Category Archives: faq

FAQ: What are the essential computational skills that a journalist should develop?

Blue skyscrapers

Recognising patterns is a key skill in computational journalism (image by Stanley Zimny)

This latest group of frequently asked questions comes from an interview with Source, published here in full just in case it’s — you know — useful or something…

1. What are the essential computational skills that a journalist should develop?

Firstly, an ability to recognise patterns, or structured information. Spreadsheets are explicitly ‘data’ but some of the most interesting applications of computational journalism are where someone has seen data where others don’t.

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FAQ: How has social media changed journalism – and what does the future hold?

tools on a shed wall

Tools image by Lachlan Donald

This latest set of frequently asked questions comes from a MA student at Coventry University who is researching Instagram. Their questions revolve around the impact of social media on journalism and Instagram in particular.

How are the new social media apps changing the way journalism is produced, distributed and consumed?

There’s a lot of scope in that question so in breaking it down it’s firstly worth making a distinction between apps (i.e. tools, used by producers to capture, publish and share) and platforms (i.e. a place where content is hosted).

So for example Instagram is a platform that hosts content which can be accessed on a tablet, or on mobile, or a desktop or laptop computer, but can also be published to through an app on mobile or tablet. Continue reading

FAQ: Do you think that an increase in algorithms is leading to a decline in human judgement?

recipe by Phillip Stewart

This algorithm has been quality tested. Image by Phillip Stewart

The latest in my series of FAQ posts follows on from the last one, in response to a question from an MA student at City University who posed the question “Do you think that an increase in algorithmic input is leading to a decline in human judgement?”. Here’s my response.

Does an increase in computation lead to a decline in human input?

Firstly, it’s important to emphasise that the vast majority of data journalism involves no algorithms or automation at all: it’s journalists making calculations, which historically they would have done manually.

You mention the possibility that “an increase in computation leads to a decline in human input”. An analogy would be to ask whether an increase in pencils leads to a decline in human input in art. Continue reading

FAQ: Can data journalism improve the world?

The latest in my series of FAQ posts comes in response to questions from a number of MA students at City University who emailed to ask “Can data journalism improve the world?”. Here’s my response, along with some follow-up questions and answers.

Can data journalism improve the world?

I wouldn’t be involved in data journalism if I didn’t think it could improve the world! But more broadly, I think journalism as a whole improves the world, whether that’s data journalism or not. (In fact, the whole reason I got involved in data journalism was because I believed it had the biggest potential to help journalism – particularly investigative journalsm – and, by extension, improve the world.) Continue reading

FAQ: How the use of UGC and verification has changed in journalism

The latest in my series of FAQ posts comes from a current MA Online Journalism student, who is writing an article for a German publication.

How has the use of user-generated content from social media changed over the last years in the UK?

The use of UGC from social media has changed enormously in the UK in the last decade. Obviously many of the platforms didn’t even exist a decade ago, so we’ve moved from quoting emails to taking screenshots, to a situation now where it’s common to embed live social media content which users can interact with from the article itself – whether that’s to share, like, follow, or respond. Continue reading

FAQ: Top 3 tips for journalists wanting to get started in data journalism

The latest in my series of FAQ posts comes from the National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST) in Pakistan. As always, I’m publishing my answers to their questions here in case it’s of use to anyone else.

Q. What would you say to convince journalists — especially journalists working in developing countries where even the acquisition of public records is often a tedious task — about the importance of data journalism?

If you believe that journalism has a duty to be factual, accurate, and to engage an audience in subjects which have a clear public and civic importance, then data journalism is going to be very important to your work. 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