Adapt or die – of the datafication of journalism practice

Today, I attended the Nordic Data Journalism symposium in the beautiful city of Trondheim. The program was ambitious with award sessions, crash courses and conference presentations all focusing on the datafication of the profession – from computing in journalism to coding skills for journalists, multimedia design and other in-between skillsets elaborating the extent to which datafication has impinged on journalism practice today.

As a global journalism teacher, this symposium couldn’t have been more interesting. The future is digital, thats no doubt. Academic presentations like Professor Hellen Kennedy’s (University of Sheffield) only proved the point. Her research based  insights on how nordic newsrooms have/or not embraced data visualization illustrating issues of transparency and engagement and by extension futures.

The academic was supplimentd by experiences and reflections from the world of Praxis. And no better to present these experiences than award winning Jonas Nilson, the head of design at Adresseavisen in Trondheim. Through his spectacular, futuristic real cases, Jonas gave us a succinct glimpse into the workings and potential of data in journalism practice. Examples were numerous as they were spectacular – from investigative journalism stories in the pit of the dark web spanning international spacial trajectories to covering young people’s every-day lives.

The presentations left me contemplating about both the stable and the shifting knowledge and skill requirements for today’s and tomorrow’s journalism students. i.e. the students competence, capacity, interest and stamina to pull off complex, visualized, multilayered and multi-audience-focused forms of storytelling that ones ‘grand mother can easily use’ :-). All this in the context of the 24/7 news circle and deadline requirement.

Multimedia design, computing, coding being the ‘newer kids on the block’ (depending on where you stand on the continum). As I journey back to the University, i cannot brush off the nagging affirmation that these new kids on the block pose an existential challenge to the potential journalist of today and tomorrow:-).


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