Helena Bengtsson : « Covid-19 was good for data journalism »

Covid-19 was good for data journalism

Met at the CIJSummer Investigative Journalism Conference 2023 in London, the Data journalism editor at Gota Media, a regional publishing company in the south of Sweden, reveals the importance of data journalism in a newsroom.

What is data journalism?

Data journalism is using data to find stories. It’s that simple. And data is not just numbers. Actually I find statistics and numbers quite boring. I love data where every row in the database is a person, a company, a property, an event and so on. Every row could be a story in itself, but when you analyse and combine the rows you decide which stories you want to do from the data. Also, it’s important to point out that data journalism methods are just one method in your toolbox and the best stories use several methods, like interviewing, talking to experts, researching, doing foi and so on.

Why is it important?

It’s important because it gives you the ability to do your own stories – instead of following a press release or a statement from an official. It allows you to put your stories into context, but the most important thing is that you can do exclusive stories, that nobody else has.

What does it bring to journalism

It brings structure and context – and exclusivity. It makes it possible to do different stories than everybody else. It also makes it possible to ask different questions in interviews.

Is this journalistic practice sufficiently well known in newsrooms and journalism schools?

I would say that it’s much more known now than before the pandemic. Covid-19 was good for data journalism in the way that it showed the power of data and the public was suddenly very interested in data and charts. It still has a long way to go. It might be known, but that doesn’t mean that a lot of journalists know how to use these methods. And even though most journalism schools (at least in Sweden) have some kind of introduction into data journalism, it’s usually just a few days of training and then they move on to other things.

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 Could data journalism make traditional journalism obsolete or eradicate it completely?

Data journalism isn’t a kind of journalism. It’s a journalistic method like being good at interviews, or knowing how to write an interesting opening paragraph, or doing a foia and so on. So,the answer is no. Data journalistic methods will make journalism better, because you are able to look at data and do your own analysis, instead of relying on authorities and companies to do the analysis. You decide your top line for the story and you decide which story you want to write.

Realised by Michèle EBONGUE, back from London


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