged into an Excel spreadsheet and see what the story is,” says Verweij.

Though all the data is out there and the numbers are available, he says, without an idea to begin with it is a difficult process because the numbers are useless on their own.

The challenge right now with data journalism is that it is searching for a new business model and a new kind of journalist. Currently producing one good quality data driven piece is time-consuming, and require the amount of time that current newsrooms may not have due to budget cuts and lack of staff.

Author | Mich Atagana

Mich Atagana
Mich started out life wanting to be a theoretical physicist but soon realized that mathematics was required. So, she promptly let go of that dream. She then decided that law might be the best place for her talents, but with too many litigation classes missed in favour of feminist... More


  1. George Malherbe

    September 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Couldn’t agree with Peter more. Data utilization and visualization are powerful tools in developing insights, delivering a message and enforcing accountability. The crux lies in the ability of the journalist to merge technological adeptness with the ability to tell a cohesive, informative and engaging story. A good recent example can be found at http://reprobate.co.za/tilting-at-windmills-power-politics-and-wind-farms-in-south-africa/

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