Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

FAQ: Social media and media freedom

More questions from a student as part of the ongoing FAQ series. This time it’s about the role of social media in ‘media freedom’, competition between social media and mainstream media, and credibility of citizen journalists…

1. What effects do you think social media, like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, have had on media freedom?

Given that media freedom is largely about the legal and political framework in which organisations operate, I’d say social media has had very little effect. An analogy would be asking what effect hammers have had on builders’ freedoms: it’s another tool which they can use, but whether they use it and how depends on what happens to them if they do. Continue reading

How to: combine multiple rows in a dataset where text is split across them (Open Refine)

When you’ve converted data from a PDF to a spreadsheet it’s not uncommon for text to end up being split across multiple rows, like this: text split across rows In this post I’ll explain how you can use Open Refine to quickly clean the data up so that the text is put back together and you have a single row for each entry. Continue reading

This simple piece of visualisation will have you rethinking what you know about impact and mobile

deadworkers

It’s not often I encounter a piece of data journalism which solves a common problem in the field – and it’s even rarer to find a piece of work which tackles two.

But that’s just what lean data journalism Ampp3d did last week when it published a piece of visualisation on the deaths of construction workers in Qatar.

The two problems? Creating impact on mobile – and making big numbers meaningful. Continue reading

Useful sources of health data – on Help Me Investigate

Last month I spoke to some health reporters from a national broadcaster about my favourite sources of health data. As part of that I wrote a post on Help Me Investigate. I’m cross-posting it here this month as I talk about sources of data on the Data Journalism MOOC:
Continue reading

After reverse publishing, it’s time to consider the ‘reverse subscription model’

Man attacks door, in reverseWhat is a reverse subscription model? Cedric Motte looks at what happens when you see digital as the heart of your distribution marketing and the paper as a commodity. This post was originally published in French on NewsResources.

Digital as the heart of the subscription marketing plan ?

“Reverse publishing” first hit newsroom organisations some years ago (although many medias didn’t switch and instead “just” added another digital newsroom downstairs).

The idea is simple: because of mobile penetration and generous data plans, readers use their mobile (and tablet at home) to access news along the day. So a newsroom has to think about releasing news in a digital way to keep up with the tempo of news. The paper comes later. Continue reading

Finding Stories in Spreadsheets – ebook now live!

Finding stories in spreadsheets book cover

Cover design by Matt Buck/Drawnalism

My latest ebook – Finding Stories in Spreadsheets – is now live on Leanpub.

As with Scraping for Journalists, I’m publishing the book week-by-week so the book can be updated based on reader feedback, user suggestions and topical developments.

Each week you can download a new chapter covering a different technique for finding stories, from calculating proportions and changes, to combining data, cleaning it up, testing it, and extracting specific details.

There’s also a downloadable spreadsheet at the end of each chapter with a series of exercises to practise that chapter’s technique and find particular stories.

Along the way I tackle some other considerations in telling the story, such as context and background, and the importance of being specific in the language that you use.

If there’s anything you’d like covered in the book let me know. You can also buy the book in a ‘bundle’ with its sister title Data Journalism Heist, which covers quick-turnaround techniques for finding stories in spreadsheets using pivot tables and advanced filters.

Is there a ‘canon’ of data journalism? Comment call!

Looking across the comments in the first discussion of the EJC’s data journalism MOOC it struck me that some pieces of work in the field come up again and again. I thought I’d pull those together quickly here and ask: is this the beginnings of a ‘canon’ in data journalism? And what should such a canon include? Stick with me past the first obvious examples…

Early data vis

These examples of early data visualisation are so well-known now that one book proposal I recently saw specified that it would not talk about them. I’m talking of course about… Continue reading

Journalisme et code : 10 grands principes de programmation expliqués

Cedric Motte asked if he could translate Coding for journalists: 10 programming concepts it helps to understand into French. Here’s the result – first published on NewsResources.

Si vous envisagez de vous mettre à la programmation, il y a de fortes chances que vous butiez sur une série de termes techniques, un jargon qui peut être particulièrement rébarbatif, notamment dans les tutoriels, dont les auteurs ont tendance à oublier que vous êtes inexpérimentés en programmation.

Les sections qui suivent décrivent et indiquent dix concepts que vous êtes susceptible de – non, que vous allez – rencontrer. Continue reading

Coding for journalists: 10 programming concepts it helps to understand

If you’re looking to get into coding chances are you’ll stumble across a raft of jargon which can be off-putting, especially in tutorials which are oblivious to your lack of previous programming experience. Here, then, are 10 concepts you’re likely to come across – and what they mean.

1. Variables

cat in a box

Variables are like boxes which can hold different things at different times. Image by Wolfgang Lonien.

A variable is one of the most basic elements of programming. It is, in a nutshell, a way of referring to something so that you can use it in a line of code. To give some examples:

  • You might create a variable to store a person’s age and call it ‘age’
  • You might create a variable to store the user’s name and call it ‘username’
  • You might create a variable to count how many times something has happened and call it ‘counter’
  • You might create a variable to store something’s position and call it ‘index’

Variables can be changed, which is their real power. A user’s name will likely be different every time one piece of code runs. An age can be added to at a particular time of year. A counter can increase by one every time something happens. A list of items can have other items added to it, or removed. Continue reading

Unicorns, racehorses – and a mule cameo: data journalism in 2014

unicorn animated gif

Recently it has felt like data journalism might finally be taking a step forward after years spent treading water. I’ve long said that the term ‘data journalism’ was too generic for work that includes practices as diverse as scraping, data visualisation, web interactives, and FOI. But now, in 2014, it feels like different practitioners are starting to find their own identity.

It starts with the unicorn. Continue reading