Columbia University Press, October 2022

Available on CUP’s website and Amazon

Preview on Google Books

Faced with a full-blown crisis, a growing number of journalists are engaging in seemingly unjournalistic practices such as creating and maintaining databases, handling algorithms, or designing online applications. “Data journalists” claim that these approaches help the profession demonstrate greater objectivity and fulfill its democratic mission. In their view, computational methods enable journalists to better inform their readers, more closely monitor those in power, and offer deeper analysis.

In Computing the News, Sylvain Parasie examines how data journalists and news organizations have navigated the tensions between traditional journalistic values and new technologies. He traces the history of journalistic hopes for computing technology and contextualizes the surge of data journalism in the twenty-first century. By importing computational techniques and ways of knowing new to journalism, news organizations have come to depend on a broader array of human and nonhuman actors. Parasie draws on extensive fieldwork in the United States and France, including interviews with journalists, data scientists, and technologists as well as a behind-the-scenes look at several acclaimed projects in both countries. Ultimately, he argues, fulfilling the promise of data journalism requires the renewal of journalistic standards and ethics. Offering an in-depth analysis of how computing has become part of the daily practices of journalists, this book proposes ways for journalism to evolve in order to serve democratic societies.


Computing the News is a brilliant account of the potential of technological practice for the renewal of media work and its implications for society at large. Building on his extensive comparative research, Sylvain Parasie has crafted a book that is poised to become a must-read for scholars, analysts, and practitioners.”

—Pablo J. Boczkowski, author of Abundance: On the Experience of Living in a World of Information Plenty

Computing the News is required reading for anyone studying data journalism. Weaving together deep sociological insights with much-needed historical context, Parasie expertly parses how the field has tactfully integrated data and computing while maintaining normative commitments.”

—Nicholas Diakopoulos, author of Automating the News: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Media

“Journalists and future journalists will find in this book a necessary ethical roadmap for the use of data and algorithms, rooted in an in-depth analysis of best practices and pitfalls in U.S. and French media. For journalism scholars, this is a must-read book, featuring wonderfully crafted research on technological innovations.”

—David Domingo, Université Libre de Bruxelles

“Yes, journalism is knowledge! In this book, Parasie brilliantly shows how all the tricky aspects of doing research—questioning where data come from, reflecting on bias and exclusion, understanding how institutions influence what we see—are crucial aspects of news and what it is for: making truths public.”

—Noortje Marres, author of Digital Sociology: The Reinvention of Social Research

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Trying to Be Nonjudgmental
1 Revealing Injustice with Computers, 1967–1995
2 Rankings; or, The Unintended Consequences of Computation, 1988–2000

3 Rebooting Journalism
4 A Tale of Two Cultures?
5 The Tensions Facing Data Journalism

6 The Making of a Revelation
7 How Not to Get Academic
8 The Art of Bringing About Publics
Conclusion: An Ethics of Reflexivity