The Future of Data

This is an article on the changing state of news reporting, especially under the tensions of the new administration and how collaboration with innovators in tech might help forge a new path for journalists.

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If you’re like me, you’ve started getting annoyed (or subtly concerned) about the amount of requests for donations and subscriptions on news networks like The New York Times.  With new technologies like social media and the internet, print journalism has been struggling for years. It’s not a surprise that most people prefer a one-stop Facebook shop for all forms of media catered to their unique interests, but the consequences are extreme when such sources are not fact checked or regulated.

The purpose of journalism has always been to ensure integrity and openness in our democracy and there is no real substitute for the checks and balances in which the press influences public opinion for democratic action. Citizens are right to be unnerved by attempts to stifle well-established (though admittedly biased) news organizations like The New York Times.

This example is simply to show the precarious position of news organizations recently and their uphill battle. Newer forms of coverage use mockery as a popular method in an attempt to close the gap between the clickability of social media and spread of information, though it is concurrently divisive and plays on touchy egos. It is unfortunate that most people (like the current president) would prefer to get such inflammatory news from sites like Brietbart, or Buzzfeed.

Whether or not people are willing to change their attitude towards facts, data and scientific evidence is uncertain. Nevertheless, it is time for journalism to take lessons from entrepreneurs, computer scientists and innovators. Given that any citizen can publish their opinions online now, including false information for profit under the guise of authority, traditional journalism training prepares writers for a field fewer people are willing to pay for.

Sites like the Propublica Nerd blog and small meetups around the country founded in data journalism are a great place to start, where data science meets story. Journalists are no longer the gatekeepers of information and in order to save the field it will be interesting to see if they survive or adapt more technical skills to thrive.

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