A few months ago I heard ProPublica’s Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson speak at the Digital Editors Network Data Meet, giving their advice on data journalism projects. I thought I might publish notes of five tips they had here for the record:
1. Three-quarters of the top 10 stories on the site were news apps
Online applications prove very popular with users – but they are more often a landing page for further exploration via stories.
2. When you publish your story, ask for data
Publication is not the end of the process. If you invite users to submit their own information, it can lead to follow-ups and useful contacts.
3. Have both quantitative and qualitative fields in your forms
In other words, ask for basic details such as location, age, etc. but also ask for ‘their story’ if they have one.
4. Aim for a maximum of 12 questions
That seems to be the limit that people will realistically respond to. Use radio buttons and dropdown menus to make it easier for people to complete. At the end, ask whether it is okay for the organisation to contact them to ensure you’re meeting data protection regulations.
5. Share data left over from your investigation
Just because you didn’t use it doesn’t mean someone else can’t find something interesting in it.