Journalist using data to keep the public uninformed.

Using Data for Journalism

“There is no such thing as a data journalist”. That’s according to Africa check’s Adi Eyal and Raymond Joseph.

When I read that, I was like okay what have they been smoking? It’s the 21st century era of social media, a time where numbers embarrass heads of states, a period where statistics are a daily meal; crime stats to unemployment, financial reports, sport analysis and JSE mergers and acquisitions with information that average human mind can’t comprehend and grasp.

After that shocking statement my eyes opened to the next sentence justifying it, the two researchers say “but you do get Journalists who work with Data”. I guess it now makes sense.

Save lives using Data

Analysing data and simplifying it to make sense to the ordinary bloke on the street can be a lifesaving exercise, when people start avoiding an area that a reporter wrote an article after reading crime stats and seeing a pattern of events happening at a particular area.

So journalist’s use of data is critical to the survival of companies as well. Writing articles about the current downturn and how analysts believe government intervention can change the game for firms. Referring to companies that are being liquidated and those receiving business rescue packages.

Robert Appelbaum of Webber Wentzel talking to moneyweb says

“international investors want to invest in South Africa. The problem is there is not a reliable and transparent database with information on the companies that are in business rescue and their assets, he says. They have to rely on someone who has relied on someone else. When they do get the information, it is already weeks too late.”

The Daily maverick’s Mandy De Waal says it best “As these newspapers flail, there’s a sea of emerging open-source technology freely available to media owners which could help hone content, increase relevance and add value to investigative reporting skills”.

But with anything that is easily available and free, there’s bound to be elements of misuse and laziness. Where journalist will write PR releases as facts without even questioning the contents of these.

What data is the official opossition using?

Regardless of your stand with the current visa regulation called Passport and Travel Documents Act by home affairs, not that your opinion doesn’t matter but is it informed, is it based on facts or truth from what is written in the media, coming from everyone that has financial interest and not what the regulations claim to achieve.

The act officially came to effect on the 01 June this year and yet 3 weeks later the Tourism Business Council of SA released a report based on 2014 results about the impact of the act. And Adam Wakefield of news24 used the report to draw a conclusion “However, the number of visitors from China and India in particular decreased significantly in 2014. Citizens from both of these countries need a short-stay visa when visiting South Africa. Demand from China dropped by almost a quarter in 2014. Less than 83 000 Chinese tourists visited South Africa in 2014, down from 109 000 in 2013”.

Is it fair to attribute this to the new regulations, when data shows that the eastern countries are facing unprecedented downturns in the last 6-7 years?

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s possible that these figures are true, but can we trust the data coming from a council with vested interested. Imagine SABMiller conducting a survey on the impact of alcohol on people’s health. How do you thing that data will be? I’ll leave that to you.

The world’s leading media houses are taking advantage of this new found knowledge wealth.

We as a country and the media industry need journalists that will not be PR but are questioning every information that is made available to us or it needs to be made clear when it’s advertorial like this business tech article.

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4 comments

    • Thank you Lukho, our media needs to be diverse.
      Look at the narrative right now.
      everybody is writing from the point of view of the student,
      where’s the story of University’s need to increase fees, why do they see the need to increase fees so dramatically.

      Police are brutal for their handling of students in Parliament precinct.
      is everyone forgetting that the students breached the National Assembly gates where the President and Members of parliament are in.

      so thats the issue i have with the media, they all fish in the same water, looking for the Kingklip.
      forgetting about everything else.

      Liked by 1 person

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