Writers who do data journalism increasingly in demand


By H.G. Watson

Any freelance journalist has tools they rely on, whether it is a specific brand of pens or an addiction to Google News. But at the Ink + Beyond and Canadian Association of Journalists conference in Ottawa on May 2-4, Fred Vallance-Jones and David McKie encouraged writers to add a few new tools to their kit: those that help them understand and source data.

“Data journalism seems intimidating,” said Vallance-Jones, a professor at King’s College journalism program in Halifax. “[but you’re] taking computer skills and applying them to journalism.”

A growing number of news outlets are using data journalism to generate stories, whether it’s the research that’s behind a long form feature or the driving force behind a data visualization project. Both Vallance-Jones and McKie – a CBC reporter – pointed to stories like Global News “The Gardiner – Trouble overhead” as examples of stories that were built around large amounts of data. It was quickly made clear that journalists who have the skills and abilities to work with data will be desirable for many media outlets.

But how do you learn and practice those skills without going back to school? Vallance-Jones and McKie both pointed out a number of ways writers can start getting comfortable with data journalism.

While these tools are a great new source for writers, it’s important to remember that’s exactly what they are – a source. “It’s still about telling journalistic stories,” said Vallance-Jones. “Data is another kind of source for you.”


HG Watson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Cord Community Edition in Waterloo, On.

Posted on May 10, 2013 at 9:15 am by editor · · Tagged with: ,

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