New opportunities for journalism in the Big Data era

By Nguyen Phuoc Bao Tri, November 11, 2021

Solutions Journalism addresses the problem of news fatigue by focusing more on positive information rather than negative news. But how can journalists deliver this positive news stand out and attract the reader? The third week of SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk’s webinar, Journalism in a Fragmented World, offered two speakers from companies using hi-tech approaches, and an academician, to show participants different approaches of utilising Big Data in their storytelling.

The Era of Data

Currently, 48.2% of the world’s population – or about 3.88 billion users – access the Internet. They visit more than 1.9 billion websites, send 138 billion e-mails and view 3.8 billion videos on YouTube every day. Facebook is visited by 2.2 billion people, and Google sees 3.5 billion searches made. This poses the challenge of what data source a journalist should use, to provide accurate information. Also, how can journalists process huge amounts of complex data that are likely beyond traditional data processing operations?

Trinna Leong, Teaching Fellow from Google News Lab South East Asia, emphasised the extraction of data from government websites, as well as accessing information from websites such as OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project), World Bank, IMF, Google Public Data Explorer and CIA World Factbook, among others.

What does Big Data mean for a journalist?

“The challenge of today’s journalism is how to win the battle of storytelling. Big data can be used to support your newsworthy information,” said Prof Richardus Eko Indrajit from Pradita University, Indonesia. He added that not all Big Data was of good quality, and could be structured or unstructured but that it could support journalists’ storytelling through the use of analytical tools. These allow the collection, processing and utilisation of data rapidly and more efficiently.

Big data applications help to also filter and analyze data on readers’ access habits, providing insights which help media develop targeted information formats, tailor their messages and deliver the most appropriate messages, making recommendations in real time. Journalists thus have a duty to ensure the accuracy of the information they present. They also need to increase the value of the news, and enhance the satisfaction of reader.

“Big data in journalism requires that journalists have the necessary (technological) skills – otherwise journalists who don’t use technology will soon be replaced,” Prof Indrajit stated. “The ability to take data, to be able to understand, process and extract value from it; to visualize and communicate it – that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.”

SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk and LICAS News Asia are the organisers of the SIGNIS Asia Journalism Fellowship Programme on the theme “Journalism in a Fragmented World,” a seven-week programme for lay Catholic and like-minded journalists working in the secular media. Offered virtually, the seven-week webinar brings together 25 selected participants from 14 countries to build capacity and promote exchange among media professionals and journalists who want to use their platform for social change. Programme details: