ARTICLE: Ethical issues in data journalism

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The use of big data in journalism has many ethical pitfalls, which may cause an unfortunate backlash against the practice, write David Craig and Mohammad Yousuf, both of the University of Oklahoma, with Stan Ketterer, of Oklahoma State University (names not in original order). The authors analysed three discussion threads pertaining to data journalism ethics on the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) listserv.

The discussions were varied with no clear consensus. Themes ranged from risks to journalists and subjects of data to alternatives to putting out sensitive information. Craig, Ketterer, and Yousuf condensed the debate into the following list of things to consider prior to publishing large data sets:

  • What purpose would publishing the data serve?
  • Who might be affected by the publication?
  • Are there alternatives to publishing the data as-is?
  • How accurate and/or verifiable is the data?

The article “To Post or Not to Post” was published by the journal Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. It is available online (abstract free).

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