Journalists ignore statistics at their own peril

There is something strange in that buzzword, “data journalism”. It reads like an oxymoron.

Data and journalism are traditionally not seen as friends – and often as foes. Journalists, suffering from a “blind spot” for numbers, tend to dismiss data and statistics altogether. For some, they are hard to swallow and fly in the face of what journalism is about. Quite a few see numeracy as “a kind of virus which, if caught, can damage the literary brain, leading to a permanent loss of vocabulary and shrivelling of sensitivity,” observes David Randall in The Universal Journalist.

But “if the seemingly sudden rise of data journalism says anything to journalists, it is this: their traditional luxury of ignoring – even laughing at – statistics is no longer sustainable. Public datasets are now more available and accessible than ever. The ability to use simple computer codes to turn raw numbers into beautiful data maps or informative graphics is exciting and empowering. But all this would become meaningless if that deep-rooted anti-data attitude among journalists is not extinguished.”

That’s the key message of a recent guest commentary,  “A vaccine against that anti-data journalism brain”, by Dr An Nguyen of BU Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community and Dr Jairo Lugo-Ocando of the University of Leeds for the European Journalism Centre’s Data-Driven Journalism Project website.

Read the full article here.