School Seminars and Colloquia

Transforming Data into Stories: How the Media Shapes Truth in the midst of an Information Revolution


by Michael Gawenda, Norman Swan, Simon Mann and Denis Muller

Institution: The University of Melbourne
Date: Wed 25th March 2009
Time: 12:00 PM
Location: JH Michell Theatre, Richard Berry Bldg, University of Melb

Abstract: For most people, their understanding of the world comes from the media, from the newspapers they read, the television programs they watch, the radio stations they favor—and increasingly, the internet sites they log onto every day. The flood of information grows bigger by the day. We are deluged by it, bewildered by it and at times, frustrated by it.

Much of that information comes from quantitative data, the result of research projects by scientists, medical researchers and social researchers. Increasingly, this data is mediated through PR companies, hired to ensure the data gets wide media coverage. Often the research is specially commissioned by companies, including drug companies, business groups, trade union organizations, governments and NGOs.

On any given day, journalists are bombarded with data. Their job is to transform this data—a fraction of it in reality—into accessible, and if possible `human’ stories. This is a huge challenge for journalism.

The forum, with some of Australia’s leading journalists, will examine how well the media have met those challenges, the strengths and weaknesses of the way the media finds, analyses and presents quantitative data and whether journalists, with more training, could be better equipped to handle the deluge of data that comes at them every day of their working lives.

For More Information: Robert Maillardet R.Maillardet@