C. W. Anderson, Mary Junck Research Colloquium





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Published on May 7, 2012

Mary Junck Research Colloquium
UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication
April 5, 2012

Dr. C. W. Anderson
Assistant Professor, Department of Media Culture, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

"The Long History of Data Journalism: Reporting, Social Science, and Document Analysis in 1912 and 2012 (With a Brief Stop in 1979)"

Abstract: Journalistic authority arises out of the way a particular act ("reporting") intersects with a particular object ("the public"). In the digital age, both what journalists do and to whom they direct claims about what they do are in the midst of a seismic shift. Along with older challenges to traditional notions of reporting like "citizen journalism," partisan news-gathering, and social media, the growth of data journalism marks the most recent problematization of the reporting process. This talk marks an early attempt to frame our understanding of data journalism by focusing on particular news objects (documents), the manner in which documents collide with our understanding of data, and the way the relationship between reporter and document has shifted over time. A focus on data journalism can also shed light on broader questions in the humanities and social sciences, particularly the relationship between modern knowledge practices and "big data."

This talk comes at a very preliminary moment in the authors' new research project on the culture, history, and ontology of data journalism, and is thus provisional in many ways. Beyond outlining the general framework discussed above, the talk will consist of several brief stopovers at critical moments in the history of documents, journalism, and social science-- the growth of the data driven progressive reform movement in the early 20th century, the invention of so-called "precision journalism" in the 1970s, and the application of data journalism to document analysis today. The talk, being preliminary, is less concerned with presenting settled conclusions than it is with engaging the audience in dialog and conversation, all of which will hopefully shape the research project as it goes forward.

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