Data, Algorithms, and Code

Implications for journalism practice in the digital age 1

Authored by: John V. Pavlik

The Routledge Companion to Digital Journalism Studies

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138887961
eBook ISBN: 9781315713793
Adobe ISBN:


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Since the earliest days of news reporting, data have served a fundamental role in the content of what is reported. The first newspaper, Caesar’s Acta Diurna, in 59 BC publicly reported on notices of legal proceedings, marriages, and births (Wikipedia, 2015). In America’s colonial press, newspapers such as the Virginia Gazette as early as 1736 published official government notices among other content (Virginiaplaces, 2014). It is not surprising then that twenty-first century journalism should place increasing emphasis on data-driven reporting. Yet the approach is dramatically different than in the past. Data are now Big, often on the scale of many billions (see Lewis, this volume). Today, computer code in the form of sophisticated mathematical and statistical models interprets and analyzes the data reported in the news. Moreover, human reporters, editors, and writers increasingly play a secondary role in generating the stories and visualizations based on the code-driven analysis of Big Data. Since the advent of precision journalism in the late 1960s (Meyer, 1971), computers and data analysis have played an increasingly vital role in journalism as a means to provide context for mostly anecdotal, event-centered news.

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