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The Data Journalism Handbook

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Jonathan Gray is Head of Community and Culture at the Open Knowledge Foundation (okfn.org), an award winning not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting open data, open content and the public domain in a wide variety of different fields. He founded … see full wiki

1 review about The Data Journalism Handbook

Data is not always simply part of the story. Sometimes it *is* the story...

  • Nov 4, 2012
  • by
Occasionally I grab a book that far surpasses my expectations and shifts my perspective of an entire business. This was one of those books... The Data Journalism Handbook, edited by Jonathan Gray, Liliana Bounegru, and Lucy Chambers. As a writer, I was thinking I'd pick up a few points on technical reporting. WRONG! This is about how data is changing the world of journalism in terms of how a story is told and how the reader interacts with it.

Introduction; In The Newsroom; Case Studies; Getting Data; Understanding Data; Delivering Data

The composition of The Data Journalism Handbook is unique, in that over seventy people and organizations contributed the content. These contributions range from ideas on the topic to case studies of stories that successfully combined narrative with data analysis and visualization to involve the reader. Normally, a book written in that fashion is less than satisfactory, as the multiple voices and styles ruin the continuity of the content. Kudos to the editors for not letting that happen here. It's very readable, and that lets the content and value come through.

I hadn't heard of data driven journalism prior to reading, and I had my view of journalism shifted significantly. The handbook explains how access to raw data (and the ability to find and format it) provides story ideas as well as becoming part of the story itself. With data visualization tools, data can be put online and allows readers to understand facts in ways that words can't always communicate. Additionally, the readers can use the tools to drill down and display data that's specific to them (data for their neighborhood, city, school, etc.) The journalist works closely with the data technologist to figure out how best to combine narrative and data to report stories at level of detail that wasn't possible even just ten years ago.

With the rise of digital media and news reporting, the job and the skill set of a journalist continues to change dramatically. The Data Journalism Handbook does an excellent job in covering one important aspect of that changing environment. I'd consider it required reading for anyone who considers themselves a journalist, as well as anyone who wants to see how their technology skills are being applied in the field of journalism.

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