Last week was the 2013 Computation + Journalism Symposium in Atlanta. The conference covered some of the impact, new developments, and future directions of computation in journalism. It featured a list of great experts and high profile speakers. With a great lineup, there was a lot of great insight going around, and some fresh new perspectives on computation in journalism. Here are a few of the underlying themes of the event:
Learning New Skills
One theme that was persistent through the whole conference was education. With the advent of so much new technology, journalists are having to learn how to program in order to keep up. Programming at the level of an expert developer may not be necessary, though. It is far more realistic to learn how to think computationally, and know enough to communicate well with a developer. Understanding the process on the conceptual level goes a long way toward being able to collaborate effectively.
Mastering Social Networks
As expected, social networks, especially Twitter, were a focus of many discussions. These platforms have revolutionized reporting from every possible angle, becoming publication platforms, data sources, contact methods, and distribution methods. Journalists are really figuring out how to use Twitter and other social networks as a part of their work. Access to APIs and computational skills turn these networks into rich data sources, and journalists are employing increasingly detailed analysis to scrape insight from the mass of posts.
Telling Stories With Data
Another theme that was present in the symposium was storytelling. Traditional journalism does this all the time, and journalists have become very good at storytelling with visualization. It is clear that for presenting data, telling a story alongside or with the data is crucial. Storytelling helps the viewer gain an understanding and get insight from the data. This means that the analysis process has to be thorough and find the story that the data supports.
It’s clear that the field of journalism is rapidly evolving. Computers and the internet have dramatically changed the landscape, and mobile devices have mixed things up even further. Data visualization is certain to remain key in journalism’s future, and many journalists are rapidly building out skillsets to support it and other computational tools.