Looking at journalism from a new perspective

Wenjia Wang is a 24-year-old graduate student enrolled in the Data Informatics program at USC Viterbi School of Engineering. When we first talked she seemed very excited to start a collaboration with us: three graduate journalism students studying at USC Annenebrg School of communication and Journalism. We will be working together for the whole semester for a course merging USC engineering students with the USC journalism ones. The idea of combining such different backgrounds is very intriguing, and Wenjia agrees on that too.

She comes from Nanjing, the capital of China’s eastern Jiangsu province. After her bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering she chose to focusing on data studies. Why this shift? Wenjia told us that during the summer she worked as intern on a project that was mainly focused on analysing data gathered from one of the most popular Chinese social media, Sina Weibo, to study how people connect to each other and spread information through it. That working experience brought her to discover the power of data and their multifaceted utilities.

After researching several different master programs in data informatics, Wenjia finally landed to study at USC, where she hopes to learn the main skills she needs to analyze big data and create algorithms, that help the experts to analyze and process data faster. In fact, Wenjia is especially fascinated by algorithms, and she admires the smart people who make them and extract wisdom from data through them. Especially, she likes an algorithm called Dynamic Programming that can used for many different types of problems. She believes it to be like magic — it models data and transforms them from raw material into useful information.

Yet, there are other topics in which she is interested in, including: data mining, information retrieval, machine learning, database management systems, and big data analytics. Indeed, she is fascinated by all the processes enabling us to extract data, make sense of them and find relevant relationships and paths in their structure.

In spite of her young age, Wenjia has already collected numerous experiences over the past years: she studied abroad in Taiwan, worked in China and eventually moved to California. In addition, she has collaborated with journalists during her summer internship. This experience helped her develop a very clear idea about this profession. In fact, she thinks that journalists can influence people’s ideas and emotions. She esteems those journalists who can change people’s mind through the power of their strong reasoning. Wenjia seems to be always eager to read or listen to good journalism pieces because, as she told me, she believes in the power of journalism to improve the view that people have on the world along with their understanding of it.

It seems we are on the same page: let’s start thinking how her skills and her perspective on information can help us to reinvent journalism.