‘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.

Journalism, The Dying Art

It is no secret that we are indeed living in the age of technology. From smartphones to laptops; to iPads and tablets. These are all tools that are used on a day to day basis by people all over the world across different working fields. They have shaped the world in which we live and have changed the direction of journalism as whole.

With the ever-evolving technology and hyper-connectivity news is able to break and spread much quicker than ever before. Citizen journalists are starting to become more prevalent through the use of their smartphones as a result of the being part of the ‘here and now’. This however, is proving detrimental to the field of the once ‘elitist’ journalists. As the internet keeps on expanding through numerous social media platforms for millions of people to express their views and opinions, the printing press is edging near its ‘extinction’ http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/apr/15/what-is-the-future-of-journalism.

Yes, the development of technology has helped the journalism field in terms of being able to broadcast news stories as it happens and on the go. However, what this has brought about is the current trend of citizen journalists’ voices overpowering those of aspiring, qualified journalists. Another aspect that is slowly picking away at the printing press and journalism field as a whole is that of robo-journalism which uses algorithms and indices to search for and find data and information for news stories.


Citizen journalism and robo-journalism are in fact contributing factors to the evolving art of journalism however their negatives outweigh the positives as a there are shortcomings that accompany these current forms of journalism. These derivatives of the good, old fashioned printing press media lack what journalists are taught throughout their studies with particular mention to ethics and credibility. How do we know that what a citizen journalist is saying should be trusted or if it is in fact true? Where did he or she get their information? Was it merely reproduced, ‘retweeted’ or shared. Those are the fundamental questions that come with being credible journalist and producing reliable and truthful stories.

The field of journalism and technology alike is changing with the times as new tools and platforms are being provided to broadcast news on a number of platforms. Journalists and news agencies are adapting to the current trends within the field while evolving and reinventing themselves. The printing press is a suffering branch of journalism but it does not mean that journalism is dying by any means. The future of journalism lies within the social media sphere of things with the main attraction being broadcast media.