Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

7 ideas for things to do over the summer while preparing to start a journalism course

rolls of yarn

Knitting yarn optional. image by Rachel

As the summer begins, I’ve been recommending some things that my incoming students might do in preparation for their MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism or MA in Data Journalism. I thought I’d share my advice here for anyone else starting a journalism course this Autumn… (oh, and these are just ideas — you don’t have to do all of these!)

1. Consume a *wide* range of journalism

When teaching journalism you notice quickly that the students who produce the most polished pieces of journalism are the ones who consume the most journalism. The more journalism that you read, watch, listen and use, the more journalistic conventions, techniques and tricks you absorb, and more instinctively reproduce. Continue reading

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There’s more than one way to make an impact with data journalism (book extract)

FootPrint on Moon
In an extended extract from the forthcoming second edition of the Data Journalism Handbook, I look at the different types of impact that data journalism can have, and how can better think about it.

If you’ve not seen Spotlight, the film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into institutional silence over child abuse, then you should watch it right now. More to the point — you should watch right through to the title cards right at the end.

In an epilogue to the film — this is a story about old-school-style data journalism, by the way — a list scrolls down the screen. It details the dozens and dozens of places where abuse scandals have been uncovered since the events of the film, from Akute, Nigeria, to Wollongong, Australia.

But the title cards also cause us to pause in our celebrations: one of the key figures involved in the scandal, it says, was reassigned to “one of the highest ranking Roman Catholic churches in the world.”

This is the challenge of impact in data journalism: is raising awareness of a problem “impact”? A mass audience, a feature film? Does the story have to result in penalties for those responsible for bad things? Or visible policy change? Is all impact good impact? Continue reading

Meet the man who fought a dozen FOI battles to prove that data doesn’t cause crime

Empty Shops

Empty Shops image by Dan Thompson

For the last three years Gavin Chait has been fighting — and winning — multiple Freedom of Information cases to unlock data on vacant properties. In a special guest post ahead of his latest hearing, he explains how he uses a range of evidence to fight a widely misused exemption.

I don’t know how to break this to you, but you’re probably a terrorist.

According to Richard Woolford, Strategic Director of Security and Counter Terrorism with the City of London Corporation, unoccupied properties — and especially unoccupied commercial properties — are attractive for those intent on committing terrorism.

Any knowledge about vacant properties is so dangerous, he believes, that no information about them should be placed in the public domain.

Estate agents against terrorism

This will come as tough news to terrorism enablers, especially real-estate agents, property developers, banks, insurers, and Google Street View.

If you were hoping to find somewhere new to live, or somewhere to open your dream business, then – for the safety of everyone – you’ll need to stay put. Continue reading

How to: create a Slack alert bot for Parliament events

robot

robot image by Max Wheeler

Following a request on the Bureau Local Slack channel (join here) I created a tutorial on how to create a Slack bot which would post alerts whenever a new House of Commons or House of Lords event was added to the Parliamentary calendar (this can be adapted for any events calendar that provides an RSS feed). I thought I’d share it here too…

Slack is a great platform for organising a team — and it’s very easy to integrate with bots that will post alerts to a channel whenever something happens. Here’s how to do that using the free tool IFTTT. Continue reading

Designing data journalism courses: reflections on a decade of teaching

Presentation

Students from the MA Data Journalism join conference attendees in a session at the Data Journalism UK conference

In this second extract from a commentary for Asia Pacific Media Educator I reflect on the lessons learned from a decade of teaching dedicated data journalism courses. You can read Part One — on teaching one-off data journalism classes — here.

In contrast to the one-off classes involving data journalism, courses and modules that focus on data journalism skills present a different type of challenge.

These courses typically attract a different type of student, and provide more time and space to work with.

My own experience of teaching on such courses comes from three contexts: in 2009 I launched an MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University with an explicit focus on data-driven techniques (the term “data journalism” was yet to be popularised). A year later I acted as an advisor to the MA in Interactive Journalism that City University London were then developing (delivering guest classes in data journalism for the following 5 years as a visiting professor). Finally, in 2017 I replaced the MA in Online Journalism with a dedicated MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University.

In this post I talk about the factors that shaped course design, and how student output compared to the objectives of the course. Continue reading

Teaching data journalism — fast and slow

lecture theatre

Lecture theatre image by judy dean

I’ve now been teaching data journalism for over a decade — from one-off guest classes at universities with no internal data journalism expertise, to entire courses dedicated to the field. In the first of two extracts from a commentary I was asked to write for Asia Pacific Media Educator I reflect on the lessons I’ve learned, and the differences between what I describe (after Daniel Kahneman) as “teaching data journalism fast” and “teaching data journalism slow”. First up, ‘teaching data journalism fast‘ — techniques for one-off data journalism classes aimed at general journalism students.

Like a gas, data journalism teaching will expand to fill whatever space is allocated to it. Educators can choose to focus on data journalism as a set of practices, a form of journalistic output, a collection of infrastructure or inputs, or a culture (see also Karlsen and Stavelin 2014; Lewis and Usher 2014; Boyles and Meyer 2016). Or, they might choose to spend all their time arguing over what we mean by ‘data journalism’ in the first place.

We can choose to look to the past of Computer Assisted Reporting and Precision Journalism, emerging developments around computational and augmented journalism, and everything that has happened in between.

In this commentary, I outline the different pedagogical approaches I have adopted in teaching data journalism within different contexts over the last decade. In each case, there was more than enough data journalism to fill the space — the question was how to decide which bits to leave out, and how to engage students in the process. Continue reading

3 concepts from archive studies that every data journalist should know

Until last month I hadn’t heard of diplomatic studies. It’s the discipline of studying historical documents, and comes from the word ‘diploma’, as in ‘verifying that someone hasn’t faked their records’ (I’m paraphrasing here). But this discipline of verification has some useful lessons for journalists — particularly data journalists — because it provides a very handy framework for picking apart what makes a record (data) credible, and what we should be looking out for when establishing that.

Particularly useful are three terms that are used to distinguish different aspects of a record’s credibility: authenticity; reliability; and accuracy.

Luciana Duranti’s paper on electronic records (PDF) defines each of the three concepts in depth, and — although she notes that the terms are given different meanings in different sectors — it is worth exploring in detail… Continue reading