Author Archives: paulbradshawuk

VIDEO: How to use R to fetch data from a postcodes API

All this week I have been publishing videos about APIs, from how data journalists use APIs and the jargon involved, to understanding the data formats they return. In this final video — first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University — I explain how to use an R notebook to fetch data from one particular API, postcodes.io.

You can find the notebook with all the code on GitHub here.

VIDEO: Understanding JSON and XML (when using APIs)

In two previous videos this week I introduced APIs for data journalists, and explained some of the jargon involved. In a short third video — first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and shared as part of a series of video posts — I explain how to understand the data formats you’re likely to come across: JSON and XML.

One useful tool to install in your browser to help with this process is JSONView.

Links mentioned in the video:

VIDEO: Understanding API jargon for data journalists

Yesterday I shared a video introducing APIs for data journalists. In this video — first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and shared as part of a series of video posts — I explain some of the jargon you’re likely to come across when using an API.

That includes ‘functions’ and ‘methods’ that allow you to request certain types of data; ‘arguments’ that allow you to specify what you want data about, or what format; and API ‘keys’ that act as passwords to access the data.

Links mentioned in the video:

VIDEO: What are APIs — and how are they used in data journalism?

APIs can be very useful sources of data for data journalists. In this video — first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and shared as part of a series of video posts — I explain what an API is and how they have been used in a variety of data-driven stories.

Links mentioned in the video:

VIDEO: Writing for social media: ‘shortform’ storytelling

Writing for social media is a different skill to writing news articles, or even writing headlines. In this video I explain key techniques in shortform storytelling, such as the importance of quotes and numbers, images and video, as well as examples of narrative structures used in tweets and threads.

The video includes the following checklist to use with any piece of social media writing:

  1. Does it have image/video/GIF/emojis?
  2. Does it NOT read like a headline?
  3. Is there a CTA (Call To Action)?
  4. Has it considered hashtags?
  5. Does it @ name subjects?
  6. Does it have beginning and end?
  7. Can it use quotes or numbers?
  8. Is it timed appropriately?
  9. Are you testing different versions?

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism at Birmingham City University. A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

VIDEO: How (and why) to create an R notebook for data journalism

Notebooks are one of the ways that data journalists document their work, and make it transparent for others to follow and reproduce. In this video — first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and shared as part of a series of video posts — I explain what notebooks are and walk through how to create one in RStudio.

(Check out yesterday’s video on the pros and cons of R in data journalism for an introduction to R in general)

You can read Knuth on literate programming here; more on the pitfalls of “bad Excel”; and the story about the Excel spreadsheet that led to austerity here.

VIDEO: Why is R used by data journalists?

R — along with Python and JavaScript — is one of the most popular programming languages used by data journalists. In this video — first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and shared as part of a series of video posts — I explain what R is and why you might choose to use it rather than spreadsheets alone, or other languages, in your work.

Oh, and a quick caveat: since Colab notebooks were added to Google Drive, I now prefer Python — but it’s a personal thing, and most of this video can be applied to either language.

The talk by FiveThirtyEight’s Andrew Flowers mentioned in this video can be found here.

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VIDEO: Search engine optimisation (SEO) for journalists

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the skill of making it easier for people to find your article when they’re looking for the story, or issue, online. In this video I explain some key techniques in optimising your writing for findability, some of the jargon involved in SEO, and three ‘levels’ that you need to consider in optimising content.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism at Birmingham City University. A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

This is where data journalists get their ideas from (story cards)

I’ve written a piece for DataJournalism.com on the range of ways that data journalists get ideas for stories, from new data releases, tip-offs and exclusive leaks to simple questions, or taking an existing story as a template for a new one.

The piece also looks at how news events also provide the impetus for some “follow-on” story ideas, and the role that ‘play’ has in generating more creative (but also typically more complex) story ideas.

As part of the process I also created a series of cards, available as a printable PDF, which you can use to prompt these ideas in a classroom or editorial brainstorming situation. Please let me know if you find them useful!

VIDEO: Genre and structure in factual storytelling

In a fifth video post on narrative concepts* I build on some of the ideas about structure in the third post, exploring Freytag’s Pyramid and the kabob as narrative devices for structuring longer stories — and the role of genre in learning how to write in a new format.

In particular, I look at the interview format and different generic techniques such as headline styles and standfirsts — and I look at immersive longform stories and the new genre of scrollytelling.

The video was made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. A series of video posts from my teaching can be found at this link.

*The other videos are:

  1. How narrative concepts can help journalists
  2. Elements of narrative for factual storytellers
  3. How narrative structures can help you write quicker, and better
  4. More factual storytelling techniques: time, narration, and “show, don’t tell”