In recent years, The Washington Post has produced quite a bit of data journalism—from Fatal Force, the database cataloging every fatal shooting nationwide by a police officer in the line of duty to “2°C: Beyond the Limit,” a series which utilized temperature data to demonstrate that extreme climate change is already upon us. Now, the news organization has launched a new data journalism department.
According to Cameron Barr, managing editor of news and features, the Post had been thinking about creating the department for a couple of years, but the initiative recently came into focus for the news organization.
“(Starting the department) reflects our growing commitment to data journalism and to telling more of the systemic, incontrovertible and revealing stories that data collection and analysis makes possible,” he said. “It just became clear to us that it was time to bring everyone together and to find someone who could really lead that department successfully and effectively.”
To find that person, Barr said they searched for an individual who had the experience to coordinate and lead people who worked on different subjects and departments. Additionally, the Post wanted someone who could show the newsroom what best practices are in data journalism.
After going through an unusual hiring process packed with Zoom meetings, the Post hired Meghan Hoyer as data director. Hoyer’s experience includes leading the Associated Press’ data journalism and serving as a data journalist for USA TODAY. She has also served as data editor at the Virginian-Pilot and as a reporter at the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
Hoyer began her role last month, where, according to a press release, she is responsible for leading data projects and acts as a consulting editor on data-driven stories, graphics, and visualizations across the newsroom. She also leads a team of seven data journalists, who remain embedded in their departments including graphics, investigative, metro and national. Barr added Hoyer and her team will also initially work on implementing improved workflows and organizing the newsroom’s data journalism.
“Data is a critical component,” Barr said when asked about the new department’s mission. “More and more data…about what people do in the world (and) what the government does in the world is available. If you can marshal that and use it to tell important stories, that’s a critical aspect of what an ambitious and successful news organization ought to be doing.”