Susan Kistler on Data-driven Journalism and Its Lessons for Evaluation

My name is Susan Kistler and I am AEA’s Executive Director. I have the privilege of contributing each Saturday’s post to aea365.

Data-driven Journalism (DDJ) focuses on using and visualizing data in a journalistic context. I believe that we, as evaluators, have a great deal to learn from some of the best data-based journalism (and, while we can harp on the worst of them, let’s focus on the positive).  Data journalists take data and render it accessible and understandable for a lay audience – they tell the story of data and push it out in ways that compel use. Evaluators have data, but often struggle with utilization of that data by decision-makers. Data-driven journalists are building the skill set that can take data and make its value more apparent and its meaning more accessible.

Rad Resource – Journalism in the Age of Data: This is a fantastic multimedia report developed by Geoff McGhee during a Knight Journalism Fellowship focusing on DDJ. This report examines Data Visualization, telling Data Stories, and the Technologies and Tools used by data journalists. I was going to recommend a section, but each piece spoke to me and introduced me to new people, ideas, and concepts. I encourage you to check out any of the sections – not only for the content, but also to consider the way in which the medium is part of the message. As you watch a chapter on the short video, check out how the tabs below the video begin to display related information, bios of speakers, resources, and links.

Hot Tips – DDJ Examples: See:

Rad Resource – Data Driven Journalism Roundtable Report: In August, the European Journalism Centre hosted the Data Driven Journalism Roundtable. They then compiled a report that focused on the essence of the presentations. Filled with resources and thought-provoking questions, it explores the issues impacting DDJ – many of which ring true for evaluation as well.

Ultimately, while we could learn from data-driven journalists, they could learn from evaluators. We bring to the table a knowledge of methodology and a passion for accuracy in representation. They bring the capacity to marry aesthetics and datasets. Ultimately, we both seek to identify and represent the truth in the world around us.

Hot Tip: Interested in DDJ, data-exploration, visualization, and reporting? Contact Stephanie Evergreen at – she’s gathering those who share these interests to consider starting an AEA Topical Interest Group.

The above represents my own opinions and not necessarily those of the American Evaluation Association.

2 thoughts on “Susan Kistler on Data-driven Journalism and Its Lessons for Evaluation”

  1. Susan, thanks for the tips from the world of journalism. Another great resource for learning to write excellent non-fiction is book Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. It’s a treasure house of information on how to write about real life and includes chapters by journalists as well as other storytellers. This book is available on iBooks.

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