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Data journalism, misinformation and COVID-19

Update March 25 2021: The Handbook on Media Disinformation and Populism has now been published and is available to order from Routledge.

Oscar Westlund and I are making available an advance version of our chapter on data journalism and misinformation which draws on examples related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The chapter is for the forthcoming Handbook on Media Disinformation and Populism (Routledge), edited by Howard Tumber and Silvio Waisbord.

The author accepted version is available to download as a PDF ahead of publication of the handbook.

In the chapter, we examine how divergent standards for reporting COVID-19 means that data journalism can end up misinforming the public.

Data is political, affecting what is collected, who is included and excluded, how it is processed and analyzed, let alone how it is presented. Access to, availability of, and restrictions on data shape the agenda for data journalists, with major implications for what the journalists know. Despite inherent shortcomings in the data itself, journalists are repeatedly making authoritative and definitive knowledge claims, whereas they could well be more transparent and include linguistic markers to indicate levels of certainty and uncertainty.

This is my first co-authored piece with Oscar, who is a professor at the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Oslo Metropolitan University, where he leads the OsloMet Digital Journalism Research Group. He is also editor-in-chief of Digital Journalism.

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