Manchester – a Data Journalism hub?

I wrote a guest blog post for Open Data Manchester looking ahead to the Data Journalism event they’re holding on Tuesday 23rd September at MMU’s trendy new digital innovations space, The Shed.  Here it is….

Photo by Yan Arief Purwanto on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo by Yan Arief Purwanto on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Journalists don’t do maths.

It’s a sad cliche but there’s a lot of truth in it. Journalism is traditionally considered a “humanities subject.” In fact, I’m convinced a lot of people go into journalism precisely because they think it means never having to do maths ever again.

But increasingly journalism is becoming a numbers game. It’s no longer just about searching for scarce information; journalists need the skills to filter and analyse the over-abundance of data that’s out there. Other industries are already using Big Data and journalism can’t afford to miss out on this vast source of stories and hard evidence.

We’re very lucky here in Manchester. We already have journalists doing great things with data which we’ll hear more about at ODM’s next event on 23rd September. Some of you may have met Data Journalists and wondered how they got to be that way. I’m guessing most of them didn’t learn how to do it at journalism school. They’re probably self-taught enthusiasts who saw the way newsrooms needed to move and made sure they acquired the necessary skills.

So that’s why I approached ODM to see if they could help bring together the worlds of data and journalism here in Manchester. I believe our city has the potential to become an important hub for developing the next generation of journalists who will be numerate and digitally literate as well as having all the core journalism skills we still need. We already have the building blocks – ODM itself, a sizable tech industry, no shortage of journalists and hundreds of journalism students who want to acquire skills that will make them employable after they leave university. The challenge is to get these elements working together, learn from the experts already working in our midst and make sure that filters through to the classrooms where journalists learn their skills.

It may also mean encouraging people who really like numbers to consider a career in journalism.

So with all this in mind, we’re launching a Manchester chapter of the global movement, HacksHackers which is all about creating networks of journalists (the hacks) and technologists (the hackers) who together can “rethink the future of news and information.” Manchester seems the perfect city to do this! We’ll be organising informal events ( including hack days) that bring together our city’s journalists, developers and designers. We’ll be announcing details of our first meet-up very soon so look out for #HHMcr and if you’d like to keep in the loop, do leave a message in the comments here.

Join the ODM community for an open data journalism special on 23rd September.

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