Jonathan Gray, editor of the Data Journalism Handbook, in a Q&A with O’Reilly:
Broadly speaking, “data journalism” is a fairly recent term that is used to describe a set of practices that use data to improve the news. These range from using databases and analytical tools to write better stories and do better investigations, to publishing relevant datasets alongside stories, and using datasets to deliver interactive data visualizations or news apps.
Precisely where one places the emphasis depends on what one thinks is important. This is why in the book we have several sections in the introduction where we’ve asked leading practitioners, advocates and scholars what data journalism means to them, what makes it distinctive and why they think it is important.
Regarding the need for the book: Quite simply, data can help us to answer questions about the world. While it certainly isn’t a panacea, or an objective reflection of the world, data is an increasingly important part of our information landscape. Rather than relying on the analysis of public bodies, public relations agencies, or experts for hire, journalists and their readers should be able to explore, interrogate and critically analyze databases for themselves. The handbook is our attempt to encourage journalists to increase their own data literacy, and hopefully the data literacy of their readers.
FJP: The Data Journalism Handbook is a free and opensource reference guide. Download it here. It’s a very useful resource. We’ve talked about a few other data journalism tools in the past. See some posts here.