“Data is not just a number, it is reality”

By Leano C. Maphorisa

The advancement of data journalism shows a diverse and robust impact. Alastair Otter and Laura Grant from Media Hack, showed highlighted this by discussing some of the best data projects from around the world the African Investigative Journalism Conference 2019.

They spoke about a project called “The Wall” which was population-based; it entailed video footage of residents, documentaries and virtual graphics of the whole population thus the term population density.

In a data project called “The Deadly Force & US Mass Shootings Project”, the infographics and graphs displayed the most affected gender, location, occupation of victims. This showed the intensity and variation of experiences, in the hope that this could alter policies affecting these issues.

The projects further proclaimed the importance of collecting statistics of deaths and injuries. The projects made room for readers to participate in cases where they can contribute with their experience or knowledge.

During the presentation for “The Hurricane Maria’s Death Project”, what intrigued the audience the most was the detailed infographics displaying natural disasters, including wiped out houses of over 300 families.

According to Grant, data is solely effective when one tells stories of people in a way that shows the gravity of their situations. She made reference to her shared project, “The Race to Save the River Ganges”. Here, scientific data was presented as a story in such a way that the river was the epicenter and showed that people utilizing it experienced adverse effects.

Grant and Otter also explained that data journalism, despite its positive impact, takes a lot of effort, and that it requires filtration of points. Moreover, data is affected by mainstream media as well as parallel media in that fake news travels hastily, thus impeding the accuracy and authenticity of media reports.

This summary of some data journalism projects highlighted that the this form of journalism has both global importance and impact.

FEATURED IMAGE: Data visualisation specialist Alastair Otter with Al Jazeera’s interactive editor, Mohammed Haddad address the audience during the #AIJC19 discussion on data journalism on October 28.   Photo: Rose Clemence Shayo