How data can get you the scoop of the day (or even the week)

18 October 2017

Data journalism already exists as long as there is data. However, it keeps getting more popular. This is mainly because governments, organizations and companies are releasing their data online more and more. It’s also because you can virtually find everything online these days. The digital society produces an enormous and continuously growing amount of numeric data. And somewhere in those big piles of numbers, lie all sorts of stories.

Why data journalism?

There are two ways you can use data journalism. The first way is to create a good story and find a dataset to go with it. The other way is to look for your story in datasets. Surely, this can sound like quite some work but it can be extremely rewarding. What’s very important in the last case is that you can look at the data as a journalist, rather than as an analyst. What numbers stand out? What numbers are odd? This may sound logical but it’s not that easy. Nevertheless, if you find something odd in the numbers and get a scoop, all effort will be worth it. Also, the more you work with datasets, the quicker you’ll be able to read and understand them.

Different ways you can use data

So, after you dig your way through the numbers and find a story, you’ll want to visualize it. Visualizing data makes it way more interesting and understandable for the reader. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a scientist or extremely technical to use data in a news story. Those scientists or tech guys already created a lot of tools and programs where you can easily upload your data and visualize it. You can, for example, even make them interactive and/or use the colors of your pleasing. Within those tools, things like that are almost always possible with just a few clicks. There are a lot of tools that can help you with your story. Keep in mind that tools are a very nice addition to your story, if they are relevant. Don’t bury your readers in tools just because they look cool. Here you can find a few tools that can help you with your data visualization. For more information on how to get a story out of your data, check out this article.

Data sources

Here you can find some data sources where you can look for stories. You can also just Google ‘data base’ and add a name of a company or organization. That tends to work quite often as well.

  • Leaks

    Every now and then, someone decides to provide the world with a big data leak. For example, even though the Panama Papers broke more than a year ago, journalists are still finding stories in here. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) created a public database, based on information from Panama Papers and the 2013 Offshore Leaks Investigation. They even made a guide on how to find stories in this database. Click here to see how.
  • Open Corporates

    Open Corporates is the self-proclaimed ‘largest open database of companies in the world’. They have information about more than 115 million companies in their database.
  • OpenGazettes

    OpenGazettes provides access to the company data locked away in government gazettes in Europe.
  • National Hurricane Center

    The National Hurricane Center releases the data of (projected) paths of hurricanes in and around the USA.
  • Global Open Data Index

    The Global Open Data Index (GODI) gives you access to open government data and it’s run by the Open Knowledge Network.

Do you have feedback or sources of datasets you’d like to share? Reach out and let us know!