Monday, July 6, 2015

Data Journalism

I read the Washington Post article about police shootings of the mentally ill from our suggested reading over the weekend.

The article did a phenomenal job of using the data collected to reveal an otherwise little known issue in our country. Much of the data available is provided by the government, so I commend the Post staff for taking the initiative to begin collecting their own data when the what the government provided was not sufficient. As journalists, it is important that we use the resources at our disposable to compile such information, and make it available to the public.

Secondly, I like that the article combines the data with stories. The stories bring important context to the numbers and highlight what is really going on. It is important for those reading this article to understand why the police feel that they must shoot those having a mental crisis (lack of training and misunderstanding), otherwise the story would have been one-sided. I think that including both stories from the victims families, as well as input from police management was a great addition.

One thing that I think is missing from this article is a comparison to how things are done in other nations. Mental illness is extremely misunderstood in the U.S., and we are not ranked especially well for our treatment of those with mental disabilities. Pointing this out could have shed even more light on the problem of treating mental illness in the U.S. and why the mentally ill end up with such high fatalities, especially from use of force by police.  

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