Python is an extremely powerful language for journalists who want to scrape information from online sources. This series of videos, made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University, explains some core concepts to get started in Python, how to use Colab notebooks within Google Drive, and introduces some code to get started with scraping.Continue reading
Author Archives: paulbradshawuk
Availability bias: a guide for journalists
I’ve written previously about the role that cognitive biases play in journalism, how to avoid confirmation bias, and anticipate criticism based on fallacies — but one cognitive bias I haven’t written about yet is the availability heuristic — or availability bias.
Availability bias is the tendency to reach for the most available reason, event, or tool, when confronted with a problem or decision.Continue reading
Here’s how the ‘8 data story angles’ can help you get stories from company accounts
A couple of years ago I mapped out eight common angles for identifying stories in data. It turns out that the same framework is useful for finding stories in company accounts, too — but not only that: the angles also map neatly onto three broad techniques.
In this post I’ll go through each of the three techniques — looking at cash flow statements; compiling data from multiple accounts; and tracing people and connections — and explain how they can be used to get stories, with examples of articles that have used those techniques successfully.
We start, naturally, with the money…Continue reading
9 способов найти историю в финансовых отчётах компаний
This is a masterclass in writing a story about company directors’ pay — so I reverse-engineered it
Company directors’ pay regularly provides material for stories — and this front page story by The Guardian’s Robert Booth was such a masterclass in the genre (as well as other open source intelligence techniques) that I decided to reverse-engineer it for a Twitter thread.
I’ve embedded the thread below, or you can read it on Threadreader here.
Using company accounts in journalism
You can find other posts about using company accounts at the following links:
- VIDEO PLAYLIST: Finding stories in company accounts
- Here’s a story about a celebrity fashion charity which provides some useful tips and tricks for journalists using company accounts
- Here’s how one journalist used all sorts of company account techniques to tell a story about a social media platform for sex workers
- Teaching journalists how to find stories in company accounts: the story treasure hunt
- Here are 9 ways to find stories in company accounts (and only three of them involve numbers)
How ‘triangulating’ can help you identify more sources
In this edited extract from the forthcoming third edition of the Online Journalism Handbook I look at how a ‘triangulation’ approach to sourcing can help broaden story research and improve reporting.
Two centuries ago journalists were called reporters because they drew their information from official reports — documents.
Then in the late 19th century a new source became part of journalistic practice: people, as interviews and eyewitness accounts were added to news articles.
The late 20th century saw reporting undergo another expansion in sourcing, as digital data was added to the journalist’s toolkit.
Although reports had included tables and other sources of data, the properties of digital data — filterable, sortable and searchable — have been significant, and make data a qualitatively different type of source.
How documents, people and data all lead to each other
Considering sourcing along those three dimensions — people, documents, and data — can be particularly useful when planning sourcing.Continue reading
Defending an investigation — and planning one: lessons from ProPublica’s Black Snow
In the summer of last year ProPublica published a major investigation into air pollution in Florida, and its connection to the sugar industry. The story itself, Black Snow, is an inspiring example of scrollytelling — but equally instructive is the methodology article which accompanies it, responding to criticisms from the sugar industry.
Not only does it demonstrate how to respond when large organisations attack a piece of journalism — it also provides a great lesson on the tactics that are adopted by organisations when attacking data-driven stories.
In this post I want to break down the three most common attack tactics, how ProPublica deal with two of those, and how to use the same tactics during planning to ensure your project design isn’t flawed.Continue reading
What Data Journalists Need to Know About Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
I’ve written a post for the Global Investigative Journalism Network about how APIs can be useful sources of data for journalists. The article is based on an earlier video post.
The article explains what APIs are and how they differ from other data sources; the basic principles of how they work and how they can be used for stories; some of the jargon to expect — and where to find them. Read the article here.
Here’s a framework to help fill the ‘human gap’ in your story
One of the most common challenges for student journalists is identifying the right human sources to turn a lead into a fleshed out story. And one of the most common mistakes is not to spend enough time on this vital step in the reporting process.
To help with this, here’s a framework for brainstorming potential sources.
The five categories of source
There are five categories of source in the framework:Continue reading
How to: create a data news diary
One of the most basic sources of story ideas for a journalist is a news diary listing forthcoming newsworthy events. For the journalist looking for ideas in data, having forthcoming data releases in your diary can be especially useful.
Here is a quick guide preparing your own data news diary.Continue reading