On Jan. 29 from 12:20 to 2:30 p.m., the University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) Centre for Access to Information and Justice (CAIJ) is hosting CBC journalist Jacques Marcoux, who will talk about “data science in Canadian newsrooms.” This event, held in room 1L07, is part of the CAIJ’s Politics of Information Colloquium Series.
Marcoux says his “presentation will focus on the increased use of data, statistics and general research methods in Canadian newsrooms.”
“Data journalism is the use of data and number-crunching in journalism to uncover, better explain and/or provide context to a news story,” according to Techopedia. Examples of this would include the coloured map showing the “Yes” versus “No” votes in Winnipeg during the Portage and Main referendum that circled social media in 2018.
“So much digital information gathered by agencies, companies and various levels of government is used for decision-making and is used to justify all types of policy decisions,” Marcoux says.
“Newsrooms are adapting to this reality by building capacity internally to challenge these decisions by sort of ‘peer-reviewing’ the assertions being communicated to the public,” Marcoux says.
“I think this approach has always been relevant for (newsrooms) across the country, but only in the past decade has this approach really been taken seriously.
“And now you'll see that nearly all of the most impactful news stories or investigations contain some sort of data science component to them.”
The CAIJ, which “promotes public interest research using freedom of information (FOI) and access to information (ATI) law,” and is housed in the U of W, “aims to be a leading international hub for public interest research on matters of freedom of information and access to justice in Canada and beyond,” according to their website.
Kevin Walby, associate professor of criminal justice at the U of W, is the CAIJ’s director.
“The CAIJ has a mandate to advance awareness of public interest research and advance research that uses freedom of information requests,” he says.
“This term, we tried to bring in data journalists who are real experts at this to try to educate professors, students, academics, anyone really interested in trying to do this kind of work for their own purposes,” Walby says, adding that these data journalists often use freedom of information requests.
He says these talks raise the question: “What would social science look like if we started to borrow some of the techniques that data journalists use?”
“We really want to foster this kind of dialogue between academia, journalism, advocacy and activism, which sometimes gets lost,” Walby says.
Marcoux, who has been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award, currently works as an investigative reporter for CBC News.
“Knowing that there is a growing interest in the use of data gives me hope that the spread of misinformation on certain issues in society can be curbed to a degree,” Marcoux says.
“Spreading these concepts, that can empower others to think more critically about the information they consume or encounter in their daily lives, I feel is a big part of the journalistic mandate and this event fits well into that theme.”
This event is the second of four in the Politics of Information Colloquium Series.
For more information on the Centre for Access to Information and Justice’s Politics of Information Colloquium Series, visit uwinnipeg.ca/caij.
Published in Volume 74, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 23, 2020)