Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

My next ebook: Finding Stories in Spreadsheets

Finding Stories In Spreadsheets ebook cover

In a few weeks I will begin publishing my new ebook: Finding Stories In Spreadsheets.

The book has been written in response to requests from journalists who need a book on Excel aimed at storytellers, not accountants.

Finding Stories In Spreadsheets will outline a range of techniques, including ways to find the ‘needle in the haystack’ in text data, number calculations to make stories clearer, and methods of cleaning and combining data to tell new stories, including getting data ready for maps and charts.

The book will be available for a discounted rate for the first couple of weeks. To be informed when it’s available, register your interest on the Leanpub page.

Fund an investigative project – and get analytics for free?

Lyra McKee is a brave young woman. Not (just) because of her investigation into the murder of a Northern Ireland politician - but because of her decision this week to offer supporters access to the metrics behind it.

Many journalists would find such an idea terrifying: telling everyone how many people are reading my work? Sharing it? Finishing it? There’s simply too much to lose. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

But crowdfunding creates a different dynamic. When I backed SA Mathieson‘s project on Beacon, I wasn’t buying content: I was supporting something I believed in. I was supporting a writer to spend time on one topic.

Notably, Beacon’s own strategy acknowledges this: there is no way to subscribe to the ‘brand’ of Beacon – to get access to all content you must support one specific project. Continue reading

“I don’t do maths”: how j-schools teach statistics to journalists

stats Image by Simon Cunningham

Image by Simon Cunningham

Teresa Jolley reports from a conference for teaching statistics to journalism students

I am not a great ‘numbers’ person, but even I was surprised by the attitudes that journalism lecturers at the Statistics in Journalism conference reported in their students.

‘I don’t do numbers’ and ‘I hate maths’ were depressingly common expressions, perhaps unsurprisingly. People wanting to study journalism enjoy the use of language and rarely expect that numbers will be vital to the stories they are telling.

So those responsible for journalism education have a tricky task. A bit like providing a sweet covering to a nasty-tasting tablet, it was said that lecturers need to be adept at finding ingenious ways to teach a practical and relevant use of numbers without ever mentioning the M (maths) or S (statistics) words. Continue reading

That massive open online course on data journalism now has a start date

In case you haven’t seen the tweets and blog posts, that MOOC on data journalism I’m involved in has a start date: May 19.

The launch was delayed a little due to the amount of people who signed up – which I think was a sensible decision.

You can watch the introduction video above, or ‘meet the instructors’ below. Looking forward to this…

Art or journalism?

The internet has opened up all sorts of creative possibilities for journalists – and artists. The following is just a selection of examples of both – but which is journalism, and which is art?

The gentrification of New York shown through a series of images:

condo

A map of cannabis outlets:

cannabis map

The strangest Facebook Graph searches: Continue reading

Why open data matters – a (very bad) example from Universal Jobmatch

Open Data stickers image by Jonathan Gray

Open Data stickers image by Jonathan Gray

I come upon examples of bad practice in publishing government data on a regular basis, but the Universal Jobmatch tool is an example so bad I just had to write about it. In fact, it’s worse than the old-fashioned data service that preceded it.

That older service was the Office for National Statistics’ labour market service NOMIS, which published data on Jobcentre vacancies and claimants until late 2012, when Jobcentre Plus was given responsibility for publishing the data using their Universal Jobmatch tool.

Despite a number of concerns, more than a year on, Universal Jobmatch‘s reports section has ignored at least half of the public data principles first drafted by the Government’s Public Sector Transparency Board in 2010, and published in 2012. Continue reading

How hashtags made puns acceptable in SEO

For some time now basic SEO advice on puns has been simple: don’t do it*.

But the Huffington Post story below (brought to my attention by Christina Kenny) shows how hashtags can make puns SEO-friendly as well – as long as they’ve been adopted by a larger audience, not just coined by the headline writer.

That headline: #Poonami Flows Through Kennington, South London After Sewage Pipe Burst (PICTURES)

That headline actually has 7 keywords in total – it’s extremely heavily SEO’d for people searching for “sewage pipe burst” and “Kennington” or “South London”.

But it also recognises that many people will be searching for more on this story having seen the #poonami hashtag on Twitter. Continue reading

Saving the evidence in Ukraine: collaborate first – or you won’t be able to ask questions later

YanukovychLeaks screengrab

“The reporters then did something remarkable. They made a decision to cooperate among all the news organizations and to save first and report later.

“It wasn’t an easy decision. But it was clear that if they didn’t act, critical records of their own country’s history could be lost. The scene was already filling with other reporters eager to grab what stories they could and leave. In contrast, the group was joined by a handful of other like-minded journalists: Anna Babinets of Slidstvo/TV Hromadske;  Oleksandr Akymenko, formerly of Forbes; Katya Gorchinska and Vlad Lavrov of the Kyiv Post. Radio Free Europe reporter Natalie Sedletska returned from Prague so she could help, and others came, too.

“… In the tense situation that characterizes Ukraine, conspiracies form quickly. To demonstrate their transparency, the organizers quickly moved to get documents up. By early Tuesday, nearly 400 documents, a fraction of the estimated 20,000 to 50,000 documents, had been posted. Dozens more are being added by the hour.”

Drew Sullivan writes about Yanukovych Leaks.

Journalism student on Twitter? Show me the metrics

Twitter image by Shawn Campbell

Twitter image by Shawn Campbell

For at least four years now, all my online journalism assessments have involved a ‘strategy’ element, including a suggestion that students use analytics to demonstrate an understanding of their audience, and that they can experiment with search engine optimisation and social media optimisation.

This year I’m going further with one undergraduate class. I’m making social media analytics compulsory.

There are dozens of free tools out there to monitor your social media accounts. Here are just a few I’m recommending: Continue reading

The Mastercard Brit Awards journalists should have quoted the ASA

Last week’s reports on a PR company’s demand to journalists that they post tweets in exchange for accreditation missed one important factor: the Advertising Standards Authority.

The arrangement – involving a PR agency handling Mastercard‘s sponsorship of the Brit Awards – was revealed when Telegraph reporter Tim Walker sent an email to Press Gazette. They reported:

“Before providing two journalists from the Telegraph with accreditation to attend the event House PR has asked them to agree to a number of requests about the coverage they will give it.

“They have even gone as far as to draft Twitter messages which they would like the journalists to send out – and asked that they include a mention of the marketing campaign #PricelessSurprises and @MasterCardUK.”

Do such messages fall foul of the ASA’s guidelines on “marketing communications” on Twitter?

The ASA’s press officer Matt Wilson said that they don’t have a precedent, but told me:

“If entry to the Brit awards was conditional on the journalist tweeting on behalf of Mastercard, we’d likely view that as a ‘reciprocal arrangement’ (i.e. the journalist receiving a benefit they wouldn’t have otherwise). Continue reading