2
0
1
9

“I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

“2019 will be academic data journalism’s Walden year. Those of us who care about this stuff are going to go off to a metaphorical cabin in the woods and think about what we’re doing. Deeply.”

In Chapter 1 of Precision Journalism — what many consider to be the foundational text of data journalism — Philip Meyer wrote that in order for his vision to take off, first, editors would have to value the application of social science methods to journalism enough to develop in-house capacity. Hiring an outside consultant to feed a reporter data wasn’t enough — the reporter’s insight and ability to handle deadlines were key.

Then he wrote:

The second need, of course, is for the editors to be able to find the talent to fill this need. Many journalism schools are prepared to supply it. Some have faculty members with the necessary methodological skills; others are geared to directing their students to the appropriate courses in the sociology, psychology or political science departments.

Ooof. That was published in 1973. Interestingly, that passage was stripped out in later editions.

Hold that thought.

Fast forward to 1999. That year, the Poynter Institute called together 22 data journalism practitioners of the day — the children of Meyer’s ideas — and talked about how the use of computers and databases to do journalism had changed the practice. And how it hadn’t.

In a report called When Nerds and Words Collide: Reflections on the Development of Computer Assisted Reporting, Nora Paul summarizes the discussions in a bulleted list. I’ve got an original printing of this document on my desk, and I swear every bullet point is worth talking about. My favorite points, not surprisingly given where my paycheck comes from, are in the “Teaching/training” section. Compare Meyer’s confident declarations that journalism schools are here for it with Paul’s summary of the feelings of data journalists 26 years later:

  • Re-thinking journalism education — what should we expect from new journalists?
  • Integrating CAR into J-school curricula, particularly for undergraduates.
  • Improving journalism education to incorporate “advanced reporting” techniques and getting faculty interested in in CAR.
  • Teaching math skills to journalists and integrating number crunching with the the teaching of good storytelling…
  • Teaching conceptualization, application of “scientific” logic, and reasoning to data analysis.
  • I kinda have a thing for making angry predictions that things won’t happen. And it would be pretty easy to say, in the 20th year after Nerds and Words was published, that 2019 won’t be any different. You’d think 20 years and the obviousness of the importance of data skills in our modern world would be enough to get j-schools into the game, but you’d be wrong. Arguments that “if we add math to the curriculum, we’ll scare all the students away” are starting to feel eternal, the journalism-school equivalent to philosophical arguments about the nature of being.

    I want to be positive, so here’s my prediction: Forty-six years after Meyer caused a ruckus by saying journalists would be less wrong if they embraced the mindset of the social scientist, 2019 will be academic data journalism’s Walden year. Those of us who care about this stuff are going to go off to a metaphorical cabin in the woods and think about what we’re doing. Deeply.

    Thoreau even gives us a start.

    I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in.

    I feel like it’s time for the academic data journalism side of the house to dive into and embrace the academy more deeply. We need to spend more time in discussions about epistemology and the philiosophical problems of knowledge — and at the same time, we need to be hanging around with the digital humanists analyzing huge corpora of text for insights. We need to get into the weeds of the psychology of corrective information, crash as many data science or bioinformatics classes as we can, and scour every lab and lecture hall for new ideas that can be applied to telling stories about our world.

    And from our time in the cabin, we need to write it all down and put it in the open. What’s the point if we do all this and bury it in a paywalled journal no one will read? I want the academy to lead on new and interesting techniques. Currently, it’s the other way around. A publication does something interesting with x, and suddenly there needs to be a module in a class teaching x.

    It’s time for data journalism on campus to show the way to something new. We need more Phil Meyers. We don’t need to wait nearly half a century to get it.

    Matt Waite is founder of the Drone Journalism Lab and a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska.

    Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

    Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

    Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

    Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

    Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

    Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

    Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

    Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

    Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

    Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

    Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

    Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

    Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

    Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

    Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

    Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

    Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

    Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

    Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

    Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

    Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

    Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

    Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

    Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

    Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

    Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

    Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

    Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

    Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

    Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

    Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

    Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

    Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

    Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

    Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

    Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

    Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

    Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

    Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

    Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

    Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

    Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

    Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

    Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

    Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

    Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

    Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

    Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

    Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

    Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

    John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

    John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

    Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

    Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

    Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

    Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

    Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

    Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

    Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

    Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

    Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

    Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

    Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

    Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

    Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

    Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

    Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

    Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

    Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

    Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

    Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

    Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

    Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

    P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

    Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

    Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

    Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

    Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

    Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

    Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

    Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

    Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

    Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

    Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

    Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

    Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

    Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

    Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

    Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

    Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

    Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

    Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

    Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

    Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

    Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

    Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

    Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

    Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

    Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

    John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

    Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

    Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

    Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

    Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

    Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

    Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

    Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

    Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

    james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

    Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

    Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

    Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

    Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

    Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

    Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

    Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

    M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

    Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

    Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

    Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

    A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

    Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

    Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

    Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

    Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

    Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

    Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

    Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

    Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

    Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

    Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

    Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

    Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

    Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

    Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

    Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

    Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

    Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

    Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

    Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

    Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

    Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

    Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

    Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

    Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

    Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

    Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

    Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

    Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

    Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

    Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

    Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

    Hearken   Pivot to people

    Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

    Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

    Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

    Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

    Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

    Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

    Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

    Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

    Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

    Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

    Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

    Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

    Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

    Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

    Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

    Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

    Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

    Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

    Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

    Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

    Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

    Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

    Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

    Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

    Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

    Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

    LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

    Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

    Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

    Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

    Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

    Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

    Greg Emerson   Power to the user

    Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

    Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

    Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

    Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

    Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

    Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

    Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

    Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

    Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

    Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

    Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

    An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

    Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

    Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

    Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

    Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

    Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

    Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

    Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started