Denise Malan, INN/IRE data director, spoke to students Thursday morning about the importance of data journalism in the newsroom for Mass Communication Week.
Malan, who was previously the data/investigative editor at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times for three years, discussed how data journalism can help students find good jobs and credit stories by providing factual information.
“Basically, with data journalism, you are looking at data and you are finding something new,” said Malan. “It’s really exciting. You are finding something that no one has found before by using a new analysis and a new way of looking at the data.”
Kara King, a mass communications senior, said that she agrees with Malan and believes it is essential for reporters to seek out the correct information.
“Data journalism allows people to find new things from correlations of data,” said King. “It’s important that journalists bring new observations to the public eye.”
To stress the importance of fact checking, Malan presented students with data sets constructed from Excel and free crime maps that people can view online of various cities. Although these two types of data are completely different, each one can be beneficial for reporters who need to verify information for a story, according to Malan.
“You are the one doing the analysis and showing people that this is what this means. This is something that you can base your policy on,” said Malan. “I can look at the crime map and decide if that’s a place where I would want to live. So it can be really helpful.”
Chelsea Seifert, a mass communications junior, said that although it was her first Mass Communication Week event to attend, she learned a lot from Malan about data journalism and considers the information to be very useful in the future. “I just want to know what it takes to make it in journalism,” said Seifert.
Malan encouraged the students to not be intimated about data journalism, even though some of the information can be overwhelming.
“Even though I’ve showed you all this awesome and cool stuff that people are doing, don’t be intimated by that,” said Malan. “Don’t be afraid because no one starts there. The most important thing is to practice.”
Malan can be followed on Twitter @DeniseMalan
Molly Block is a mass communication senior at Texas State University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org