Impacts of data visualization on traditional journalism


During recent years, the Internet has been popular and social media has developed rapidly while traditional journalism has been challenged. Although traditional journalism is poorly developed, people are thirsting for information. ‘Big data age ’has brought a new opportunity to journalism.

1.Concept changes.

Data visualization makes the production sectors of news different from that of the traditional journalism which are the choice of sources, interview, writing and dissemination. Data visualization enables journalists to shift their focus from seeking hot issues to explain the inner logical relations of current affairs to the public. It shows audiences the complicated relations between data, society and individuals through visual means. Pictures and designs are often used as a supporting role in traditional reports, while this part is more focused in data visualization. Data visualization requires an objective and acceptable method to stimulate the public attention and participation, which is a new way of news coverage.


2.Requirements changes.

Data visualization report is a huge challenging for traditional journalists . Some changes can be seen from the composition of BBC.

Data news production team of BBC News Network is made up journalists, designers and developers. Although there is no special ‘data journalist’ in this team,each editorial member is required to use basic form tool for data analysis.

Obviously, the production of data news is no longer the traditional collection, processing and release mode, which cannot be completed by only one reporter. Data visualization projects require journalists to strengthen collaboration with designers and IT technicians as well as to master data analysis skills.

3. Traditional collection and dissemination of news materials are confronting challenges.

The traditional journalists tend to conduct interviews at the places where the event happened to acquire first-hand data. Besides, the interviewees are various. The news is often represented in the form of words.

Data visualization is a revolutionary challenge. During this period, if a journalist wants to do a good job, he should not only has professional knowledge and skills, but also to grasp technical expertise. What data journalists are facing is the government database or the massive information on the Internet, which requires journalists master data processing and analysis capacities. Therefore, data collection becomes an essential part.

After data analysis, data news can be released in different approaches such as information forms, comic products and data blog.



Benefits of Data Visualization

Presentation of data by a graphical format or pictorial is data visualization. Creating visuals of data is beneficial to simplify complex information and provide more visualized explanation because human thinking are easily to understand direct information. Thus, one advantage of data visualization is that it leads to communicate information more efficient and simple. In addition, this technology can show that how decision makers analyse and collate data.

Data visualization may be interactive or static. People have been using static data visualization such as maps and charts. Compared with those data, Interactive data visualization has a different function.  It can help users to know more details about those graphs and charts by using computers and mobile phones. They can interactively change data which they see.

Recent years, more and more companies have been invested in the technology of data visualization including Interactive Data Visualization and Static Data Visualization. It has been a new businesses opportunity.

A good example of Interactive Data Visualization is ‘U.S. Thanksgiving on Google Flights‘. The day before Thanksgiving, Google Trends tracked flights across the United States. It likes a movie, showing flights moving around the America with time changing. Without any numbers to explain, which times for flights are more popular are easily seen by readers.

Caritas Kontakladen Annual Report is an example for Static Data Visualization. In Caritas Kontakladen’s annual report, designer Marion Luttenberger used a unique method to show information. For instance, a shopping cart visualization shows the life’s necessities which can be afforded for a welfare recipient every day.



Future Trend of Data Visualisation

During a video report on data visualisation, Geoff McGhee gives a brief description of the current trend of journalism, “Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualisation techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists.”

Many businesses utilise data visualisation as a method to analyse, evaluate, and communicate information in the Web 1.0. When digital journalism started to emerge, Infographics began to become popular in journalism: news media use techniques such as infographics and data visualisation to convey complex stories.

Examples such as The Guardian and The Sydney Morning Herald, which utilise data visualisation to interact with audiences, support news articles and attract interest from the general public through the readable and interactive news.


In the article by Marisa Krystian, she gives a brief of the future trend of data visualisation, “The data visualisation landscape is constantly in flux, shifting under the pressure of new technologies, big data, and political climates.” And she also mentioned a few significant trends of data visualisation.

Firstly, more ‘snackable’ visualisation contents are now started to appears on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. One example is Mona Chalabi, a data editor at Guardian US. She tried to use Instagram to “hook someone into learning more”. And journalism should use these digital platforms to adapt themselves to fit in the trend.

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Secondly, big data will become more approachable. As there are more and more organisations collecting and analysing data sets, there will be more tools and databases ready for journalists and the public to use.

Thirdly and most importantly, data visualisation will significantly improve the transparency and credibility of news reports. The communication between journalists and audiences will be more authentic and effective as they can now understand each other more due to the transparency in data sources. And the use of data will push for the accuracy and truth in journalism.

The goal of data visualisation is to move people to see things they haven’t seen before. Charts and text alone don’t do it but marrying the two together is crucial. 



What can Data Visualization bring to us?

