Ask questions of digital data

The importance of learning to ask ‘probing questions’ of digital data:

The digital revolution has led to significant changes in news reporting. One is the use of social media as a tool for gathering and disseminating information, and another is the mining of data for stories.

Data journalism is hardly new. As early as the mid-1800s, Florence Nightingale used statistics to explain conditions in the British Army. But in the past decade, the rise of personal computers and an increase in open data policies – particularly by governments – has made it possible to access and manipulate huge datasets in the hunt for discrepancies and information of public interest.

Ask any serious news editor what skills they would like to see in a new recruit and you are likely to be told that, along with the fundamentals of how to spot a story, how to verify it and how to communicate it effectively and legally, a knowledge of data journalism skills is a definite advantage. And if those skills are well developed, eager young journalists may find their way straight into the investigations team.

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