How it all started: From Data Journalism to CAR and back again

Data-driven journalism is not as new as one might guess. In the 20's of the 19th century, the Guardian published a story in which all pupils in Manchester were counted and assigned to their schools. A sensation for that time. Florence Nightingale became famous in the same century: For counting an analysing the victims of the Crimean War. As you can see, journalists have been working with data for a long time. Together with the computer and the internet, the term Computer Assisted Reporting was developed. It was about time in 2007, that CAR came to Germany.
In the beginning, there was the seminar "Kollege Internet und Computer Assisted Reporting - wie man Rechner als neue Themen- und Recherchefundgrube nutzt". It combined the knowledge of various scientific disciplines and lecturers, thus becoming a major succes. So big, that it is now repeated in a slighlty altered form every year.

By now, the term CAR is already out of use. Simply because in the 2010s, every research is computer asstisted. But the research method behind the term is modern as ever - and is called data-driven journalism.

Data Journalism today

Since the foundation of the chair of science journalism in Dortmund, students were able to take statistics/datanalysis as a second subject - thanks to a close cooperation with the faculty of statistics. But back in the early days, the intention behind that was different: By using their statistics skills, students should be able to analyse and judge scientific studies.
Witj the experience from the CAR seminar, the cooperation was lifted on a whole new level in 2014. The faculty computer science became a member of the joint venture and a new line of approach was established. From then on, students have been able to pick the newly entrenched core area of study called datajournalism. Students study the "normal" journalistic skills and at the same time learn how to orientate in the jungle of data. The keywords are: research, analysis and visualisation.
Specialised journalistic seminars impart the necessary requisite know-how to students: There are various subjects on the timetable, for example the sources of data journalism and legal aspects. Support comes from the faculty of computer science: More often than not, important information is hidden in databanks which have to be analysed with special computer programms. Last but not least the students learn how to properly analyse the data at the faculty of statistics.

With this symbiosis of journalistic skills, statistics knowledge and the art of progarmming, students are able to find data, analyse them profoundly and transform them into a good story.

About the data journalism course

Our students write about Data Journalism

A direct connection to the real world: It was recently shown how close to data journalism our students really are, when a group travelled to the conference of the German netzwerk recherche (a german club of journalists who promote investigative research). At the conference, the students came in close contakts with the experts and swapped ideas. The talks led to texts for the conference blog, which informed about the most imporatant players and disciplines of data journalism. The excursion was supported by the VW foundation.

Zum Tagungsblog - Akteure im Datenjournalismus ( conference blog - only in German)


By this time, a lot of interesting articles about the theory and practice of data journalism have been published. A selection can be found here.

Data-driven journalism Dortmund

Do not trust any statistics you have not falsified yourself, says a proverb with controversial origin.

It is exactly the point where data-driven journalism starts. The world wide web is full of databases and far from all are analysed. Some may hide relevant and interesting stories which on top are often exclusive. And: You do not need a master's degree in statistic or computer science to find them. Just some useful tools, journalistic instinct and a little bit of luck.

Since the end of the 1980s, at least one Pullitzer Award a year goes to a story that was found by using data journalistic research methods. In 1989 for example, Bill Dedman (The Atlanta Journal / The Atlanta Constitution) was awarded the Pulitzer Award for investigative journalism. Dedman had portrayed racial discrimination by credit institutions in Atlanta.
Today, a lot of research projects show the power of data-driven journalism - and it has a growing number of users in Germany as well.
Maybe someday the analysis of databanks is a journalistic tool as much used as the telephone. Anyway, at the chair of science jorunalism data-driven journalism is a deeply rooted part of the curriculum since 2007.