            In today’s society, people not only appreciate the role that the media plays in educating, informing and entertaining the public but also understand the power that it holds. As a result, people have become keener on what the media reports to the extent that they question every broadcast and evaluate its authenticity. Today’s society is made up of an audience that questions almost every bit of information. As a result, the media has had to adopt and come up with ways of validating sensitive information and this has resulted in the introduction of data visualizations.1

            Data visualization mainly incorporates figures such as graphs, charts, maps and cartoons as a means of conveying added information relating to a broadcast. Through it, broadcasts are able to inform the audience more about complex stories and provide additional information that helps them to create a better understanding and ensure that they receive the intended message from the communication. Data visualization also helps in creating a visual demonstration of what a broadcast is all about without having to go into great detail as would be the case when using words or audio.  The visualizations create a vivid image that helps the audience to better understand what the broadcast is trying to communicate.


Applying data visualization into case studies

       The visualization of data is the foundation and distinctive feature of data journalism. In the fast-growing technology circumstance,using visualized infographics to tell story could take a direct and scientific feeling for audience.  More specifically, credible and scientific visualized graphs or infographics, including diagrams, charts, and maps, could attract the readers’ eyesight effectively, and transform something abstract and complicated into something easy and clear to understand. Here are two case studies that applies data visualization into their projects that absolutely illustrate it.

A Disappearing Planet

      Without action to protect biodiversity at a time pf disappearing habitats and increased poaching, many animals are on the verge of extinction. So paying much attention to animal extinction is extremely urgent. The Propublica, an independent newsroom that focus on journalism in the public interest, managed a data research about this issue and record the extinction rates of animal species around the world. On the “A Disappearing Planet” section homepage, people can discover the percentage of every animal specie at risk of distinction and use red color to highlight the number. Because of the sound data and visualized graphs, the problem of animal extinction can raise the public concern.

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The Airbnb effect

        Airbnb, which is a trusted community marketplace for people to discover and book unique accommodation around the world. Over the few years, since the first-class customer service and ever-increasing users, Airbnb has exerted global effects on hotel markets and housing industry, especially for some big cities. The San Francisco Chronicle ever organized a research on Airbnb effect in 2015, evaluating and predicting Airbnb’s growth in San Francisco .

      In the research, total listings and cost, length and frequency of rentals has been analyzed through visualized charts and maps. Because of the visualized data and statistics, The San Francisco Chronicle can explain the Airbnb effect to the public in a powerful and credible way.


Week 11 ECharts for Data Visualization

屏幕快照 2017-06-02 下午10.39.28Data visualization can make the cumbersome content be simple, the boring content be vivid, the abstract concept be specific. This is why data visualization has been concerned and discussed for nearly a decade. Data visualization is widely used by the journalism industry. Therefore, as a student of journalism, it is necessary to choose a suitable data visualization tool.

Data journalism is inseparable from the visualization of data, most of data news use infographics as a visual carrier, but if you need to show more complex data, or want to show in a more fresh way, allowing your readers to interact with the data you show to them, you may need to use some interactive charts. EChart can meet almost all demand of usage of data visualization in journalism industry.

ECharts is a product of Baidu, one of China’s three major Internet companies, it is a free Javascript chart library, you can run it smoothly on both PC and mobile devices, and it is compatible with most of the current browser. Moreover, the current version, ECharts 3 has more rich interactive features and more visual effects.

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Opinions of EChart’s Users 屏幕快照 2017-06-02 下午11.05.06

Features of EChart

Although EChart is a product developed by the Chinese internet company, but it has an English version, and I found that many people outside China are using it or show their interest in EChart. To be honest, it makes me feel very happy as a Chinese,  good software should be shared for everyone to know.

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Analyzing China’s data journalism through a piece of data news



Nowadays, big data has been pervasive. Many industries have been involved in its shock wave, bringing the changes of industry trend and even operation guidelines. For journalism, the news is no longer simply an interview, a report. The practice of using quantitative data to aid in journalism is nothing new.


One piece of data news ‘Big adjustment of railway operation plan’ caused a sensation on media platforms. The journalist predicted the future of China based on 320,000 railway data. This is different from traditional news which uses representative cases, occasionally with some small sample quantitative analysis, to write a story and tell the truth. Now the external environment has changed, people’s behavior and social changes are recorded in the form of big data. Accordingly, new technology generates new media forms.

Taking the data news of ‘Big adjustment of railway operation plan’ as an example, it starts to use big data other small samples, which is the birth of the era of news methodology. It is not a subversive activity, on the contrary, it enriches and extends news perspective and value. With the analysis of 320,000 data, we can see regional economic and demographic changes that are reflected in the adjustment of railway operation plan. This is the angel that traditional news coverage cannot touch.

Of course, data journalism of China has limits. Due to the newly introduction of data journalism, many audiences are not familiar with this reporting mode. It maybe difficult for them to accept data journalism. Also, lots of Chinese journalists do not have access to improve their skills, which causes low quality coverage as well as a lack of analytical ability of data information.


It is the time that China’s data journalists should pursue new journalism in a way that has the potential to both their country and the world.

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