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DATA-DRIVEN REVELATION? Epistemological tensions in investigative journalism in the age of 'big data'

Abstract : As an increasing number of reporters see databases and algorithms as appropriate means of doing investigation, journalism has been challenged in recent years by the following question: to what extent would the processing of huge datasets allow journalists to produce new types of revelations that rely less on normative assumptions? Drawing on the analysis of a particular investigation by the San Francisco-based Center for Investigative Reporting, this article points out the existence of epistemological tensions in the making of journalistic revelations that involve the processing of vast amounts of data. First, I show that the design of data-processing artifacts can match the traditional epistemology of journalistic investigation, but only with great efforts and resources from the organization. Second, I point out that the use of these artifacts by journalists follows two opposite paths to produce the revelation: a " hypothesis-driven " path and a " data-driven " path. Such findings contribute to a better understanding of how news organizations produce justified beliefs, as data-processing artifacts become major components of the newsroom's environment.
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Submitted on : Thursday, March 10, 2016 - 6:46:55 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - 2:29:09 AM
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Sylvain Parasie. DATA-DRIVEN REVELATION? Epistemological tensions in investigative journalism in the age of 'big data'. Digital Journalism , Routledge, 2015, 3 (3), pp.364-380. ⟨10.1080/21670811.2014.976408⟩. ⟨hal-01284731⟩

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