Talia Duffy

Get to know some of our College of Media students! Talia Duffy is a Class of 2025 journalism major. 

What made you want to major in journalism?
My whole life, I have always enjoyed speaking to people, and informing people about different things. Being able to investigate and learn more about different topics has always been an interest of mine. I thought journalism to be a natural extension of informing by conversation, since the main goal of it is to teach the public of what's happening. I also love to write, and being able to talk to people is really a passion that is at the core of journalism. 

What kind of journalism are you interested in? And why did you take up a dual degree in statistics?
I’m really interested in data journalism. It’s very niche to the field but I love it. I am a math person, and data journalism is a great way to combine my interests by using technical skills and visualizations to understand the bigger picture in a data set. Before declaring a dual degree, I took Data Science Discovery, Stats 107, and it taught me different ways statistics could be implemented in other careers, specifically journalism. After taking the class I became a course assistant, which made me love statistics even more. Soon I started to think of ways to implement statistics into journalism, which helped me come across data journalism. My freshman year I missed math since my major is heavier than mathematics. Getting a dual degree filled that part of me I was missing, because math was a subject I have loved for a long time, and without it something was missing.

What made you want to attend the College of Media?
I liked the school because of how diverse it was. The College of Media is one of the smallest colleges on campus, but because of its small size, it’s very interactive. You get to know your professors and interact with your peers. I think the average class size is similar to one you might see in high school. It’s a great community, which at a university of this size is really important. We have the advantage of having that small college feel while also being a big school. 

There are also a lot of opportunities across campus as people need help with promotions. Media content is everywhere, and because of our size, there’s always going to be opportunity for students because of the sheer amount of demand there is for our students.

What are you involved in on campus?
Right now, I’m a part of Data Science Discovery, which is where I make educational videos explaining difficult homework questions, or topics that students can use. I’m one of the only Media students on staff so it comes in handy that I get to combine both my passions. Also for Data Science Discovery I help make instructional articles for their website, and edit their web pages and text book. Another extracurricular I’m a part of is The Daily Illini, our campus newspaper. Currently, I’m a senior columnist and I help with editing and AP style. I also write some news articles when needed.

What class would you recommend all journalism students should take?
I might be biased, but I think every student should take data journalism. I’m taking the class right now. My professor, Dr. Margaret Yee Man Ng, is amazing and she’s so knowledgeable. She has a PhD in journalism and does research in the area of computational social science. You learn practical skills that every journalist could implement for basic stories. You learn skills like using Excel, Open Refine, a bit of coding like Python, and various ways to incorporate data in your articles. I think it's a valuable class that even if someone isn’t interested in data journalism you can still get something out of it that you can utilize not only in journalism but in everyday life.

What career goals do you aspire to after graduation?
That’s something I ask myself every day. I’m not sure, but the goal is to work for the data department of a publication. Right now, the publications that have the data departments are the biggest newsrooms because they have the staff, the money, and the resources to develop it. Although I really do believe that smaller news publications will eventually have access to data departments eventually as it's a growing field that I believe is undervalued. As much as I love writing, I do envision myself being one of the main data analyst people for a big publication. Using data sets and incorporating them into a story adds so much more to an article and helps the people understand what’s going on in a story at a deeper level.

One of my favorite websites that incorporates data journalism and allows the images to tell the story is “538,” which is a website that uses polling data and makes graphics to convey their stories in the political sector.

Interview by Nathan Gonzalez, New Voices Intern