USP Journalism coordinator co-authors ground-breaking research paper on data journalism in the Pacific
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Dr Kayt Davies and Dr Shailendra Singh
The coordinator of the USP Journalism Programme, Dr Shailendra Singh, has co-authored a ground-breaking study into the emerging practice of data journalism in the Pacific, along with the lead author, Dr Kayt Davies of Curtin University, Western Australia.
The study, the first of its kind focused on the Pacific news media, is entitled, ‘Data Journalism in the Pacific: Practices and Perceptions’. It was published as a chapter in a book called Data Journalism in the Global South (2020). Prior to this publication on the Pacific, research on data journalism had been primarily focused on how it is practiced in US and European contexts.
Data Journalism in the Global South
The Pacific study is based on a two-pronged approach that combines content analysis of data journalism published in newspapers from four Pacific nations and qualitative data sourced from editors and senior journalists working in the region. The study also incorporates input from the USP journalism educators and students at Laucala Campus
in Suva, Fiji.
The four major newspapers in the content analysis were the Papua New Guinea Post Courier, The Fiji Times, The Solomon Star and The Vanuatu Daily Post. The content analysis was supplemented by data from a questionnaire survey of 15 journalists and editors from 10 media organisations in five Pacific island countries.
The content analysis found that many of the infographics used by the newspapers are externally sourced and problematic in various ways. The problems include poor labelling, tiny unreadable fonts and sources not being cited.
The survey highlighted that the journalists who completed the questionnaire had little awareness of how much data journalism was being done in the Pacific, but they were clear that more should be done, and about what was holding them back.
The research inferred that structural weaknesses in the Pacific media sector hinder the uptake of data journalism. These include low wages, poor working conditions and lack of access to appropriate technology. Another hindrance is the social and cultural structures that inhibit journalists from holding powerful community members to account.
The authors observe that given the challenges, it is not surprising that uptake of data journalism in the region has been slow. "While we appreciate why it has been difficult, doing more data journalism could be a way forward for Pacific journalists to engage more with those holding power to account," the authors conclude.
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