Commons Conversations

Computing the News: Data Journalism and the Search for Objectivity

Commons Conversations
08 Apr, 2024

Computing the News: Data Journalism and the Search for Objectivity

A Commons Conversation

with Sylvain Parasie
Professor of Sociology at Sciences Po (Paris) and Director of Sciences Po's Media Lab

Faced with a full-blown crisis, a growing number of journalists are engaging in seemingly unjournalistic practices such as creating and maintaining databases, handling algorithms, or designing online applications. “Data journalists” claim that these approaches help the profession demonstrate greater objectivity and fulfill its democratic mission. In their view, computational methods enable journalists to better inform their readers, more closely monitor those in power, and offer deeper analysis.

In Computing the News, Sylvain Parasie examines how data journalists and news organizations have navigated the tensions between traditional journalistic values and new technologies. He traces the history of journalistic hopes for computing technology and contextualizes the surge of data journalism in the twenty-first century. By importing computational techniques and ways of knowing new to journalism, news organizations have come to depend on a broader array of human and nonhuman actors. Parasie draws on extensive fieldwork in the United States and France, including interviews with journalists and data scientists as well as a behind-the-scenes look at several acclaimed projects in both countries. Ultimately, he argues, fulfilling the promise of data journalism requires the renewal of journalistic standards and ethics. Offering an in-depth analysis of how computing has become part of the daily practices of journalists, this book proposes ways for journalism to evolve in order to serve democratic societies.

About Sylvain Parasie

Sylvain Parasie is a Professor of Sociology at Sciences Po (Paris) and Director of Sciences Po's Media Lab. Parasie received his PhD in Sociology from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan, and holds an Agregation in Social Sciences and Economics. His research explores the interplay between technology, news organizations, and democracy, based on qualitative and computational methods. He has conducted fieldwork, in the U.S. and France, on legal regulation of the media, digital innovation in news organizations, and the emerging relationships between journalism and computer science.


BCNM events are free and open to the public. This event will be held in-person, on the UC Berkeley campus. We strive to meet all access and accommodation needs. Please contact info.bcnm [at] with requests or questions.

BCNM is proud to make conversations with leading scholars, artists, and technologists freely available to the public. Please help us continue this tradition by making a tax-deductible donation today. If you are in the position to support the program, we suggest $5 per event, or $100 a year.

Previous Next