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Monday, 27 July 2020

PANDEMIC, PROCESSING NUMBERS AND DATA JOURNALISM

It's been more than a decade since data was formally invited to the high table of journalism, and thereafter, taking permanent residency in the form Data Journalism. Arguably, never before has the press given statistics such serious attention. The coronavirus pandemic has necessitated the need for journalists to master processing information couched in numbers. Correct interpretation remains a challenge though.


As depicted above, the same details can sometimes lead to different news stories among publishers, simply because editors can end up not putting the same emphasis on the pertinent angles in an issue. 

Admittedly, this can be very confusing to the reader, on being confronted with what might appear as contradictory statement of facts.

On this particular day, this is what two of Kenya's leading dailies put out:
- Coronavirus drives down car sales 26%

- Motor vehicle sales bounce back.
Should the reader believe car sales are decreasing or increasing?

The answer may lay in the context, if one digs further into the body of the articles.

But, there's no respite for that reader who only scans through the two article headlines.

It does become more worrisome, if journalists are unable to correctly interpret data, because it means they may also not be able to effectively interrogate figures shared by those in authority, in the public's interest.

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