precision journalism - tilburg university 2013 & 2014

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MA course, co-taught with Gzregorz Chrupala, and offered in the framework of the MA Data Journalism, Tilburg University, academic year 2012/2013 and 2013/2014

The course will introduce students to the use of social research methodologies and digital methods for journalist inquiry and investigation. Part methodological and technology training, part critical exploration of what it means to do journalism in the digital age, the course will offer the students the chance to work on a topic of their choice adopting a wide array of social research methods.

Precision journalism indicates the use of social science methods to gather and analyze data, bringing a level of rigor to journalistic work beyond anecdotal evidence. The first to introduce a “precision” approach to journalism was Philip Meyer. In 1970, he published the book Precision Journalism: A Reporter's Introduction to Social Science Methods. In August 2011, Meyer collaborated with the British newspaper The Guardian and the LSE's Social Policy Department to cover what became known as the London riots. The aim of the project was to "conduct high-quality social research at a speed and in a way that maximises its likelihood of affecting public and political debate without sacrificing any of its rigour."

In this course, students will learn how to use social science methods to analyze data and provide accurate and in-depth information in easier-to-understand forms. The final objective is the creation of a rigorous and far-reaching journalistic story. Key topics are the core elements of data gathering and analysis in combination with journalism, such as in-depth interviews, focus groups, process tracing, surveys, statistics, experiments, and data analysis. Students will be introduced to the basics of journalism, its history and ethical values, and will be introduced to quantitative as well as qualitative approaches in understanding the world. Further, they will familiarize themselves with digital research methods, and the many possibilities offered by the web to develop new methods and new research questions to interrogate online social reality.

Learning outcomes
Students will

  • Familiarize themselves with the field of journalism, its history and its ethical values, with a focus on the most recent developments in digital journalism
  • Learn about precision journalism as a form of far-reaching investigative journalism
  • Familiarize themselves with the main qualitative and quantitative social science methods, in a journalistic perspective
  • Learn to understand the process, roles, and tasks involved in a precision journalistic project
  • Learn to plan, research, and create a multimedia precision journalism project
  • Familiarize themselves with ever-evolving toolbox of the precision journalist, and put the tools and techniques to use
  • Learn to engage in both group and autonomous work, as well as creative work