The United Nations Development Programme has just released this year’s Human Development Index and your editor wants the story and data within an hour. What do you do?
By Thobeka Kunene
In this digital era where many governments are going paperless, there are countless troves of information constantly available at the touch of a button.
But extracting information from the various files on the internet can be a nightmare for anyone using the ‘copy and paste’ method. Enter data scraping—the process or tool of importing information from a website into a user’s file or spreadsheet.
Siyabonga Africa, program officer at the South African Media Innovation Program and data specialist, said journalists no longer have to go through the trouble of copying, pasting and rearranging the data on their computers. Rather, any journalist can scrape data using Google Drive and deposit it there.
Data journalism techniques have grown more powerful in the past two years, Africa said. These have made it easier to do tasks like scraping data with free tools like Google Drive, Tabula and others.
Journalists can tell many types of stories with their stored data.
“It’s reductive to say that data journalism is restricted to finance and investigative journalism,” Africa said. “Something like getting the World Cup rankings; that is a sports story. Getting the list of board councillors; this would be a politics story. It definitely spans a number of beats.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Siyabonga Africa, program officer at the South African Media Innovation Program and data specialist, hosts a workshop on data scrapping at the 2019 Africa Investigative Journalism Conference on October 29. Photo: Busang Senne
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