Data journalism is the punk of our times

Nils Mulvad has a great reporter’s name and a nice summary of what data journalism actually is in this interview for the Global Investigative Journalism Network.

One observation that he alludes to here is how we’ve always had data journalism in sports – in fact, its one of the key aspects of sports journalism. Data and competing statistics are the pivot of many sports debates, and often conclusions hinge on them.

Why is political reporting and debate so often immune to backing all assertions with data? Imagine a sports report that consisted of a couple interviews with fans about the performance of a player. Would that be considered acceptable, asking a few drunks in the crowd whether they thought one moving part was responsible for victory or defeat?

So why do we accept anecdotal political stories about the success or failure of a political figure or policy based on the quoted opinion of one or another political hack?

The plural of anecdote is not data – it’s journalism. Data journalism fixes some aspects of this dilemma.