Trend Alert: Big Data in Journalism

by Greentarget

As Big Data Emerges In Journalism, PR Should Take Note

If you work in public relations or corporate communications, get ready to hear a lot more about computer-assisted reporting, also called datajournalism. It’s the process of using large sets of data to aide in, and sometimes drive, reporting the news.

This big-data approach to storytelling is changing the face of journalism, and it will soon open up new doors for savvy public relations practitioners who understand the process.

Newsworthy events happen all of the time. Reporters are human; for all their collective skill, ability, and expertise, they are imperfect filters for the news. That’s the paradox of news: Just assume that the most newsworthy event happening today won’t be covered at all, because no one was able to recognize it as such.

Apply big data to the newsgathering process, however, and all of that changes. Computer-assisted reporting can automate fact-finding. As Chris Taggart, co-founder of OpenCorporates and datajournalism advocate, recently said, “If journalism is about telling a story that someone somewhere doesn’t want you to tell, then where is that going to be? That’s going to be in these large data sets, it’s going to be about combining this data set with that data set”

Derek Willis, a programmer/reporter for the New York Times, explains further:

For example, if a local congressman has received donations from executives of XYZ Corp. every March in previous election years, but not this year, then that’s potentially newsworthy; maybe XYZ isn’t giving as much, but maybe they no longer support the local politician, or are a bellwether of a lack of business support. In this case, the absence of data — something that’s very hard for people to spot [manually] in pages of filings — is the trigger event that can cause a reporter to follow up.

As much as journalists love to wax about serendipity, much of life is based on our habits and patterns, which are predictable enough to be tested against data. The same idea applies to scenarios that may not have happened in the past but could be defined and applied to the data. Reporters are testing out theories all the time, often by calling up sources and putting a question or theory out there. There’s no reason why we can’t enable the same ease of inquiry with data. In fact, it seems possible to do it on a much broader scale and in more precise ways.

This process actually works. “That’s how Willis learned earlier this month that a nonprofit had made an unusual $500,000 donation, which was quickly refunded, to a super PAC, [Political Action Committee],” wrote Poynter. “‘The Times’ software for processing Federal Election Commission [FEC] disclosures, which Willis built, alerts him when it spots potentially newsworthy events such as large donations, amendments to previous filings, and last-minute disclosures filed just before elections.”

Impact for PR Pros

These stories rely on the availability of large, reliable sets of data, which is what makes the emergence of computer-assisted reporting so exciting for public relations and communications.

Government regulators such as the FEC are voracious collectors of data, and sometimes media outlets have their own ways of capturing large sets of data for examination. This is largely where computer-assisted reporting has been getting its data. But companies that release news-making surveys, such as many of our clients, offer unique sets of data many big-data-using journalists could put to good use.

So, think about offering key publications the full set of data, under embargo, well in advance of a survey’s release. Explore options with editors and reporters who are savvy users of data. This approach can lead to partnerships with news organizations and increase the visibility of your client’s surveys and research.

Written by:


Greentarget on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.