Data Journalism and Investigative Reporting in the Arab World: From Emotive to Evidence-Based Journalism

Springer Nature
Publication Type:
Data Journalism in the Global South, 2020, pp. 193-204
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Data-driven journalism is still somewhat new in the Arab world, and despite some promising initiatives, there are a few obstacles that Arab journalism faces in this transitional period to data journalism. This chapter will discuss two of these challenges: the first is traditional practices of Arab reporting that can be described as emotive in nature, and the second is the lack of data and access to information. Nonetheless, reporters, and particularly investigative journalists in the region, are working towards addressing these two challenges especially through the training of the next generation of journalists. Interestingly, data journalism is being adopted by Arab investigative reporters with the aim of producing evidence-based reporting, and for that reason this chapter will focus specifically on that form of journalism. James S. Ettema and Theodore L. Glaser (1998) point out that emotion and persuasion also play a role in American investigative journalism: hence, they define investigative journalism as ‘the fiercest of indignation fused with the hardest of fact’ (Ettema and Glasser 1998, 10). In this definition, investigative journalism is characterised by a morally engaged voice which seeks to evoke ‘public moral indignation (Ettema and Glasser 1998, 10). In accordance, this chapter argues that investigative journalism in the Arab world is already characterised by the ‘fiercest of indignation’ but is now seeking to fuse that with the ‘hardest of facts’. Ettema and Glaser (1998) state that: ‘Investigative reporting yields stories that are carefully verified and skillfully narrated accounts of specific injury and injustice, but stories with a meaning that transcends the facts of the particular case’ (Ettema and Glasser 1998: 3).
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