Rita Boulos Chahwan
The sophistication in data analysis and data management is increasing, with more statistical analysis being used and more text mining is taking place. In addition, the use of data visualisation is rapidly growing, according to Professor and Knight Chair of Investigative reporting Brant Houston. Media is not anymore about news reporting and just gathering point of views or picturing a story. With investigative journalism errors are not forbidden but should be followed by ”Immediate correction and explanation as necessary,” according to Prof Brant, since more and more journalists are getting access to websites and not only being hired in the rigid traditional media industry.
In the new era of transparency in journalism, as Prof Brant puts it, “most of the time, with the use of data, the results are shared with the agency or business so that errors can be prevented and investigative points clarified.” Investigative Journalism can be related to a certain point to surveys, so how do journalists handle obtaining information or surveying people? It must be handled openly with a clear explanation for why information is being collected, says Professor Brant. Information is the tool of Data Journalism and can be used in any newsroom in the media sector. Leading your team to get access to more information is the mission of any editor in chief; the challenge is how to transform information into data. According to Professor Brant “this all revolves around good project management with clear expectations and a detailed schedule for collection and production.” Obstacles that would face an investigative journalist nowadays, according to Professor Brant are:
- Reluctant human sources such as government officials,
- Refusals to share documents or data,
- Threats to human sources if they talk or to reporters if they publish or broadcast,
- Physical access to places or people,
- Erroneous original data that can mislead.
This investigative Journalist who raises money through presenting the information to a citizen, wherever he is or whomever he is in his media organisation, is living with the fear of loosing his job due to financial crises. Many media organisations in Middle East and elsewhere in the world, either reduce their budgets or even close their doors. This raises a question which is related to the importance of the economical figures for the media sector. ‘How to manage the relation with them and how to keep good relations with them.’ Maybe it’s to be transformed later on as a funder for this purpose, Prof Brand advises to “do a fair and accurate presentation of data” when it comes to figures who are in the middle of the media industry since “the only way to protect an organisation is through diverse streams of revenue and donors. The editor must ensure the accuracy and fairness of the story and judge the dangers and impact of publishing a story”. investigative reporters who have quit, been bought out, or laid off from traditional newspapers or broadcast stations, were out of the game due to media industry rules. Prof Brant predicts their future prospects, saying “Many are starting or joining nonprofit newsrooms. Others go into government investigative jobs or public relations in order to make a living.” After all, it is journalists who need the funds to do the work and software is available, much of it free, open source or inexpensive, including spreadsheets, database managers, mapping and other data visualisation.