Students set to learn new advances in data journalism this September

Elizabeth Randolph

The 10th annual Poynter KSU Media Ethics Workshop will take place on Thursday, Sept. 18.

This year’s workshop, “Data Minefields”, will explore the topic of data journalism and the ethics surrounding it. The workshop will include a panel of data professionals from the Washington Post, Dallas Morning News and the National Counterterrorism Center. University of Southern California professor and web journalist Robert Hernandez will be the keynote speaker at the event.

Jan Leach, the Director of the Media Law Center for Ethics and Access, coordinates the media ethics workshops every year and said that when choosing topics, she looks for things that will spark students’ interests.

“I, as well as the Poynter Institute, look for topics that have never been done or things that spark regional interest,” Leach said. “We look for what will be useful to professionals, educators and students.”

Leach said that the idea of data journalism isn’t something that student journalists should be apprehensive about, as it is just another way to look at reporting.

“If students are nervous about data journalism, it’s because they haven’t had enough experience with it,” Leach said. “Journalists have to think about the way that data enhance the authentication of the topic they’re writing about.”

   Jennifer LaFleur is a senior editor for data journalism at The Center for Investigative Reporting and will be on the panel at the ethics workshop. LaFleur said that it is important that anyone going into the journalism industry should have an understanding of data.

“The information journalists report about will always have to be accurate,” LaFleur said. “Knowing data will be extremely important in making sure this happens.”

Thor Wasbotten, Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said that in addition to this year’s workshop having a topic that will intrigue students and educators in the program, the fact that it’s the 10th anniversary of the event makes the workshop even more exciting.

“The 10th anniversary workshop was something we were thinking about even before last year’s workshop ended,” Wasbotten said. “This is an opportunity to really identify a big topic because the use of data has really taken over the industry.”

Leach said that this year’s workshop is going to have a strong social media presence, as it has in previous workshops.

“We will be encouraging guests at the workshop to live-tweet, and the workshop will be live-streamed,” Leach said. “This gives students the opportunity to be a part of the conversation if they can’t physically attend the workshops.”

Wasbotten said that those attending the workshop are going to understand the industry in a completely different way.

“Whether it’s a new program on your iPhone or computer glasses on your face, you are learning about data by yourself,” Wasbotten said. “Data [are] all around us, and [they’re] not going away. It is important that everyone knows about data for both the benefit of storytelling and for potentially the threat of the story you don’t want others to know. It is critical for all of our citizens to know the power and influence of data.”     

Contact Elizabeth Randolph at [email protected].