Nicolas Kayser-Bril 2017-12-17
Data Is A Celebrity To Be Interviewed

Unique information is always an asset for a newsroom. But for the vast majority of journalists, data is not as talkative as a businessman or a politician.However, data gives answers to questions that are neither asked nor answered.Data Journalism is trending but the rise is over. If we go back to the concepts of data journalism, the old journalist - developer relationship was done in away that the developer was working somewhere in the newsroom and the journalist was working somewhere else.

What happens with data journalism is that developers and journalists are teamed up and the combination of both their skills leads to data journalism. But the journalism wasn’t saved by having developers and journalism work together.

Mostly,developers are working side by side in order to produce new products and tools.To create new content, to reorganize news organization and the newsroom around data, and by consequence improving journalism, a lot of work has to be done.Producing new products is perhaps the easiest thing to do instead of writing articles. When you have technologists working with journalists, you can invent many things. You use drones to produce journalism. You use computers. You use big data. You use whatever you can just to tell stories and you can only do that if you have developers in your team.

The second goal to improve journalism may be broader. Most journalists are not extremely happy to work with numbers and this causes problems when they misinterpret them. By using scientific methods to produce journalism , we will be able to produce better journalism. The most ambitious plan of data journalism was to shift from an article centric world-view in the newsroom to a data centric one.

The article centric world-view is easy to understand. You have articles, you produce articles and you put them in a database. Then, you have one article on top of the other and it just goes on and on and on. On the other hand, with an information -or data- centric world-view, you change the perspective. Instead of producing articles, you are aimed at producing data. The heart of the organization will be a database that contains all the information this organization gathers, just as Bloomberg does. Bloomberg rents terminals to traders. The people who have the terminal can access all the information.Bloomberg has data all the time and on top of the database, Bloomberg also writes articles. They have many different products but the core is the database. When data journalism started years ago, the idea was that all newsrooms could turn into smaller Bloombergs on different topics. This did not happen. The question is: why? Things did not work as planned. Most newsrooms are still not very good at working with numbers.

In 2017, in media, holdings the transformation to data-oriented approach did happen. It did not happen in newsrooms though. It happened in commercial departments. When you want to sell something, when you want to rent a flat, when you want to post a job offer, you give that to the newspaper. The newspaper runs the ad and then people call you. The classified business was the largest part of the newspaper business in most countries. In the United States, the classified business was the biggest business of the newspaper, it brought the biggest part of the revenues. This business was completely transformed in the past ten years. There was a time when in order to find a flat for instance, you had to buy a newspaper. No one does that anymore. Now,you go online, you go on a website where all the ads are and it is perfectly normal. Almost every newspaper transformed their business model radically. A direct consequence is that, today,  most media groups have their own online classified ad site.  They do not run it the way they used to. They were able to radically transform one part of their business but they left the newsroom as it was. Why did they turn their classified business into a data centric business and left their information business unchanged?

The way journalists were educated has changed little over the past ten years. If you go into any newsroom in Europe right now, you will find that most journalists have no idea what HTML is. I am not even talking about JavaScript. You will not find many people who know that in European and American newsrooms. The way most journalists think did not changed either. If you are going to work all your life with content that is going to be displayed to the user in HTML, it might be a good idea to understand what HTML is. If you are going to work your whole life with computers, it may be a good idea to know the basics of how computers work. Data journalism has been here for years but there was no news room revolution. For a newsroom revolution, journalists should learn languages to interview data. Computer literacy is to be an indicator for being a part of the elite.

Delivering a story with lines of code and an idea in your head might change the way people think. A browser interactive game "The Good, The Bad and The Accountant" is aimed at teaching journalists and their audience about the intricacies of corruption in local budgets. Users are making decisions based on questions. Extra information and advises help them to make choices. Major tells how much money the city collects each year and spends. User can be bribed or will create a transparent system. It’s time to address corruption in the browser. 

Nicolas Kayser-Bril is a self-taught developer and a journalist. He is the CEO and co-founder of Journalism++, a start-up that brings journalists and developers together to rethink journalism. He believes in data-driven journalism and is encouraging journalists to talk in JavaScript.