In my year at university I am often mocked because I once said “I really like data.” In a bunch of journalists this is apparently sacrilege, and the class have taken to calling me ‘Data Boy’ as a polite way of reminding me that I have no life.
Well, my friends, I feel completely vindicated after the inventor of the web declared that the future of journalism is in trawling through data sets, not in chatting to people down the pub.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee made the comments at the launch of the government datasets in which they reveal all spending over £25,000. I have no doubt that the brilliant data analysers from the big media outlets are currently trawling through that data looking for big stories (though the Guardian did splash with it last week), but for the vast majority of journalists the idea of trawling through data gives them sleepless nights.
Trainee journalists should have more classes on dealing with large data sets and less classes on how to write a good introduction to a news article. If the news is big enough if writes itself. Having people who can interpret data, who can understand what is irrelevant and what is crucial, is more important than it has ever been.
City is ahead of the curb, launching an MA in interactive journalism earlier this year which includes data analysis, but it is getting to the point where all news journalists should have at least a basic training in data analysis. The fear on the faces of my class mates whenever data is mentioned, however, shows that we are still some way off from that point.