Using Instagram to cover an election: lessons from #wmmayor


During this year’s mayoral elections one of my MA Online Journalism students, Sam Gould, adopted an Instagram-first publishing strategy during the lead up to the vote, and on the day of the count. The results were impressive, taking in profiles, interviews, explainers, and live coverage. But equally interesting for anyone considering a mobile-first approach to elections this year was the workflow, so I thought I’d share some of the key points here. Continue reading

The death knock doesn’t scale

One of the most dreaded assignments in journalism has always been the death knock: the job of knocking on the door of someone affected by tragedy.

In the pre-Internet era, the death knock would typically fall to someone at the local newspaper; and, perhaps, reporters from a news agency or two would also come knocking. In some cases, journalists from the nationals, broadcasters and magazines would arrive too.

It was rarely pretty. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t justified.

Now the nature of the death knock has changed. In web parlance, it has scaled. And the problem is: it doesn’t scale well. Continue reading

“If you ask most people” – how to burst a journalist’s filter bubble

Here is a fascinating post by Laurence Jantalipinski (h/t Giuseppe Sollazzo) which takes assumptions made by a reporter and tests that against actual polling. The subject itself is irrelevant — but the method is a great anecdote to relate to journalism students to demonstrate why it’s important to challenge your own assumptions about what “most people” think.

Here’s how it goes: a reporter makes a casual assertion:

“If you ask most people why they don’t trust Labour, they will respond with one of the following…”

…before listing reasons which, perhaps, are articulated within her own social circle. But is one reporter’s “most people” representative?

Well that’s the thing. When Talipinski tested those reasons against other possibilities using a proper poll with 1100 people, he found none ranked in the top five: Continue reading

I’ve finally gone and done it: announcing a new MA in Data Journalism

Data journalism UK conference

The Data Journalism UK conference, shown above, is part of the course

Well I had to do it at some point, didn’t I? From today I am accepting applications for a new MA in Data Journalism.

The MA, which starts in September and runs alongside the new MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism that I posted about previously, addresses many of the changes that the field has undergone in the last few years. In particular I’ll be focusing on:

  • Telling data-driven stories across different platforms (not just text or visualisation)
  • Automation, augmented journalism and the issues that those raise
  • Coding and computational thinking being applied journalistically (I cover using JavaScript, R, and Python, command line, SQL and regex to pursue stories)
  • Security and ethics (integrated into media law)
  • Investigative techniques such as network analysis, text mining, and advanced techniques for finding human sources (OSINT).
  • Partnerships with media organisations in the UK and abroad so students can work on specific challenges facing those organisations, and take up placement opportunities in broadcast, magazine, newspaper and online teams who need people with these skills.

I’ll explain more about the thinking behind those developments in future posts. But for now, I wanted to put the call out: if you’re curious about using data journalism techniques and want to learn more, get in touch.

How to: find the data behind an interactive chart or map using the inspector

interactive chart on votes by gender and year of study

This interactive chart is generated from some data you can grab

Increasingly you might come across an interesting set of interactive charts from a public body, or an interactive map, and you want to grab the data behind it in order to ask further questions. In many cases you don’t need to do any scraping — you just need to know where to look. In this post I explain how to work out where the data is being fetched from… Continue reading

Want your reporting to better reflect the diversity of your audience? There’s a free ebook for that

Two of my colleagues at Birmingham City University have produced a rather wonderful free guide to help journalists and journalism educators make reporting more inclusive and diverse. As they explain in the introduction: Continue reading

Brave new world? 5 things your newsroom can do now to protect your journalism against the Snooper’s Charter

The Investigatory Powers Act has now been law for almost six months. For journalists and publishers this means having to remember that the webpages that you and your sources visit, who you call on your phone, and where you take it, are all being collected and potentially accessed by a range of authorities*.

It also gives the state the power to hack into devices and to require companies to help them compromise the security of users of their websites and apps.

But most importantly, it means understanding that unlike previous legal regimes it is likely that you will not be aware if any of this is happening, nor will you have an opportunity to mount a legal defence to argue against it.

If this makes you feel powerless to protect your sources, here are some things you can do to feel better:

Continue reading