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Using Data to Drive News Generation and Reporting

Just like the way our daily operations have been progressively intertwined with digitized information, so too has the amount of data available to us grown. We each leave a long string of data behind and also access vast amounts of information on practically anything. It’s for this reason that media companies are rapidly developing Big Data strategies to effectively use the growing amount of user data available from Mobile communication device and the Internet. Majority of these companies are overwhelmed by the amount of data and working towards creating strategies and techniques to improve data analysis and its application for editorial and commercial uses.

The screen of Predictive Analytics Lab Trainer Erick Gitonga during a Data Visualization Virtual Class

The spat of concern over the growing reports of fake news has motivated the articulation of this article. Which begs the question – how different can newsrooms address such controversies? For newspapers, television, magazines and Internet  publishers, Big Data strategies can include audience analytics to enable a better understanding and targeting of customers; tools to understand public and private databases for journalistic storytelling; tools to manage and search the exploding amount of video, social media and other content; tools to target advertising and ad campaigns; tools to automate the production of text and video stories, tools to identify waste and enable efficiencies among others. Media Masterclass offers training on how to use data in journalism.

Computational Journalism

One such growing intervention is Computational Journalism which is defined as a new way of finding and telling news stories with, by and about data and algorithms. Journalists working today routinely encounter social and political systems that are driven by new technologies. To critique their operation, a journalist needs an understanding of computation of the consequences of classification and counting, of the collection and analysis of data, and of the accountability of algorithms. If you are a journalist and you need training on how to analyses data and work with algorithms Click Here Far from virtual, inert quantities, data and computation exert real forces in the physical world, shaping and defining systems of power that will play larger and larger roles in people’s lives.

Journalists, as the explainers of last resort, need to adapt responsibly in finding and creating new kinds of stories that respond directly to new technologies. It doesn’t matter whether that story is a piece written in English or in Python, a data visualization, an API or database, an immersive virtual experience, or a sensor drone deployment. Through adoption of such approaches, journalism is and should be adapting in the face of new technologies. Learn Python Programming Language

The electioneering period provides a strong use case on how computational journalism can be used to enrich and authentic the quality of news that media houses churn on a daily basis. From opinion polls to understanding the outcome of the election and how political communication might work in the present and future, we need to begin deploying computational journalism. Watch our  Virtual Data Visualization Class

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Ability to tackle bigger stories

Data is important in news writing and reporting as it allows the journalist journalists to tackle bigger stories that could not have been possible without the data. This With data, size doesn’t matter as writers and reporters can easily get ahold of information ranging from local news in the counties and villages to greater international news. It has become very easy for a Kenyan reporter for example, to get information about budget for countries in the Europe just the same way he can get the information about the Kenyan budget. Data has therefore opened a wealth of new possibilities for exploration Get plenty of data and latest information on data journalism here

Transparency at its best

Transparency is the new objectivity of news writers and reporters. In the journalism career there are some stories that may require one to share a huge data set with an audience. For instance, investigative reporters need to convince the audience that indeed for example a lot of money was transferred to the bank accounts of certain individuals on certain dates. Data sources and web technology have made it possible for news writers and reporters to be transparent as they never have been before. Reporters can even share how they reached their conclusions, or allow readers to come to their own.

Presenting Real Data to Audience

News writers and reporters now have the opportunity to present the data itself to readers the way it is and not just summarized in a story. Before the invention of big data, journalists only gathered and analyzed information to support and guide a narrative story. Data was something to be summarized for the reader in the print story, with of course graphics and tables, but the end goal was something recognizable as a words-and pictures story. But now the Internet has given journalists the ability to show to people the actual data and let them look through it for themselves. It’s now possible, through interaction design, to help people navigate their way through a data set just as, through good narrative writing, they have always been able to guide people through a complex story.

Participants of a Data Visualization Boot Camp, organized by Predictive Analytics Lab

Big Data in Electioneering

In November 2015, the more radical of the two Brexit campaigns, “Leave.EU,” supported by Nigel Farage, announced that it had commissioned a Big Data company to support its online campaign. The company’s core strength: innovative political marketing, micro targeting by measuring people’s personality from their digital footprints, psychographic modeling. The Trump team commissioned the same company weeks to the USA election and it took credit for turning the odds by nuancing communication to the different profile of voters propelling Trumps to victory. 

Hence, it is unlikely that political polls will disappear from the headlines of political reporting. Instead of simply warning against the dangers of polls or urging journalists to change their model of political reporting, there is need to appreciate the reason behind the crisis of political polls. For instance, a proposed remedy might be non-probability polling, in combination with algorithms and Big Data approach, which does have advantages when it comes to a) cost, b) time and c) fine-grained estimates of public opinion Get one on one Coaching on use of Big Data in Journalism

On the controversy surrounding the Trump inauguration, where there were varied accounts of how many people attended the event, newsrooms could use analysis of photographs and video footage to give a more precise perspective of the situation. With upgrades in technology to turn documents into data that can be readily searched, investigative reporting will be able to take another step forward. Retrospectively, Computational journalism lowers story discovery and production costs, and makes news sources more efficient in their content creation. Data is not only a source for new stories   it enables journalists to better engage with readers in innovative ways. Pre-Teens and Teenagers can also learn how to Code and make Robots

What Skills Do You Need as A Journalist to Start Using Data in your Reporting?

Data journalists write and report, craft interactives and visualizations, develop storytelling platforms, run predictive models, build open source software, and much, much more. A data journalist needs news judgment and attention to detail in order to identify the newsworthiness and limitations of datasets. Statistics can also help explain a dataset’s strengths and weaknesses, so its important for one to have knowledge in Statistics

 In addition to finding the stories, data journalists also need to be able to explain why data is significant to their audience, so visual journalists need Data Science Skills and, of course, reporting and writing. Lastly, Social Science techniques are needed to illuminate stories that might otherwise be hidden in plain sight. Social scientists know that the sources for data and conditions under which it is collected will shape and bias any subsequent research conclusions made from it. Therefore, to be able to serve broad audiences, data journalists have to go beyond acquiring and cleaning data to understanding its provenance and source. Then, they’ll need to make sure that its presentation doesn’t tell a different story than the data itself allows Click here to get a Data Journalism Job

Wrapping Up!

There is a great importance for journalists, at an individual level, to find ways of investing in computational journalism. That is not to say, however, that all aspiring journalists must study computer science or statistics. The key question lies in how reporters can collaborate with researchers in other disciplines to discover stories. It is time to See new Collaborations between journalists and data scientists and create a bazaar for the exchange of ideas between practice and academia. For the journalist interested in covering business news read Data Driven Financial Journalism

 Last but not least we recently launched a Business Intelligent System that can help your business to visualize its location information in any specified area automatically, thereby enhancing decisions for your brand, service, product or organization. To access the system please download  Business Intelligence App, take a photo, enter the details, then post and wait for it to reflect on  Geo Location Intelligent System


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