Concept

Computer-assisted reporting

Summary
Computer-assisted reporting describes the use of computers to gather and analyze the data necessary to write news stories. The spread of computers, software and the Internet changed how reporters work. Reporters routinely collect information in databases, analyze public records with spreadsheets and statistical programs, study political and demographic change with geographic information system mapping, conduct interviews by e-mail, and research background for articles on the Web. Collectively this has become known as computer-assisted reporting, or CAR. It is closely tied to "precision" or analytic journalism, which refer specifically to the use of techniques of the social sciences and other disciplines by journalists. One researcher argues the "age of computer-assisted reporting" began in 1952, when CBS television used a UNIVAC I computer to analyze returns from the U.S. presidential election. One of the earliest examples came in 1967, after riots in Detroit, when Philip Meyer of the Detroit Free Press used a mainframe computer to show that people who had attended college were equally likely to have rioted as were high school dropouts. Since the 1950s, computer-assisted developed to the point that databases became central to the journalist's work by the 1980s. In his book, Precision Journalism, the first edition of which was written in 1969, Philip Meyer argues that a journalist must make use of databases and surveys, both computer-assisted. In the 2002 edition, he goes even further and states that "a journalist has to be a database manager". In 2001, computers had reached a critical mass in American newsrooms in terms of general computer use, online research, non-specialist content searching, and daily frequency of online use, showing that CAR has become ubiquitous in the United States. The techniques expanded from polling and surveying to a new opportunity for journalists: using the computer to analyze huge volumes of government records.
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