Data journalism is getting much attention in newsrooms in recent years. Large news organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post continue to invest in data-driven journalism by introducing separate units to produce that content in their newsrooms.
Many journalists and news organizations view data journalism, a practice in which a story contains a substantial reliance on data or data visualization, as a way to make journalism more systematic, accurate and trustworthy. But there remains a question as to whether data journalism advances the journalistic ideal of transparency and online journalism’s interactive capabilities.
Rodrigo Zamith, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, conducted a content analysis on the data journalism content produced by The New York Times and The Washington Post during the first half of 2017, evaluating story characteristics linked to the concepts of transparency, interactivity, diversity, and information sourcing in more than 150 data journalism articles.
Results showed that the two newspapers published 159 data journalism articles during the period. The New York Times produced around 42 percent of the articles and The Washington Post produced 58 percent.
In 83 percent of its stories, The Washington Post did not link to any of the source data. It linked to some data in 10 percent of its stories and linked to all of the data in 8 percent of stories. The New York Times was even less transparent, failing to link to any of the data in 94 percent of stories.
In just 16 percent of the total stories, the two newspapers featured additional information about the data sources, data collection methods, or analysis through an external link, pop-up or dedicated area on the page.
The vast majority of stories (around 82 percent) of the two dailies did not include an interactive visualization.
Both newspapers relied mostly on government data sources to produce data journalism articles.
The author said, “The findings lead to the conclusion that ‘general data journalism’ still has a long way to go before it can live up to the optimism and idealization that characterizes much of the data turn in journalism.”
To read the full text of the study: https://bit.ly/2TGgEp8
Zamith, R. (2019). Transparency, Interactivity, Diversity, and Information Provenance in Everyday Data Journalism. Digital Journalism, 1-20.