Tracie PowellMany UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) students choose the journalism path thinking they can avoid numbers, statistics and formulas. Not so, says journalist Tracie Powell. According to the Stanford John S. Knight Fellow, numerical data is one of the most important tools today’s journalists have in their digital media toolbox.

“A lot of newsrooms are very intimidated by data,” Powell said. “But I think the students who graduate today are the ones who are not only unafraid of data, but embrace it. Every journalist, whether you are connected to a major news organization or not, is going to have to become comfortable using data to understand their audience.”

Powell, the founder and editor of All Digitocracy — a website focused on technology, media and policy — recently visited the SOJC. In addition to meeting with students and faculty, she gave a Demystifying Media seminar about how journalists can use data to reach wider audiences, including underserved populations.

During her hour-long talk in Allen Hall on May 6, Powell explained that the key is learning how to use the data to better understand and connect with our users. She discussed how major media outlets, such as The Washington Post, are using new and innovative data collection techniques to create online user profiles with content that’s tailored for each user, which helps maximize the return rate to their websites.

Powell also discussed the growing pressure for individual journalists to build their own audiences, and how using data is crucial for understanding your readers and connecting with them in an authentic way.

In a growing digital journalism industry, Powell says being open to new experiences and being sincere with your work is extremely valuable for students looking to break into the market. “Be open to almost any and everything,” said Powell. “When you’re a little fish in a big pond, you need to have a strong confidence in yourself but also know when to push back. Young people want to come in and make a big splash, but there’s still merit in taking the time and truly learning the craft and telling the whole story.”

Don’t miss the next Demystifying Media seminar, “How Vox Uses Snapchat’s Discover Channel” with Yvonne Leow, Vox’s senior Snapchat editor. Leow, who was the youngest John S. Knight Fellow in the program’s history, will discuss how Vox is using Snapchat; how it supports the publisher’s audience, content and revenue strategies; and how Discover is different from other social platforms. Leow’s talk will take place in Allen 140 on Friday, May 20, 12-1 p.m.

Story by Nicole Rideout ’16