Why Normal People Don't Trust Data Journalism
and I think, oh cool, some kind of research, some kind of analysis on whether the hottest journalism trend is actually succeeding or failing. We need this.
Instead, we get this. Read it for yourself. Yeah, I know, Business Insider. Get over yourself. Read it anyway. There's a lot to learn here. As the author, Milo Yiannopoulos writes:
Data journalism, “fact check” journalism and the new generation of “explainer” websites, which map out context behind big news stories, sound unobjectionable—but they’re not resonating with the public.At this point I'm thinking -- okay, cool -- how did you define and measure "resonating with the public?" I'd love to see whether Vox and 538 and Upshot are working or not. Read the story. You'll find no definitions, no measures, no analysis. Not much of anything at all. How the hell do we know if it's "resonating" or not? Just you, Milo? Your opinion? With not a fucking bit of data to back it up? I suppose because, ya know, data is boring. Facts -- boring. If we're boring you, it must not be working.
That's why, Yiannopoulos, data journalism exists. Because people are tired of "journalists" and "pundits" just making shit up.
We won't really know whether such sites are "resonating" until we have a better sense of their traffic, their ad sales, their ability to stay online and active in a competitive media marketplace. And even then they can "resonate" if they are influential, if they play a role in the chattering class and social/political debate. See? Measuring "resonate" is tough, because what resonates for me may not resonate for someone down the road.
We've seen some of these criticisms elsewhere, mostly from a pundit class threatened by the successes of 538 and others to point out how wrong they often are (as Nate Silver famously did in the 2012 elections).
But this is also a conservative response to what is perceived to be liberal sites (though a conservative Heritage version just launched). As he writes:
So-called “actually” journalism doesn’t speak to these people because it doesn’t use the language of emotion or common sense, as most of us do in most of our lives. And too often readers get the sense that there is a gigantic bait and switch going on: in the language of impartiality, they are being fed politics.Now there's a good point in there somewhere, that data journalism seems bloodless. And I agree -- but that matters only if data journalism pretended to be a single, comprehensive site designed to explain all of what's happening in the world today, like the New York Times does, or other major news orgs. That's not data journalism's mission. First, Milo misunderstands the term "data journalism" and is really talking about these explainer sites, and second there is a testable hypothesis in that graph above, about whether people do perceive a "bait and switch" baffling with bullshit kind of thing happening in the stories. I dunno. That's why we gather data. To find out. Not to just write what we think, making shit up as we go.