Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

How to: find local sources for an election in another country using Facebook Graph

people born in france who live in Birmingham

Last week one of the students on my MA in Online Journalism was looking to find French people based in the city for a local angle on the presidential elections taking place in France. “Ah!” I thought. “That’s a job for a Facebook Graph search”. It’s the sort of situation that arises regularly in the newsroom — so here’s how to do it:

What is Facebook Graph search — and why is it useful for journalists?

Facebook Graph Search in 2013

Facebook Graph Search in 2013

Facebook Graph was launched in 2013 as a specific tool for finding people based on their interests. The ‘graph’ part refers to its ability to find people based on intersecting qualities: combinations of their likes, places of work, friends, and where they live and come from.

The tool itself was dropped in 2014, but the ability to search based on intersecting qualities remained, as part of the general Facebook search. You just have to know how to use it… Continue reading

FAQ: Data journalism and computer science

basic_code

Where I started, with BASIC code. Image by Terry Freedman

I have a habit of posting replies to questions on OJB: this one is in response to a series of questions from a student at the University of the West of England about data journalism.

How do you feel about the intertwining of computer science with journalism?

Not surprisingly, I’m quite positive about it. I think most industries benefit from being exposed to different practices and ideas, as they make you reevaluate your own habits and assumptions.

That has very much been the case with the influence of computer science on journalism: in many ways data journalism is more open and more collaborative than other parts of journalism, and that has led to some of its best work.

For example, when organisations like Quartz, Vox or NY Public Radio open source their code, it makes it easier for other news organisations to innovate with that, and improve on it. Continue reading

Why salsa dancing is good for Instagram journalists (and other tips on mobile phone health)

Health and safety guidance for journalists typically focuses on traditional issues like working in dangerous locations, or using desktop computers. Few resources tackle the issues raised by frequent use of mobile devices for work. One exception is a new ebook on Instagram by one of my students, Robyn Bateman. In this extract, Robyn outlines the potential side effects of frequent mobile phone use and techniques to combat that.

I’m interested in Instagram, but I’m also interested in the potential health implications for mobile journalists or, indeed, anyone regularly using a mobile phone to create content out in the field. Including Instagrammers.

I suffer terribly from this. Bought on by bad posture and enhanced by a lot of computer and mobile phone use, I get everything from a numb hand and arm, to tension in my jaw, knotted shoulders, dizzy and tired spells.

So I did some research — and the good news is our mobile phones aren’t to blame: we are. We don’t have to ditch smartphones for personal or professional use (or both), we just have to change the way we use them. Continue reading

Tap to advance: the rise and rise of the horizontal story

Snapchat's horizontal navigation

Another month, another set of new feature launches: this time the longform blogging platform Medium announcingSeries‘, a “new type of story”, then days later Facebook announcing its ‘Messenger Day‘ feature.

Last month it was Instagram‘s Carousel feature and WhatsApp‘s Status feature.

What all have in common is the almost unquestioned use of a horizontal storytelling mode: a move from scroll-based navigation to navigating through a swipe or a tap.

What does that mean for journalism and storytelling? I think it’s about time we asked. Continue reading

Teaching data journalism in developing countries: lessons from ODECA

Eva Constantaras

Eva Constantaras

Eva Constantaras is a data journalist and trainer who recently wrote the Data Journalism Manual for the UN Development Program. In a special guest post she talks about the background to the manual, her experiences in working with journalists and professors who want to introduce data journalism techniques in developing nations, and why the biggest challenges not technological, but cultural.

Over the last few years, there has been a significant shift in global experiments in data journalism education away from short term activities like boot camps and hackathons to more sustained and sustainable interventions including fellowships and institutes.

There is a growing awareness that the challenge of teaching data journalism in many countries is split straight down the middle between teaching data and teaching journalism — where neither data science nor public interest journalism are particularly common. Open data can be a boon to democracy — but only if there are professionals capable and motivated to transform that data into information for the public. Continue reading

Research on information security in local newspapers – the published version

Pie chart: 88% of respondents did not know what their employers were doing about information security

Previously on OJB I posted about some ongoing research I was conducting into whether security practices in local news organisations had changed in the wake of the Snowden and RIPA (UK surveillance powers) revelations.

Now the full research paper has been published in the academic journal Digital Journalism, as part of a special edition on Journalism, Citizenship and Surveillance Society. The abstract pretty much sums it up:

“Despite reports of widespread interception of communications by the UK government, and revelations that police were using surveillance powers to access journalists’ communications data to identify sources, regional newspaper journalists show few signs of adapting source protection and information security practices to reflect new legal and technological threats, and there is widespread ignorance of what their employers are doing to protect networked systems of production. This paper argues that the “reactive” approach to source protection that seeks to build a legal defence if required, is no longer adequate in the context of workforce monitoring, and that publishers need to update their policies and practice to address ongoing change in the environment for journalists and sources.”

Other highlights of the edition include: