Category Archives: online journalism

When you get data in sentences: how to use a spreadsheet to extract numbers from phrases

Unduly lenient sentences review scheme inadequate

This BBC story involved converting phrases into numbers that could be used in calculations

Earlier this month the BBC Data Unit published a story on unduly lenient sentences which involved working with data that was trapped in phrases.

We needed to be able to take a collection of words such as “11 years and 5 months’ imprisonment” and convert that into something that could be used in spreadsheet calculations (specifically, comparing the lengths of time represented by two different phrases).

It’s a problem you come across every so often as a journalist — especially with FOI requests — so in this post — taken from the book Finding Stories in Spreadsheets — I’ll explain how to do that. Continue reading

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The 5 stages of a longform story – and how they can help you identify sources

5 stages of a longform story

This year I’ve been working with my MA Data Journalism and MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism students on techniques for telling longer form stories. In this post I explain how a consideration of story structure can help you clarify the sources that you will need to talk to in order to gather the elements needed for an effective longform story.

In a previous post I discussed how different plot frameworks identified by Christopher Booker in his book ‘The Seven Basic Plots‘ – such as the ‘quest’ or ‘tragedy’ – can help a journalist think about longer investigations. In addition to those types of story, however, Booker also identifies 5 stages of a story. These are:

  1. Anticipation: setting, character and – crucially – ‘problem’ are introduced.
  2. Dream: we begin exploring/solving the problem.
  3. Frustration: we hit more problems.
  4. Nightmare: this is the ‘final battle’ of fiction narratives.
  5. Miraculous Escape/Redemption/Achievement of the Prize or (in the case of Tragedy) the Hero’s Destruction.

How the 5 stages work in journalism

I would argue that you can see these stages at work in most longform journalism, too. Here’s how: Continue reading

Here are 7 story types that can be used to help organise investigations

7 story types and investigations

This year I’ve been working with my MA Data Journalism and MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism students on techniques for telling longer form stories. In this post I explain how a consideration of seven common plot types can help you clarify what story it is you’re telling – and what you might need to tell that.

There are many ways to tell a story, and many stories to tell. An investigation can be trying to establish the cause of a problem, or solutions to that problem; it can be revealing previously hidden unethical behaviour, or shining a light on issues which are ‘hidden in plain sight’; it can be holding a mirror up to a part of society to reveal its scale; or giving a voice to that part of society as a step towards a more sophisticated understanding of problems affecting it. And depending on the type of story, you might adopt different approaches to telling it. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

GEN 2019 round-up: 4 videos to watch on the potential of data and AI

Krishna Bharat

This year’s Global Editor’s Network (GEN) Summit, in Athens, Greece, had a big focus on the use of verification and automation. BBC News data scientist and PGCert Data Journalism student Alison Benjamin went along to see what was being said about artificial intelligence (AI), data and technology in the news industry. Here are her highlights…
Continue reading

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

I’m holding a taster day for anyone interested in studying data or multiplatform journalism (part time or full time)

MA journalism taster day

I’ll be holding a special ‘Taster Day’ on June 11 for anyone interested in studying journalism at postgraduate level — specifically data journalism (which includes a part time PGCert option for those already working in the industry) and multiplatform journalism (full time only).

  • In the morning (10am-12.30pm), I will be running a taster of the MA and part time PGCert courses in Data journalism. I’ll be covering introductory data journalism techniques and also discussing some tips, tricks and trends to watch out for
  • In the afternoon (2pm-4.30pm), I’ll be hosting a taster session of the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism. This will cover reporting news for multiplatform audiences, and how to use mobile journalism to report stories

I’ll be making time in both sessions for questions and discussion about postgraduate study and developments in journalism.

If you are interested in attending either event, please sign up on the Eventbrite page here. Drop me a line on Twitter @paulbradshaw or email paul.bradshaw@bcu.ac.uk if you have any questions!