Al Jazeera’s interactive team AJ Labs have a mantra: “human driven data journalism”. In a guest post for OJB Hanna Duggal speaks to the team’s lead Mohammed Haddad on what this means and how he tackles big data, including a recent story commemorating the Arab Spring.
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Reuters’ Graphics Team is renowned for creating a myriad of innovative news stories under tight deadlines, from Covid-19 coverage to mapping the movement of shifting smoke from California wildfires. In a guest post for OJB, Hanna Duggal speaks to the team’s Simon Scarr and Marco Hernandez about pushing the boundaries of visual storytelling in the newsroom and the relationship between data and design.
In a world that has become increasingly data-prolific and hardwired towards visual content, visualisation provides the newsroom with both a way to communicate complex data effectively and to engage audiences.
Data graphics have become more immersive, compelling and revealing, — and for Reuters, an integral part of how stories are told.
“I’m incredibly proud of our breaking news work,” says Simon Scarr, Reuters’ Deputy Head of Graphics. Continue reading →
Are journalists only ever born with a passion for their craft — or is it something that can be taught?
Of all the seven habits that have been explored in this series, passion is perhaps the one that seems most innate — a quality that you “either have or don’t have”.
Can we teach passion? Well, we can provide the reasons why someone might be passionate about their craft — we can inspire passion and we can create opportunities to experience the things that have stimulated passion in others. Continue reading →
While many are attracted to journalism because of its opportunities for creative expression, few are attracted by its various constraints. But it is those particular contraints which make journalism distinctive, and separate from other creative work such as art or fiction.
In fact you might argue that it is constraints that make journalism more similar to creative fields such as design, where the functionality and user of the work must be considered, leading to increasing cross-pollenation between them (e.g. the rise of design thinking in journalism).
These constraints can be broadly classed as aspects of the work that require self-control, or discipline. For example:
We must consider the audience in the selection and treatment of stories
We must hit regular deadlines
We must write within a particular word count or to particular timings
We must remain impartial and objective in our reporting (in most genres)
These aspects of discipline are reflected in some of the most common feedback given to trainee journalists: Continue reading →
In a special guest post for OJB, Vanessa Fillis speaks to AlgorithmWatch’s Nicolas Kayser-Bril about his work on how online platforms optimise ad delivery, including his recent story on how Facebook draws on gender stereotypes.
“Automated systems are supposed to bring relevant content to the users,” says Nicolas. “And I use ‘relevant’ because it’s the adjective that Facebook uses — and there is a sense that relevant content is determined based on the actions of the users themselves.”
But in reality, everything Kayser-Bril knows about large scale automated systems like Facebook’s news feed hints that their decisions about what to show to an user is based on many different factors instead. Continue reading →
Economist and podcaster Tim Harford, author of How To Make The World Add Up, spoke to MA Data Journalism students this month. In a guest post for OJB Niels de Hoog rounds up Tim’s tips on creating compelling number-driven stories for radio and podcasts
Orson Welles famously said that there’s nothing an audience won’t understand, as long as you can get them to be interested.
Listening to Tim Harford’s podcasts it is clear that he has taken this message to heart.
“If you’ve got a hook, a personality, or a question people want answered, that will carry people through a certain degree of complexity that they wouldn’t tolerate if it was reported straight.”
Take More or Less, his podcast about statistics for BBC Radio 4. At first glance it doesn’t offer the easiest subject for an engaging audio story — yet somehow the programme is very entertaining to listen to. Continue reading →
Cruza Grafos (registration required) is an online visual interface where journalists can research political candidates, and relate candidates to companies and entities with an official registration number in Brazil.
The tool allows journalists to work with huge datasets without any coding.
According to Reinaldo Chaves, Abraji’s project coordinator, many journalists do not know how to code or even how to open a spreadsheet — a situation that makes some investigative projects impossible to happen.
“We hope the Cruza Grafos makes this kind of investigation easier and democratizes access to huge datasets.”
Describing journalism as a creative profession can cause discomfort for some reporters: we portray journalism as a neutral activity — “Just the facts” — different to fiction or arts that appear to ‘create something from nothing’.
But journalism is absolutely a creative endeavour: we must choose how to tell our stories: where to point the camera (literally or metaphorically), how to frame the shot, where to cut and what to retain and discard, and how to combine the results to tell a story succinctly, accurately and fairly (not always the story we set out to tell).
We must use creativity to solveproblems that might prevent us getting the ‘camera’ in that position in the first place, to find the people with newsworthy stories to tell, to adapt when we can’t find the information we want, or it doesn’t say what we expected (in fact, factual storytelling requires an extra level of creativity given that we can only work with the truth).
All of those are creative decisions.
And before all of that, we must come up with ideas for stories too. The journalist who relies entirely on press releases is rightly sneered at: it is a sign of a lack of imagination when a reporter cannot generate their own ideas about where to look for news leads, or how to pursue those. Continue reading →
Empathy is the first stage of design thinking. Image: Mike Boyson
In the fourth of a series of post on seven habits often associated with good journalism I look at a quality which is much less talked about, and often misunderstood — and why I believe it should be just as central as qualities such as persistence or curiosity.
Empathy — specifically cognitive empathy — is the ability to imagine what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.
It is one of the more underrated qualities of good journalists, perhaps because people often confuse it with sympathy, or with emotional empathy.
The difference is important: it is possible to imagine what it is like to be a particular person (cognitive empathy), including criminals and corrupt officials, without feeling sorry for them (sympathy) or feeling the same way (emotional empathy). Continue reading →