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Sun - 17.12.2017

Sylvain Parasie investigates where data journalists fit in at a traditional paper

Sylvain Parasie investigates where data journalists fit in at a traditional paper

Where exactly does data journalism fit in a traditional press organization? Sylvain Parasie from Paris-Est University conducted research on this question, taking the case of the Chicago Tribune. At WAN-IFRA's Summer University 2011, he explained that he had spent three weeks at the Tribune last September following four self-proclaimed programmer/journalists to understand where they fit and how they contributed to the journalism process.

The Chicago Tribune expected the new programmer/journalists to treat data, present it in an innovative manner, and to add value to their journalism, but with no other specifications. The Tribune already had some data journalism tools on its website which were meant to serve "watch dog" functions. The tools interpreted data to map toxic air, crime, and track political campaign contributions. These tools set the precedent for what the data journalists were expected to do.

In turn, the programmer/journalists wanted to transform the link between technology and editorial work. They initially had trouble convincing the editorial team of their worth. However, after the early difficulties, they found ways to collaborate with journalists at both the beginning and the end of journalistic investigations. Sometimes they used their technology skills to develop questions and begin sorting through data, but they primarily worked after journalists had presented their work in order to supplement the piece with an interactive visual component. For example, in a retirement home investigation conducted by the Tribune, journalists came to the programmer/journalists to organize and discern the significance of the data.

After having demonstrated their worth in visualizing data and developing investigations, the programmers also contributed to the paper by creating generic tools for journalists to use data without needing outside help. They also aided in conceiving and designing The Tribune's specialized and local websites, although their focus was on integrating data into investigative journalism.

Sylvain Parasie ended his presentation explaining that the programmer/journalists internalized innovation at the paper. They did not completely breach the disconnect between journalists and data, but they worked on developing tools to help journalists adapt to data technology and established cooperation between programmers and journalists. For traditional journalists, this is the first step to integrating complicated data into news reporting.



Florence Pichon


2011-06-28 11:48

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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