“If something happens once, okay. If something happens twice, okay. If something happens three times, it’s a trend,” Reporter Maggie Gordon told a group of perspective journalists during a press conference event on Thursday.
The 27-year-old Greenwich Time columnist has made a career out of data. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse, Gordon is a product of the 2008 job freeze. After struggling to land internships from publications like Men’s Health and getting a job with Hearst Corporation after a year of looking, Gordon realized that she needed to set herself apart from the other thousand young journalists across the country.
“When I first got into journalism, I didn’t think I would be working with math,” she said. “What drew me to trends was that I love math and I love statistics.”
Becoming an expert with trends was no easy feat for Gordon, who found fellowships and workshops to train her to use. Using her passion for math and journalism to zero in on trends, Gordon was able to start a “Trending with Maggie Gordon” column for the Connecticut Hearst Newspapers where she uses data to write interest pieces revolving around Fairfield County.
Writing data-driven pieces has caused Gordon to learn to use on statistics found at data centers like Pew Center and the U.S. Census Bureau. Though most of the data she obtains is public information, much of it requires a Freedom of Information Letter requesting information, which at times can be a very difficult process.
“People always say that teachers and police officers who work in a place like Greenwich can’t afford to live there,” Gordon said, adding that she wanted to know if it was true.
Interested in whether or not teachers and police officers could live in the wealthy town they worked in, Gordon sent a Freedom of Information Letter, asking for home addresses for her subjects. The Letter was rejected and Gordon and Hearst ended up in court over the right to obtain addresses through the Freedom of Information Act.
Gordon and Hearst Corporation lost their case for access to information after it was determined that, “a zip code is an address.”
While Gordon describes disappointing moments in the field of data-driven journalism, she is quick to defend it.
“Data can be fun,” Gordon said.
Data-driven journalism is an important part of the journalism field. The world has become more technology driven and therefore data-driven. Despite this, Gordon warns that it is important to always be looking at the facts.
“A.B.C.: Always be checking, Gordon said. “If someone tells you that these are the statistics, I want to see the documents.”