Tell The Story Properly!

Journalism in a Fragmented World
Inaugural Webinar by the SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk (SAJD): 26th October-7th December 2021

By the Secretariat, SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk, November 12, 2021

SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk’s webinar, Journalism in a Fragmented World, focused on Big Data & Storytelling for its second participatory session. As with the previous week, the floor was given over to three subject matter experts. This time, participants listened to input from Google News Lab SEA Teaching Fellow Trinna Leong; Assistant Editor of Kini News Lab Malaysia Lee Long Hui; and Prof Richardus Eko Indrajit, Rector of Indonesia’s Pradita University. The core of the session was how to use the avalanche of data available today, cut through the clutter, and visualise stories effectively.

What tied all three presentations together, however, was the fact that supporting material can only do so much; it has to be appropriately contextualised. A great deal of data – hence the term “Big Data” – exists not only on the Internet nowadays but bombards audiences through a myriad of handheld devices not limited to just mobile phones; it reaches news consumers even via CCTVs. Journalists therefore have multiple challenges confronting them: verifying the integrity of their data and displaying it intelligibly so that their message reaches target audiences as intended.

While there are a multitude of sites where reliable data may be accessed free of charge for the most part, it has become evident that not all data is created equal. It often appears in a form or format that cannot be used, said Lee. Infographics may be static, and the data may not have been updated for a while. The reality is that there is a premium on certain types of data which journalists may have to access to support their stories.

Citing the case of deriving data in connection with the elections, Lee said that even official baseline data, such as the map of constituencies, sometimes has to be purchased, in order to support the story in a factually accurate way. Caught in this conundrum, what should journalists do? He suggested sourcing and creating their own databases, something which can be developed only over time. Big data helps in many ways, particularly in visualisation – but it is not a quick-fix solution. Nor is it a proxy for the facts of the story. “You cannot do stories with big data all the time,” Lee concluded. “It doesn’t always work. Presentation is second. Storytelling is first.”

Participants at the session on Nov 9, 2021

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: https://www.signisasia.net/journalism-in-a-fragmented-world-webinar-2021/