Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Data & Journalism: perhaps onions are easier to understand?

When I was asked yesterday to provide comment where "data" fits in the journalism standards that Skillset is in the process of reviewing and developing, my answer was simple: Don’t geek it.

In the so-called Digital Age, one thing that is plentiful - and growing exponentially - data. What is scarce, and therefore potentially valuable, is information. And, even more than that, knowledge. And most rare: wisdom.

I'd been thinking a bit about the link between what is often called the "DIKW Hierarch" or the "Wisdom Pyramid" since the last Digital Editors’ Network meeting when Microsoft UK producer Alistair Bruce described how data was being used to tell stories on sites like MSN Local. He likened it to the layers of an onion.
So, I’ve drafted this "Onion Model" as a way to start describing where data links to journalism. And am thinking that perhaps it might even be useful to the discussions about where (or not) to put up "paywalls".

Alistair and I’ll are thinking more about it and will be including some of those ideas in a chapter in the (much-delayed) 4th edition of Writing for the Media, which Oxford is hoping to publish later this year.

In the meantime, I’ve been bouncing around those ideas with colleagues like Andy Dickinson, who said he’d be blogging about his take on it sometime soon, too. And I’ll probably weave it into the discussion at the #DEN2010 meeting on "Benchmarking Your Website". And, of course, I look forward to seeing just how data literacy, retrieval and repurposing is woven into the National Occupational Standards for journalism.