Innovators in Data Journalism: An Interview with Lan Xing Yu

Lan Xing Yu is currently studying at Peking University’s HSBC Business School, and she hopes to pursue data journalism after graduation. She is an alumna of USCET’s Data Journalism Workshop.

Q: How did you become interested in data journalism?

A: I first learned about data journalism during my senior year of college. I was interested in journalism as an undergrad, and I was thinking of becoming a journalist. But I was uncertain about which kind of journalism I should pursue. There are so many subfields–you can focus on writing about people, or you can write features or research-based pieces. After I learned about data journalism, I thought it best suited my personality. I am very rational and like how quantitative it is.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced in becoming a data journalist? How did you overcome it?

A: There were a lot of tools I had to learn—it was hard to know where to begin. But after I grasped the basic tools, I realized that they are only a means to help me express my points. One thing that is concerning me right now is that data journalism pieces are often too impersonal. In China, data journalism relies too much on the data itself. The articles consist mainly of statistics, scales, and proportions. This style offers precision but loses the appeal of a good story. I’m still finding my balance between both faithfully presenting data and telling a story.

Q: As a student, why do you think data journalism is important?

A: I think that data journalism provides a good opportunity for journalism students, especially for humanities students, to learn technical skills. Data journalism is also developing rapidly in China. There used to be very few pieces of data journalism available. I could only find a few information graphs online during my senior year. But now, news reports include more and more professional graphs and interface content. So, the entrance bar to the industry has risen. One needs to develop skills quickly in order to stay competitive in the field.

Q: How do you personally develop your skills?

A: I follow data journalism in the media in order to learn about any changes in the industry. I also read about a range of topics to broaden my knowledge. For instance, I have been following City Data Team, which focuses on data related to the cities, including city planning and traffics. But I also read about entertainment, fashion, and VC investment, which is not necessarily data heavy.


Lan Xing Yu现在就读于北大汇丰商学院。她希望能够毕业后能从事数据新闻工作。她是USCET数据新闻工作坊的校友。