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Diving into Data Journalism: Strategies for getting started or going deeper

A few years ago, the digital revolution sparked upheaval — and in many newsrooms, concern.

As technology brought data journalism and other new practices into newsrooms, some editors and publishers fretted that revered principles of shoe-leather reporting, experience, and intuition might decline or even disappear.

But when the fear subsided, it became clear that the fundamentals of what made a good work of journalism remained the same.

The new practice of data journalism is not a completely new type of journalism. Rather, think of data analysis as simply part of journalism for the modern world. Reporting has always involved numbers. Today, technology enables journalists to use numbers less anecdotally, more authoritatively, and to uncover otherwise invisible stories.

Data is essential to making the journalism of today stronger than what came before.

In that sense, data is essential to making the journalism of today stronger than what came before.

Consider, for example, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners. The Public Service winner was anchored by data about domestic violence against women in South Carolina. The Investigative Reporting co-winners revealed data about lobbyist donations and Medicare payments. The Explanatory Reporting winner tracked and visualized companies avoiding taxes. All are stories that would have been less convincing or entirely undiscovered without data analysis.

This paper, part of the American Press Institute’s series of Strategy Studies, will address how to incorporate data into the reporting that’s already happening at your news organization, as well as how to grow and sustain the practice, despite challenges of funding and staff time.

Based on months of interviews with data journalism practitioners, reviews of published guidelines and teachings, and other extensive research, this paper will provide a practical guide to the understanding following:

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