Guardian’s DataBlog has become in 3 years datajournalism’s reference. Simon Rogers, gives Data Publica a special interview where he speaks about the past and future of the DataBlog and database journalism.
Data Publica: It’s been now more than 3 years of datablog : I’ve listed about 1550 articles ! Many journalists are amazed by the ability of your team to find this daily raw and fresh data that inspire your work. Where do you find all these data ? And is data inspiring your article or the contrary ?
Simon Rogers : Thank you. It’s a mix of ideas at our end or theories we want to test – or trying to find a dataset that fits a news story. Also, everyday the government publishes hundreds of datasets, any one of which could make a story. We’re just picking a few and focussing on them. We can’t do everything, so we just try to pick those that have the most interest.
First article of the datablog was published the 16 of january 2009, it was about rubish and recycling rates where people lived in London. We often find in many datajournalists work the will that journalism can be informative and usefull at the same time for ordinary people. Do you share this point of view ?
Wikileaks doesn’t happen every day ! A lot of the stuff we do is about democratising the information behind people’s everyday lives. Data can give us insights into so many things, we try and mix up the serious and the lighthearted.
Your team is now reaching 5 persons, you’ve been honored lately at the Oxford University as the internet journalist of the year you’re frequently invited to many forums and became a reference of datajournalism : even if your work is recognized and opendata’s theme popular, still datajournalism has difficulties to penetrate in other news media. Why is it so slow ?
Actually, our team is really 3.5 people! I think a lot of organisations don’t see the value – which is odd for us, considering how popular the datablog is. It’s not particularly expensive and you get stories out of data that you wouldn’t get any other way. Yet, there’s a resistance. But I think that will change.
Do you think the image of datajournalist is still a « geek like » journalist far from the field and stuck in front of a screen working with tables ?
I think there’s still a feeling that it’s not proper journalism among some – but they tend to be the old school. It will change as more stories come from data.
How can we imagine the future of datajournalism ? Maybe an openplateform where all journalists and all media would share data in a common datalibrary ?
Good idea. But I think the big change will be that it just becomes less unusual. I’m really noticing that a lot of younger journalists are into this area. Soon, everyone will be doing it.
What is the story of the DataBlog you’re the most proud of ?
The riots stuff ! Especially mapping the riots with poverty.
3 years of datablog, did you have a party ? Did you expect to last it that long ?
You know, that’s a really good idea. Didn’t think of it – we were all too busy actually !
Interview by Benjamin Gans