My post yesterday on data journalism and gun control touched off quite a stir and storm. I think there was some legitimate criticism of my broad brush criticism of data journalism, or at least the way my headline could be read that way. There’s a lot of great data journalism out there. My former colleague Al Shaw flagged just one example here.
It’s not all data journalism – which I stated explicitly. The problems I noted are not intrinsic to data journalism. But they are what I would call a natural and not uncommon shortcoming: When you have a hammer, everything seems to be a nail. This is as much a problem with more conventional narrative journalistic methods as with data journalism. When you have extreme confidence in the power of (and success with) data to clarify questions and reveal patterns, you can lose track of or give too little attention to whether the questions you’re asking are even the right ones to ask.
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