Data, Polling, the Media and Democracy

For the last few weeks, my mind has been arrested by a single thought: Donald Trump is president-elect. How did we get here, and where do we go from here?

Today, my attempts to answer these questions lead me to Data, Polling, the Media and Democracy, a panel discussion by Columbia’s Data and Society Taskforce. It was introduced by David Madigan (Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences, Professor of Statistics at Columbia University), it featured Nate Silver (Founder and Editor in Chief of FiveThirtyEight), Emily Bell (Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University), and Robert Shapiro (Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Political Science at Columbia University), and it was moderated by Ester Fuchs (Professor of International and Public Affairs and Political Science at Columbia University).

I didn’t necessarily learn a lot of new things, and it wasn’t a particularly groundbreaking event, but it felt satisfying to be there. It was exactly what I wanted and needed: space and time dedicated to making sense of what happened in the election and to thinking of ways forward.

Much of the discussion was about decision making under uncertainty and truth and trust in journalism. I could tell you all about it, but it was recorded, so you have the chance to experience it for yourself. My favorite parts were:

  • David Madigan’s call for general quantitative literacy
  • Robert Shapiro’s assertion that “facts and data matter because they have real world consequences”
  • Emily Bell on the rising “existential anxiety to support good journalism”
  • Nate Silver on “curating [readers’] experience” and keeping articles in context

If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, at least watch the discussion at 1:00:58 – 1:08:10 that considers the future of journalism, with a focus on business models, truth, and trust.

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