Data runs the modern world and in the age of information, data can be used to uncover stories lurking beneath the surface. On our podcast Coffee with a Journalist, we speak with journalists from various outlets and industries. We spoke with 3 journalists about how they use data to uncover scoops and create data-driven stories.
In today’s rapid news cycle, original and unique content drives traffic and stands out. Gabriela Barkho, reporter for Modern Retail, discusses data as a foundational piece in her content stating, “we do have a very high standard, even new stories have to have original reporting or analysis data.”
For TechCrunch journalist Alex Wilhelm, data mining not only supports stories but also inspires them. When speaking on this topic, he said,
“one relatively fertile place to look for ideas is in lots and lots of raw data, and I get sent reports from banks and investor groups and activist investors and all sorts of people.”
Alex continues to praise data’s objectivity noting, “they provide really interesting looks into the world as it is,” and elaborates that reports do not “tend to be particularly biased because they’re just big chunks of data that have been sliced and graphed in different ways.”
But data does not fall from the sky. It takes journalistic communication and investigative work to access and find the pieces to put together. When discussing how she gets started, Wall Street Journal Reporter Ann-Marie Alcantara begins her process by talking to industry experts to understand the landscape. She states,
“I think first reaching out to the usual analysts that, this is their bread and butter every day, this is what they’re studying, this is what they’re writing case studies on, those people. And then depending on what the topic is, getting a little more granular and reading.”
Gabriela has a similar method for data discovery. Her search starts with, “reaching out to your sources, analysts, kind of your Rolodex of people, the company itself, if they’re involved.” She acknowledges that this outreach is not always a straightforward path noting, “you kind of just hope that everything comes back together.” She continues, “and when it doesn’t, then you kind of have to go back to the drawing board and see what you could salvage.”
Similarly for Alex, the curated data always has to lead back to a story that readers will find valuable. He synthesizes this point when discussing previous pieces he’s written saying,
“I wanted to understand what was behind them, got the answers, and then I reread the report and I’m now currently comparing what I’ve read and written and understood about the market against that and trying to figure out where the most important anecdotes and data points are that will help explain the world as it is to people who read what I write.”
Though extremely compelling and poignant, data-driven stories do not arise from happenstance. They come from journalists digging in the masses of information to find that needle in a haystack. But when data-driven stories come together, after hours of thorough investigation and research, journalists create meaningful stories that truly embody journalism and reporting at its core.
As a PR Pro, understanding the media landscape is just as important as understanding the journalist you are about to pitch. Check out our All-Inclusive Guide to Media Relations for a complete breakdown of the difference between media relations and public relations, why media relations is essential, and tips on optimizing your media relations strategy! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter to stay up to date and in the know!