‘Data Journalism’ a South African Journalist’s Friend or Foe?

data journ

The digital age is well and truly underway. With more and more gadgets and appliances being introduced to spur on the shift to all things digital, life as we know it is becoming centred around new, and ever-evolving technologies. Every aspect of our various jobs and lives as a whole is affected by technology in some way, shape or form as is the case with journalism with ‘Data Journalism’ in particular.

Data Journalism as one would have thought, is the creation of journalistic news stories through the use of data. In essence, what this form of journalism entails is that journalists need to find and make meaning of recorded data that is predominantly used for social science research methods. The information and data that is acquired can be used to find patterns and correlations amongst different sources to create more (and better) contextualised news stories.


This new and important skill is proving to be crucial in the new age of journalism as the sources of information is more freely and easily accessible than one would think. Mandy De Waal explains just how effective the proverbial ‘art’ of data journalism can be in her article, ‘Data journalism’ draws the line between the quick and the dead in The Daily Maverick available at: http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2011-12-05-data-journalism-draws-the-line-between-the-quick-and-the-dead/#.ViV7gH4rK1s.

This new and effective approach towards journalism should be embraced and welcomed by South African journalists both and old as key issues can be addressed through different avenues and from a newer perspective.

Members of the South African public and journalists alike are only scratching the surface with regard to traditional and more popular forms of journalism whereas data journalism provides somewhat of a smarter, more innovative approach. The amount of news stories that can be created and produced will definitely see a significant increase but more importantly so will the content thereof.


Data journalism has been welcomed in other countries and media environments and has thrived as it has proved to be more effective than first suspected. It is easy to stick to the norm and rather ‘play it safe’ but the times are and have changed and if you don’t move with the times you will be left behind.

We have great renowned and aspiring journalists in this country and it would only hinder their development and individual brands if this vital skill were not to be used and taken advantage of.

In closing, the people deserve better, deepening stories and we as the [aspiring] journalists owe it to ourselves to enhance not only our writing skills but the new and improved digital journalistic skills as well.


News Agencies Take A Stand Against ‘Open Journalism’


User-generated content (UGC) has become an integral part of online spaces and the current field of journalism. Social media platforms and various other websites alike enable the public to have their say on matters through available comment boxes on their respective pages.

While it is always useful to have feedback from fellow readers and users, the ability to post comments on sensitive issues allow people to air their opinions and thoughts. As we know, thoughts and opinions have the potential to be somewhat biased which can create very combustible environments, even on virtual spaces.

With UGC’s enabling users to submit the likes of comments, photographs, videos and other forms of recordings, the potential for ‘open journalism’ is created. What this entails is very similar, almost identical to citizen-journalism whereby everyday ordinary citizens who are closest to ‘the news’ are able to capture and report the news (as is the case on social media). A proverbial news publishing ‘free-for-all’ environment would then be created, slightly chaotic if you ask me.


At first glance one would think, “That’s not so bad. People are allowed to have their say”, however the issue of credibility begins to surface. After all, what is news without credibility?


Comments between users available on these platforms can prove to be problematic at times where a few users disagree on a specific matter and things spiral out of control. We have all seen it happen online before, whether it’s between two celebrities on Twitter or two Facebook friends. The website owners, in turn can be held responsible for publishing the comments of their users which is a whole other issue on its own.

Apart from the possible negativity between users, there is the possibility of abuse toward the news agencies and the article writers themselves. Much like celebrities have to endure abuse on their social media pages, so too do some journalists and news agencies. In some cases, [open] ‘journalists’ blatantly abuse the writer without even commenting on the article on hand which has left plenty of writers infuriated and “traumatized”.

News agencies aren’t helpless to the defamatory comments made by online users as certain websites have set a limit on the amount of characters that can be used in a comment. Alternatively, some news agencies clearly specify that any new information in terms of multimedia be shared and that irrelevant content will not be used. http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/08/user-generated-content-can-traumatize-journalists-who-work-with-it-a-new-project-aims-to-help/

What this means is that the potential for ‘open journalism’ is limited but within understandable reason as some individuals abuse the tools and privileges that they are provided with. The growth of the concept of ‘open journalism’ is indeed inhibited but is a ‘necessary evil’ if will as people are still able to comment, just not as vividly as they would like.