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Ethical Pitfalls of Data Digging in Journalism
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethical Pitfalls of Data Digging impact and great harm because people are accustomed to getting news and information from the Web and spreading it virally via social networks such as Twitter or Facebook. The “terrain of news consumption has changed greatly, with more and more Americans turning to the Internet for news information (Pew/Hong, p. 15). Americans today still get most of their news from local television (78 percent), but online (61 percent) has surpassed both the local newspaper (50 percent) and national newspapers (17 percent) as the preferred medium (Pew/McBride). In addition, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reports that 65 percent of adults are comfortable getting news online at least once to several times a day (Pew/McBride) making data immediately available for consumption and distribution and making the potential for harm much greater. Adrian Holovaty, journalist and Web developer who founded EveryBlock, the micro-local news Website that was acquired by msnbc.com in 2009, interestingly notes that “everything is data. It’s not just the clichés, like crime and public records stuff” (Holovaty). Holovaty says that journalists use data differently than they might have in traditional news stories. “They’re turning it into a product that’s ‘not meant to tell a story but to improve your life’ ” (Marino). Used in this way, data is an impressive source of information for journalists and a formidable source of information for news consumers. But we must be mindful of the role of the journalist in providing information and context for information and not just experiences to improve lives. Francisco Jose Castilhos Karam observes that “journalism has become a qualitative intermediary in 8

Authors: Leach, Jan. and Gilbert, Jeremy.
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Ethical Pitfalls of Data Digging
impact and great harm because people are accustomed to getting news and 
information from the Web and spreading it virally
 
via social networks such as Twitter 
or Facebook. The “terrain of news consumption has changed greatly, with more and 
more Americans turning to the Internet for news information (Pew/Hong, p. 15). 
Americans today still get most of their news from local television (78 percent), but 
online (61 percent) has surpassed both the local newspaper (50 percent) and national 
newspapers (17 percent) as the preferred medium (Pew/McBride). In addition, the Pew 
Research Center for the People and the Press reports that 65 percent of adults are 
comfortable getting news online at least once to several times a day (Pew/McBride) 
making data immediately available for consumption and distribution and making the 
potential for harm much greater.
Adrian Holovaty, journalist and Web developer who founded EveryBlock, the 
micro-local news Website that was acquired by msnbc.com in 2009, interestingly 
notes that “everything is data. It’s not just the clichés, like crime and public records 
stuff” (Holovaty). Holovaty says that journalists use data differently than they might 
have in traditional news stories. “They’re turning it into a product that’s ‘not meant to 
tell a story but to improve your life’ ” (Marino). Used in this way, data is an impressive 
source of information for journalists and a formidable source of information for news 
consumers.
But we must be mindful of the role of the journalist in providing information 
and context for information and not just experiences to improve lives. Francisco Jose 
Castilhos Karam observes that “journalism has become a qualitative intermediary in 
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