Another series of questions and answers from a student:
The Data Driven Journalism website asked me a few questions as part of their end-of-2012 roundup. You can find the article there, but for the sake of archiving, my responses are copied below (without the helpful pictures they added):
What do you do?
I’m a data journalism trainer and Iecturer. I run the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University and am a visiting professor in online journalism at City University London. I’m also the author of Scraping for Journalists.
What was your biggest data driven achievement this year?
An investigation into the allocation of Olympic torchbearer places. The investigation came about as a result of scraping details on torchbearers from the official website. But it was also a great example of collaboration between non-journalists and journalists, as well as a number of techniques outside of core data journalism.
The investigation led to questions in Parliament and international media coverage. In the final week of the Olympic torch relay we published a short ebook about the affair, with all proceeds going to the Brittle Bone Society.
What was your favourite data journalism project this year and why?
I really liked Landportal.info, which is attempting to map land ownership – it’s highlighting a global trend of companies buying up land in Africa which would be easy to overlook by journalists. The New York Times’s multimedia treatment of performance data in three Olympic events across over a century was really well done. And I’m always looking at how data journalism can be used in softer news, where Anna Powell-Smith’s What Size Am I? is a great example of fashion/consumer data journalism.
For sheer significance I can’t avoid mentioning Nate Silver’s work on the US election – that was a watershed for data journalism and an embarrassment for many political pundits.
More broadly – what excites you in this field at the moment? Any interesting developments that you’d like to mention?
There’s a lot of consolidation at the moment, so less of the spectacular developments – but I am excited at how data journalism is being taken on by a wider range of companies. This year I’ve spent a lot more time training staff at consumer magazine publishers, for example.
I’m also excited about some of the new journalism startups based on public data like Rafat Ali’s Skift. In terms of tools, it’s great to see network analysis added to Fusion Tables, and the Knight Digital Media Center’s freeDive makes it very easy indeed to create a public database from a Google Doc.
What about disappointments?
I am constantly disappointed by publishers who say they don’t have the resources to do data journalism. That shows a real lack of imagination and understanding of what data journalism really is. It doesn’t have to be a spectacular interactive data visualisation – it can simply be about getting to better stories more quickly, accurately and more deeply through a few basic techniques.
Any predictions about what the future holds for data journalism in 2013?
I’ve just been training someone from Chile so I’m hoping to see more data journalism there!
Anything else you’d like to share with everyone?
As part of my semi-regular FAQ series, here are some answers to a series of questions posed by someone as part of their research.
To what extent do you believe social media has removed the barrier between journalists and the public?
Significantly. Journalists are trained to find regular sources of news – that mostly means formal organisations such as government bodies, unions, press officers, and a few community figures such as the local vicar, postmaster etc. Continue reading
As part of the ongoing series of questions answered in public, here are another bunch:
1) What inspired you to become a blogger? Have you ever found it difficult to keep up regular posts/ stay dedicated to the same topic area?
As someone teaching online journalism, I felt I should be exploring the medium myself. What inspired me to continue, however, was the community I found along the way.
Yes, I sometimes find it difficult to post, but the great thing about blogging is that you have no deadlines to hit or boss to please, so if I can’t post for a while, I don’t – but as long as I have something to share, I can. Continue reading
Note: for those coming from Poynter’s summary of part of this post, the phrase ‘don’t have to be trained’ has an ambiguity that could be misunderstood. I’ve expanded on the relevant section to clarify.
Another set of answers to another set of questions (FAQs). These are posed by a UK university student:
How would you define the blogosphere?
The blogosphere is, technically, all blogs – but those don’t often have much connection to each other. I think it’s better to talk of many ‘blogospheres’ around different topics, e.g. the political blogosphere and so on. Continue reading
Answers to another set of questions around ethics and online journalism, posed by a UK student, and reproduced here as part of the FAQ series:
Do you believe online journalism presents new ethical dilemmas and should have standards of its own?
Yes, I think any changing situation – whether technological or cultural – presents new ethical dilemmas.
But should ‘online journalism’ have a separate code? I don’t see how it can. Where would you draw the line when most journalists work online? Ethical standards are relatively platform-agnostic, but journalists do have to revisit those when they’re working in new environments. Continue reading