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Imagine a world where journalists earned megabytes for a living. A world where the data must fall campaign did not exist, imagine if the world become a utopia for mobile networks we would all live happily ever after right? Wrong. Sadly,all of the above is only good enough for one’s imagination rather than for reality. The truth is, data journalism (DJ) has nothing to do with megabytes but much more to do with how journalists analyse and capture data in order to create correlation and causality.

DJ is not a new concept,in fact its been around before Mandoza started singing Nkalakata according to Simon Rogers;

The first ever edition of the Guardian‘s news coverage was dominated by a large (leaked) table listing every school in Manchester, its costs and pupil numbers.

My point is data has been around since the bygone age, only it was being published in books as statistics or figures whereas now it comes on spreadsheets and files formatted for computers. DJ has only recently started to gain momentum in the media,prior to this journalists were or still are data illiterate when it comes to data journalism. The organisation Code for South Africa  has recently launched the data journalism academy, personally I think  there should be no excuse for journalists not to equip themselves with the essential skills in order to understand digital media.

Data is powerful and as a result journalist need to learn to cut it down into bite size chunks without compromising quality for quantity.  DJ encourages journalists to use digital media  creatively in order to produce current and well analyzed information compared to the traditional news room methods. Let’s look at an example closer to home. Zuma’s  Inkandla estate controversy; initially the story was then exposed by Mandy Roussow . However the story was declared officially only after amaBhungane  requested information  from the Department of Public Works under the PAIA . The release of over 12 000 pages of documented data obtained by amaBhungane, meant that journalists had to sift through the yucky chunks of Zuma’s dirty laundry in order to find the juicy and mouth-watering bits at the bottom.  Had the media simply released all the information like this…

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Or like this…

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Nobody would have bothered to read it, in fact you probably scanned all of that or didn’t even bother to read it at all . Look at it like this; it would be like the media forcing a new-born baby to eat solid food 12 hours after being born, the new-born baby being the consumers of course just isn’t ready. Too soon, media consumers cannot digest concentrated chunks of data yet because it is a powerful thing. This is why digital software tools such as OutWit and GoogleRefine make it easy for journalists to gather organised online data in order to dig deeper and communicate better.

Yes, DJ is to some extent promoting robojourn but we aren’t exactly living in the stone ages anymore, technology is developing and fast…it’s only fair that we in turn develop ourselves with it too. Data is power, and by data I do not mean megabytes…I mean information. The world is made up of information molecules floating all around you just waiting for you to discover them…

 

 

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