ProPublica’s Data Journalism: How Multidisciplinary Teams and Hybrid Profiles Create Impactful Data Stories

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

ProPublica’s Data Journalism: How Multidisciplinary Teams and Hybrid Profiles Create Impactful Data Stories


  • Mathias-Felipe de-Lima-Santos School of Communication, University of Navarra, Spain


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Abstract:  Despite growing interest in the emergence of technologies in journalistic practices, especially from the production perspective, there is still very little research on organizational structures and professional culture in relation to the deployment of these technologies. Drawing on six interviews and observation in staff meetings, this study aims to explore the nuances behind the professional roles of data journalists and how these relate to structural aspects of news organizations. The study focuses on the case of ProPublica, a news organization internationally renowned for its global excellence in data stories. This work considers boundary-making in the context of journalism and focuses on new professional roles in the news industry to produce a hybrid ethnography study based on qualitative data collected immediately before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States. The findings reveal the importance of hybrid profiles at ProPublica. While some journalists have had to expand their knowledge to learn more about new areas, such as coding and design, some non-journalistic professionals have had to develop writing skills, and this blurring of traditional boundaries forms an important aspect of ProPublica’s professional culture. The structure of the organization, divided into two teams engaged in cross-sector activities, helps to promote data skills and collaboration with other journalists, which also serves to mitigate any individual lack of experience on certain topics. The article concludes by suggesting that the growing importance of these new professional roles has broader implications for the development of data skills in the newsroom, and also discusses the limitations that can arise from the increasing overlap between journalistic and non-journalistic roles.

Keywords:  data journalism; hybrid profile; journalism; multidisciplinary teams; news nerds; ProPublica

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v10i1.4433


© Mathias-Felipe de-Lima-Santos. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.