Data journalism is named a very important skill for students by basically everyone. My question is, why is this on the rise? Was it not important five years ago? Why the change?

The tools have changed.  Think of it this way: widespread availability of free, easy-to-use blogging software triggered a huge outpouring of writing on the web.  

What’s happening here is an increase in publicly available data plus free tools like Google Refine, Fusion Tables, etc. 

Also … like ghostbikes, which draw a lot of new attention to a thing that has always happened, social media has upped the visibility of CAR reporting, which is what we used to call data journalism. CAR isn’t new, not even a little. We’re just talking about it more and surfacing it in the form of raw data sets and visualizations.