Monthly Archives: April 2015

Peru data journalism project Convoca launches interactive tool on mining infractions

Screenshot of Convoca map

Peruvian news organisation Convoca has launched an interactive tool to enable citizens to access environmental information related to the behaviour of Peruvian mining companies.

The tool maps more than one thousand resolutions of sanctions made by a Peruvian supervisory body of the environment to penalise infractions committed by 132 enterprises. Continue reading

11 charts that illustrate how you can use Twittercounter to check your impact on social media as a journalist

twittercounter

Last year I decided to require my students to submit analytics as part of all their online journalism work. One of the tools that I recommended was Twittercounter.

The free version of Twittercounter does something very simple: it shows you a chart comparing two of three metrics: your followers, your volume of tweets, or the number of people you are following.

It’s not completely accurate, but its simplicity does something very important: it focuses your attention on whether your use of social media has any impact, on one metric at least: the size of your audience.

Of course followers is only one metric – I’ll write in a future post about other metrics and other ways of measuring those – but the ease with which Twittercounter works makes it as good a place as any for aspiring students to begin exploring the importance of measurement in modern journalism.

By way of example, here are 11 charts which show how a simple tool like Twittercounter can illustrate what you’re going right as a journalist – and where you can improve. Continue reading

How to: clean a converted PDF using Open Refine

Our initial table

This spreadsheet sent in response to an FOI request appeared to have been converted from PDF format

In a guest post post for OJB, Ion Mates explains how he used OpenRefine to clean up a spreadsheet which had been converted from PDF format. An earlier version of this post was published on his blog.

Journalists rarely get their hands on nice, tidy data: public bodies don’t have an interest in providing information in a structured form. So it is increasingly part of a journalist’s job to get that information into the right state before extracting patterns and stories.

A few months ago I sent a Freedom of Information request asking for the locations of all litter bins in Birmingham. But instead of sending a spreadsheet downloaded directly from their database, the spreadsheet they sent appeared to have been converted from a multiple-page PDF.

This meant all sorts of problems, from rows containing page numbers and repeated header rows, to information split across multiple rows and even pages.

In this post I’ll be taking you through I used the free data cleaning tool OpenRefine (formerly Google Refine) to tackle all these problems and create a clean version of the data. Continue reading

Bad data PR: how the NSPCC sunk to a new low in data churnalism

One of the oldest forms of data churnalism is the dodgy poll. Typically used by holiday firms to invent the saddest day of the year, or by property websites to find the happiest places to live you can sometimes excuse journalists for playing along. It’s only a bit of fun, right?

But when the dodgy poll is done with children and relates to porn and sexually explicit videos, you’d expect journalists to exercise a little scepticism.

Unfortunately, when the NSPCC sent out a press release saying that one in ten 12-13 year olds are worried that they are addicted to porn and 12% have participated in sexually explicit videos, dozens of journalists appear to have simply played along – despite there being no report and little explanation of where the figures came from.

Articles on the NSPCC dodgy poll

Dozens of news websites repeated the NSPCC’s claims about porn addiction in children

Only Vice magazine decided to ask questions of the stats. And this is what they found: Continue reading

How to liveblog a TV debate: lessons from #leadersdebate 

frontpages

Newspaper front pages the morning after the leaders debate. Most newspapers also liveblogged the debate on their websites.

 

Last night saw the leaders of 7 political parties in the UK debate live on TV. But part and parcel of such a debate these days is the ‘second screen’ journalism of liveblogging. In this post I look at how different news organisations approached their own liveblogs, and what you can take from that if you plan to liveblog a debate in the future (for example this one). Continue reading