data journalism, data visualization

“Journalism is not a profession but an attitude” says Alberto Cairo

Alberto Cairo teaches Visual Journalism at the School of Communication of the University of Miami (UM).

He has just finished his third book on infographics and data visualisation called The Truthful Art (2016). Previous readings are  Infografía 2.0: Visualización interactiva de información en prensa (Alamut, Spain, 2008) and  The Functional Art: an Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization

Alberto shares his thoughts on journalism, data journalism and developers. First steps in data and visualisations? Keep reading to find out more about this field.

Data journalist… and developer?

Sometimes data journalist job ads require technical skills such as programming, data analysis and interactivity. Journalist developer or developer journalist?

It depends on what kind of journalist you are and what do you want to focus on. There are two models of data journalists:

1. Look for a story and gather data in collaboration with designers and programmers. While journalist is writing the story, developers are visualising the data.

An example of this model is Univision. They have data journalists and an online graphics department working and sitting together, doing collaborative projects.

2. One person does everything, such as in ProPublica

People who are on the News Applications receive a project that has to be done from the beginning until the conclusion. They gather and analyse data, contact people, contrast the information, etc and this story finally turns into a written story or an interactive visualisation.

It is still a collaborative project because journalists can access people from other departments and learn from each other.

Software for analysing and visualising data…

It is important to choose an specific field to specialise and learn basic software for each one. It is impossible to be good at every stage:

1. Analysis and statistics: Python and R

2. The backend: Python and Ruby on Rails

3. The Frontend: presenting personalised data means knowing Javascript and D3. Otherwise, there are websites that allow you to create basic visualisations such as Quadrigam by El Bestiario.

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Linking journalists to newspapers

From Alberto’s point of view, journalists are people who search, filter, organise, contrast and express information in a balanced and scientific way. Tweet this

It is not only about presenting data to confirm or not an idea, but analysing and scrapping it for the audience.

Generally, the public has a misconception of what journalism is:

“It is not a profession, it is a vital attitude. This idea is to organise information and make it clear to the audience so they can interact and get the message”. Tweet this

“It has to be visual and nice”

Loads of newspapers emphasise that graphics have to be visual and nice in order to capture the audience’s attention. Alberto Cairo says that prioritising the esthetic aspect before veracity, functionality or structure is a mistake.

Infographics and illustration have barely been distinguished in the past and newsrooms used to ask for graphics to replace photography or blank spaces.

Twenty years after, most newsrooms realise that infographics are part of journalism. However, it is still an ongoing fight between journalists who want to fill the page and designers that adopt an attitude against numbers and gathering information.

A good source to look for good examples? constantly uploads good infographics and portfolios from designers and journalists around the world.

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Do you have any other examples? Let me know in the comments


2 thoughts on ““Journalism is not a profession but an attitude” says Alberto Cairo

  1. Pingback: The Truthful Art: understanding the numbers before creating graphics | dinfografia

  2. Pingback: Malofiej 24: It’s time for datavis journalists | dinfografia

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