November 12, 2018
Yaru Wen is a news reporter at China Global Television Network (CGTV) in Beijing. She is an alumnus of USCET’s data journalism workshop last year
Q: What is your view of data journalism as a news reporter?
A: I think that data can better help us evaluate the direction of a story. By looking at data patterns, we can see new potential angles that we didn’t know were there. For example, after determining which general topic we want to investigate, we can go and find relative data. Then, we can examine the data to find a specific topic. Also, data visualization can be very interesting. Through our analysis, we can give life to the data. We can combine different perspectives to tell a story. At present, data journalism is still a novel reporting method, which makes the news article richer and the content more diverse.
Q: What are some of the challenges that you face when working in data journalism? How do you cope with them?
A: I think there are two difficulties to working in data journalism in China. One is that data is hard to find. For example, one project I have done is about analyzing China's atmospheric PM2.5, but since there are very few official sources, we worry that the data from other sources may not be up to the standards of foreign outlets. The choice of data sources can affect the story’s coverage, so finding good ones is very important. Unfortunately, there are so few databases available in China that are reliable.
Second, people lack the professional experience that is necessary for processing and analyzing data. For example, when reporting an aviation accident, we should look for the data and information that can best reflect the severity of the aviation accident, which all requires experience. Similarly, an experienced team is also very important because they are better at finding and analyzing the data.
Q: Have you used any skills you learned from the workshop?
A: I’ve used a lot of the things that I learned from the data journalism workshop. This five-day course was relatively simple, but it helped me to open up my mind and enabled me to better understand the development of data journalism. The teachers in the workshop taught me the process of analyzing specific news production, from conception to option elimination to finalization. It's a process of getting close to the source of the news, and that process might lead me to a different result.
Q: Could you share with us your favorite data journalism project?
A: I really like one article from Reuters. The name is Life in the Camps. This article describes the sanitation situation in Myanmar by analyzing the distribution of slums, drinking water, and toilets. It also analyzes various phenomena and concludes that the mortality rate of diseases is related to the distribution of toilets. The Reuters team is very strong and experienced and has local partnerships, so their data is reliable.