The Guardian's Simon Rogers won the Royal Statistical Societies 'Statistical Excellence in Journalism Award' in 2012 in the online category. As a follower of his on Twitter I thought that this was thoroughly deserved. It also got me thinking about the use of analytics and statistics within journalism and the increasing importance for journalists to have an understanding of them.
I have come up with a list of 5 reasons why data and statistics are becoming increasingly important within journalism and why journalists should have a decent knowledge of them:
1. The Widespread use of Data
Data has become a widespread part of our lives today, be it giving up information on Twitter or Facebook to the images that we see on the side of a website. Our online persona's mean that we frequently give out data to companies either intentionally or subconsciously in our movements around a particular website.
The importance of this data to us is already important, with news of data leaks from credit card companies or government databases often making front page news. Having a background on data, analytics and warehousing will be vital in writing a compelling and authoritative article on data issues that effect us every day.
2. Important Companies becoming Reliant on Data
One of the reasons that Facebook managed to value itself at billions of dollars is down to it's analytics and the data it holds on its members. Warren Buffet has made his first ever high-tech investment at IBM at the same time as they started to invest heavily in Big Data and Analytics, this may be coincidental, but shows that he trusts a company who are investing in this so heavily.
The success of companies now is often due to the way that they can collect and leverage their data and a knowledge of why and how this is taking place will be vital for a decent commentary on it.
3. The Increased Coverage of Online & Technological Trends
Today the launch of the iPhone 5 is more likely to be on the front page of a national newspaper than a shooting. Whether this is right or wrong, the truth is that technology and online trends are of major interest to people and data is of interest to technology and online trends.
Knowledge of this kind of background information is essential to any journalist who wants to effectively address the issues that readers want to know about.
4. Financial Issues often involving Data
Without doubt the most important event of the last 5 years has been the financial crisis. This has had a huge effect globally, it has shut down huge conglomerates, it has toppled governments and it is all driven by data and numbers.
With this increased pressure on numbers, figures and trends, it is essential that journalists can have enough knowledge to question businesses and give detailed insight on them.
5. The Insight that can be found in Data
Since the advent of the freedom of information act in its current form, journalists have not had to base their assessments on vague press releases and orchestrated press conferences. They could actually see the documentation that they were asking about without having to go through a system of PR professionals.
With an increased understanding of data, this can go even further. Knowledge of data management and trends allows journalists the opportunity to spot anomalous information that may have been missed before.