27 January 2015
Data journalism better reporting

By Thanh Thuy Ho

PRAGUE– Data journalism is not the future of journalism but represents “new sources of information and new ways to deal with information to tell stories,” said Petr Koci, Founder of Samizdat, a Czech data journalism company founded in 2014.

Koci spoke to journalism and communication students from Hong Kong Baptist University at a training course arranged by Prague-based Transitions Online.

The concept has been around since the 1960s under various names such as computer-aided reporting or data-driven journalism, he said. “Data journalism is just a trendy buzzword that has been used in the last five years to describe a set of skills, tools and methods that journalists are starting to use,” said Koci.

Data journalists need to learn skills including computer programming, web design and statistics. However, the most difficult challenge of data journalism is not the technical part but to find meaning in data to make it useful to readers.

In addition, data journalists should be critical. “When we learn something from data, we should ask other sources, especially the institution or people collecting the data why they think it came out this way,” said Koci. “Just some problems on the methods of collecting data, it may mean something different from what we originally saw.”

In many situations, it is better to work in old-fashioned ways, Koci said. Every step from news gathering to reporting doesn’t have to be done with data and computers.

Reporters are often more comfortable with words than numbers.“It is important to overcome this fear and bring word people and number people together,” said Koci.