Category Archives: faq

FAQ: Big data and journalism

The latest in the series of Frequently Asked Questions comes from a UK student, who has questions about big data.

How can data journalists make sense of such quantities of data and filter out what’s meaningful?

In the same way they always have. Journalists’ role has always been to make choices about which information to prioritise, what extra information they need, and what information to include in the story they communicate. Continue reading

FAQ: Hyperlocal sustainability

The latest in the series of Frequently Asked Questions comes from a UK student, who has questions about hyperlocal blogging.

In the long term, how sustainable is a hyperlocal site economically?

It depends on the business model, the wider market, and the individuals involved in the business. Continue reading

FAQ: What does blogging add to journalism?

Its been a while since I posted a post answering Frequently Asked Questions. This one comes from a student in Holland, whose thesis revolves around the idea that ‘Blogging adds little to journalism

What’s the difference between blogging and traditional journalism?

I’ve answered this and similar questions in a previous FAQ on journalism vs blogging.

What are the pros and cons of blogging compared to other forms of journalism?

That post and other older FAQs probably give some further answers, but a short answer is: blogging provides an extra space to invite people into your journalism and provide opportunities for them to contribute additional information, suggested avenues of inquiry, etc.

It helps build the relationship between journalist and source in a way that standard formats don’t always provide. Continue reading

FAQ: Does data journalism subvert the norm of objectivity?

Here are another set of questions from a student as part of the FAQ section – the last one is a goodie.

Question 1: Do you think data journalism can reduce the cost of investigative journalism?

Yes. It reduces the cost of collecting information, certainly: scrapers for example can automate the collection and combination of hundreds of documents; other tools can automate cleaning, combining, comparing or checking information. But it also offers opportunities in reducing the cost of distribution (for example automation and personalisation), collaboration, and even visual treatments. Continue reading

FAQ: a review of 2012 with Data Driven Journalism.net

The Data Driven Journalism website asked me a few questions as part of their end-of-2012 roundup. You can find the article there, but for the sake of archiving, my responses are copied below (without the helpful pictures they added):

What do you do?

I’m a data journalism trainer and Iecturer. I run the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University and am a visiting professor in online journalism at City University London. I’m also the author of Scraping for Journalists.

What was your biggest data driven achievement this year?

An investigation into the allocation of Olympic torchbearer places. The investigation came about as a result of scraping details on torchbearers from the official website. But it was also a great example of collaboration between non-journalists and journalists, as well as a number of techniques outside of core data journalism.

The investigation led to questions in Parliament and international media coverage. In the final week of the Olympic torch relay we published a short ebook about the affair, with all proceeds going to the Brittle Bone Society.

What was your favourite data journalism project this year and why?

I really liked Landportal.info, which is attempting to map land ownership – it’s highlighting a global trend of companies buying up land in Africa which would be easy to overlook by journalists. The New York Times’s multimedia treatment of performance data in three Olympic events across over a century was really well done. And I’m always looking at how data journalism can be used in softer news, where Anna Powell-Smith’s What Size Am I? is a great example of fashion/consumer data journalism.

For sheer significance I can’t avoid mentioning Nate Silver’s work on the US election – that was a watershed for data journalism and an embarrassment for many political pundits.

More broadly – what excites you in this field at the moment? Any interesting developments that you’d like to mention?

There’s a lot of consolidation at the moment, so less of the spectacular developments – but I am excited at how data journalism is being taken on by a wider range of companies. This year I’ve spent a lot more time training staff at consumer magazine publishers, for example.

I’m also excited about some of the new journalism startups based on public data like Rafat Ali’s Skift. In terms of tools, it’s great to see network analysis added to Fusion Tables, and the Knight Digital Media Center’s freeDive makes it very easy indeed to create a public database from a Google Doc.

What about disappointments?

I am constantly disappointed by publishers who say they don’t have the resources to do data journalism. That shows a real lack of imagination and understanding of what data journalism really is. It doesn’t have to be a spectacular interactive data visualisation – it can simply be about getting to better stories more quickly, accurately and more deeply through a few basic techniques.

Any predictions about what the future holds for data journalism in 2013?

I’ve just been training someone from Chile so I’m hoping to see more data journalism there!

Anything else you’d like to share with everyone?

Happy Christmas!