Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version


Document Type



McBride, Rebekah E.D. (2016). The Ethics of Data Journalism. Digital Commons University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1-44.


Professional Project, College of Journalism & Mass Communications, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Copyright (c) Rebekah E.D. McBride


Data journalism is a growing trend that offers journalists new and exciting ways to tell stories. In a general sense it can be defined as “obtaining, cleaning and analyzing data for use in telling journalistic stories” but its application is much more complicated than this simple definition. Data journalism has grown alongside the burgeoning computational technology industry, but these huge gains in technology have not been followed by similar gains in data-journalism scholarship and education. In particular, research and college-level courses related to the ethics of data journalism are lacking. The lack of ethics preparation will provide significant challenges for future journalists looking to obtain the interpretation and critical thinking skills they need to write compelling and ethical data-based stories. With that in mind, this paper investigates the ethics of data journalism in the context of education. Through interviews with industry experts and an analysis of the latest research, several best practices became clear. This paper highlights a few of those key ethical guidelines including the importance of placing all data in context and minimizing harm to those in the news. While data journalism warrants some special considerations, many of the ethical guidelines that are needed to support data journalism are already in place. Ultimately, journalists must simply make an effort to apply those guidelines to data and then share those guidelines through education and scholarship.