Data of Data Journalism: The Faces of Journalism’s Future

Photo via Women of Color in Tech Flickr

The combination of data and journalism is a powerful force for reporters and audiences. Where a story can be powerfully told with an anecdote starring a relatable character, data and statistics give the context to show that the issue affects more than one person.

Who make up the journalists on the forefront of reporting? Journalism++, an international data journalism group, started a directory so that anyone can locate a data-savvy journalist when needed. The Global Data Journalists Directory also reflects the amazing diversity of data journalists’ skills, locations, and traits. The self-selected sample of 217 international journalists reveals some interesting things about this growing community.

Global Spread
Data journalism encompasses skills and techniques with worldwide appeal. Numbers and graphs are simple, fast ways to communicate a story in any language. The journalists in the database come from almost 100 different cities in forty different countries. The greatest number work from the United States, with Germany and France tied for second. European countries round out the top eight with Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Austria. The population of data journalists also includes a lot of South American and African countries.

Many Names and Skills
Eighty-two percent go by “data journalist,” and 64 percent adopt the traditional “journalist” label, but from there the skills diverge into different specializations. Around a third included skills in their profiles in research, development, editing, lecturing, design, and data science. Fewer are experts in GIS, statistics, infographics, training, and economics.

Got Encryption?
The Journalism++ directory gives journalists the chance to share their PGP keys to receive unsolicited encrypted communication. This is a major advantage for receiving tips, working with sources, and operating in a world where emails can be reviewed for marketing or official surveillance.

Only about 23 percent of data journalists in the directory listed a PGP key ID or the link to one. That is an unfortunate attestation to Tow Center research that shows how few journalists find ways to fit information security practices in their workflows.

Gender diversity
Data journalism boasts a female makeup of 25 percent, lower than the 36 percent of newsrooms made up of women but higher than the 18 percent of computer science majors comprised of women.

The gender gap exists in PGP key usage, too. While 27 percent of men in the Journalism++ directory list a PGP key in their profiles, only 13 percent of women do so.

Data journalism is bound to grow larger because it’s an in-demand skill. As the numbers of data journalists increase, the demographics will certainly change, become even more diverse, and (hopefully) more secure.