Has Data Journalism Reached A Tipping Point?

At the recent NICAR Conference there was a stark difference from years past; The place was packed.

More than 600 journalists (from elite newsrooms, start-ups and community newspapers) showed up — the largest crowd since near 500 more than a decade ago, and a far cry from the mere 300 that registered a few years ago in Indianapolis.

The split between men and women was even, if not tipping in the latter’s favor. Amazing because of instances like these:

And there were more students than ever before.

Says Tyler Dukes, managing editor of the Reporters’ Lab at Duke University:

This is huge, because it means journalists will come out of college with an understanding of what it means to work with data and where to get it. These skills will be great for their careers, but it’s even better for the industry as a whole. Every time a news organization hires one of these graduates, they’ll infuse their newsrooms with basic computer-assisted reporting skills that will only grow and develop over time.

The higher numbers represent more than a turn out, they also tell of editors and newsroom managers willing to spend thousands of dollars to encourage training.

Moreover, a confluence of events typified by this year’s conference has given some the confidence that for the first time there is a significant industry buy-in in the practice of data journalism.

Says Michelle Minkoff, an interactive producer at the AP:

I was struck by the presence of a more diverse group of skill levels than ever before was apparent at NICAR this year. It seemed there were more people just starting to get into data, more people doing advanced data visualization, and sessions spanning many different subsets, to serve them all… The delineations between data analysis and presentation, interactives and news applications, are all blurring – and being pursued online in text, audio, video and interactive formats.

Aside from the success of this year’s NICAR, a data journalism, education initiative that is being crowd-funded on Kickstarter is close to reaching its goal ($32,000).

About the For Journalism project (Source: BusinessJournalism.org):

The initial [nine] courses are expected to cover languages, tools, concepts needed for online storytelling. All together they will create a package of training material – ebook, screencasts, code repositories and forums – that can be used by individuals or within news organizations.

With about a work week left to finish the funding, two newsrooms have each contributed $5,000 to get access to the courses for all of their employees.

Says Dukes:

One of the great things about For Journalism is that it democratizes professional development in computer-assisted reporting. The barriers to entry are so low that every journalist — from an independent freelancer to a beat reporter at The New York Times — has the ability to learn from experts in a range of different topics in a clear and structured way.

Four people even pledged more than $150 to smash Ken Schwencke, one of the the project’s contributors, in the face with a pie at NICAR.

Says Dave Stanton, the creator of the For Journalism Project and managing developer at design and consulting firm Smart Media Creative:

Three pies were smashed — Yuri [Victor] bought after.
It feels like we’re turning the corner. There is so much collaborative energy and inclusion in data journalism right now, and I can’t wait to see what we’re able to do in 2013. Hopefully For Journalism can play a small part in helping training the next generation of data journalists.
What other indicators are out there?

One thought on “Has Data Journalism Reached A Tipping Point?

  1. Pingback: DataMinerUK: What I Do And How « Data Miner UK

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