VIDEO: How (and why) to create an R notebook for data journalism

Notebooks are one of the ways that data journalists document their work, and make it transparent for others to follow and reproduce. In this video — first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and shared as part of a series of video posts — I explain what notebooks are and walk through how to create one in RStudio.

(Check out yesterday’s video on the pros and cons of R in data journalism for an introduction to R in general)

You can read Knuth on literate programming here; more on the pitfalls of “bad Excel”; and the story about the Excel spreadsheet that led to austerity here.

VIDEO: Why is R used by data journalists?

R — along with Python and JavaScript — is one of the most popular programming languages used by data journalists. In this video — first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and shared as part of a series of video posts — I explain what R is and why you might choose to use it rather than spreadsheets alone, or other languages, in your work.

Oh, and a quick caveat: since Colab notebooks were added to Google Drive, I now prefer Python — but it’s a personal thing, and most of this video can be applied to either language.

The talk by FiveThirtyEight’s Andrew Flowers mentioned in this video can be found here.

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VIDEO: Search engine optimisation (SEO) for journalists

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the skill of making it easier for people to find your article when they’re looking for the story, or issue, online. In this video I explain some key techniques in optimising your writing for findability, some of the jargon involved in SEO, and three ‘levels’ that you need to consider in optimising content.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism at Birmingham City University. A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

This is where data journalists get their ideas from (story cards)

I’ve written a piece for DataJournalism.com on the range of ways that data journalists get ideas for stories, from new data releases, tip-offs and exclusive leaks to simple questions, or taking an existing story as a template for a new one.

The piece also looks at how news events also provide the impetus for some “follow-on” story ideas, and the role that ‘play’ has in generating more creative (but also typically more complex) story ideas.

As part of the process I also created a series of cards, available as a printable PDF, which you can use to prompt these ideas in a classroom or editorial brainstorming situation. Please let me know if you find them useful!

VIDEO: Genre and structure in factual storytelling

In a fifth video post on narrative concepts* I build on some of the ideas about structure in the third post, exploring Freytag’s Pyramid and the kabob as narrative devices for structuring longer stories — and the role of genre in learning how to write in a new format.

In particular, I look at the interview format and different generic techniques such as headline styles and standfirsts — and I look at immersive longform stories and the new genre of scrollytelling.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

*The other videos are:

  1. How narrative concepts can help journalists
  2. Elements of narrative for factual storytellers
  3. How narrative structures can help you write quicker, and better
  4. More factual storytelling techniques: time, narration, and “show, don’t tell”

The visual challenges of big data: how The Economist turned Spotify data into a story about language

Early Visualisation from Off the Charts

In an interview with Kirstin Bunce for OJB, interactive journalist Olivia Vane explains the production process behind ‘Singing in tongues. What Spotify data show about the decline of English.

Earlier this year The Economist team published an interactive analysis delving into 5 years of Spotify’s data in 70 countries. It was a large data project that started with a scraper — by data journalist Dolly Setton, who was interested in the role of language on the platform — but getting the data was just the beginning.

“I thought it was an interesting experience at the beginning, exploring and figuring out together what was the heart of the piece,” says Olivia. “We didn’t realise what the story was going to be until sort of midway through.”

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VIDEO: More factual storytelling techniques: time, narration, and “show, don’t tell”

In a fourth video post on narrative concepts* I look at the different ways temporality can be used in factual storytelling, different choices that can be made about the narrator, and the principle of showing rather than telling.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. Links mentioned in the video include:

A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

*The other videos are:

  1. How narrative concepts can help journalists
  2. Elements of narrative for factual storytellers
  3. How narrative structures can help you write quicker, and better

VIDEO: How narrative structures can help you write quicker, and better

In the latest video post on narrative concepts (you can see the previous two here), this video looks at narrative structure — in particular, how Cortazzi‘s typical narrative structure can help us identify common patterns across different journalistic formats, from the inverted pyramid to the WSJ feature formula.

Being able to identify these structures means we can adapt more quickly to new formats — including those on new platforms.

The video also touches on the use of temporality in storytelling, and how stories might jump back and forth in time to keep readers engaged.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. The series of video posts can be found at this link.

VIDEO: Elements of narrative for factual storytellers

Building on last week’s video post on narrative concepts, this latest video explores how journalists can think about different elements of narrative and their role in our stories — from Mieke Bal’s fabula, stories and texts, to considering character and settings, and how both can be used to create movement to engage the audience.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. A couple of other videos are mentioned in it: firstly, this Twitter video story made using Apple Clips; and secondly, Ira Glass’s advice on storytelling, embedded below.

A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

VIDEO: How narrative concepts can help journalists

Having a critical awareness of narrative concepts and techniques can help journalists report in a more engaging — and a more ethical — way.

In the video below, made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University, I talk about what research tells us about narrative’s impact on audiences of news, how concepts like the ‘Law of narrative gravity‘ can make us more aware of potential negative impacts, and how using concepts like genre and audience can help when adapting to new platforms.

This video was first made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and is shared as part of a series of video posts.