Use databases to personalize information

Matt Waite writes about using databases to bring a story to a level even below the hyperlocal, but to the personal.

Too often, journalism is about five or six anecdotes that broadly interest a reader in a topic. Through analytic journalism, I say we ditch the anecdotes and give people the power to find themselves in the information — something you can only hope to do with anecdotes. Does this mean we ditch journalism for databases? No. There is still a great need for stories to explain on a human level in ways a database just can’t do. But this isn’t an either/or. Use the story to educate and inform and broadly interest, use the data to specifically and personally interest every reader in ways a story can never dream of doing. Apart, they’re okay but ultimately unsatisfiying. Together, and you’ve got a package that sells papers and draws eyeballs to your website.

I’m glad Waite didn’t go too far down the path of “use data not anecdotes,” or at least pulled back a little from that line of thinking. Stories (a.k.a. anecdotes) are very important. Stories are what binds humanity. Stories are what we told around the first village fires in order to impart important information about survival. Stories are in our DNA. But when you can give people data that is directly relevant to their lives, then you are providing a necessary and valuable service.

[dels]stories, journalism, data, news writing, journalism[/dels]

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