Data: What Journalists and Academics Can Learn From One Another

Written by Sean Mussenden. Posted in Sessions

Panel Description: Academics and journalists use data for different reasons and in different contexts, but both groups seek to better inform the public with the knowledge they share. Pioneering journalists have been on the forefront of data visualization, while academics have a tradition in social science methods and statistics. What can we learn from one another, and how might we work together? This conversation will address the opportunities and challenges both groups encounter when working with data.


  • Cindy Royal, Associate Professor, Texas State University
  • Jeremy Bowers, News Application Developer, NPR
  • Amy Schmitz-Weiss, Assistant Professor of Journalism, San Diego State University
  • Matt Waite, Professor of Practice, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Student Writeup

By Burton Hohman, University of Florida
GAINESVILLE – The web is a canvas, data is paint, and we can do beautiful things with it, Matt Waite, a professor of practice at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told the audience at a panel designed to show how academics and journalists can work together to use data to tell stories and present visually compelling research.

But the panel, “Data: What Journalists and Academics Can Learn from One Another,” of leading journalism professors and digital journalists said there were obstacles in academia that have hindered them.

Amy Schmitz-Weiss, a San Diego State University assitant journalism professor, said that print-focused academic journals limit the ability to present data in visually compelling ways.

“All beauty is lost,” she said.

Waite argued that university institutional review boards not only slow down the research process but also violate his first amendment rights. Schmitz-Weiss added that such boards also provide an obstacle for researchers.

The panel closed with a call to action for the audience: to use the power of the Inernet to teach students to manipulate and visuallize data.

“I can get you a job anywhere in the western world,” if you have those skills, Waite said. The problem? Schools are manufacturing students who can write stories, but not teaching them how visualize data.

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