It’s a common misconception of data journalism that the resulting stories will be all about numbers. In fact, the data is often just a stepping stone — it might take you to interviews, or help you find case studies; it might give you the spark for a feature idea without a single number.
A screenshot of the Slack group for MA journalism students at Birmingham City University
For a number of years I’ve been using Slack with students on both the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism, and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University. As a new academic year begins, here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years – whether you are a lecturer considering integrating Slack into your teaching, or a student considering using it in a journalism project.
First things first: why Slack?
Slack is a professional chat app used widely in the media industry to organise projects. It has a number of advantages over other options for communicating between colleagues, whether that’s chat apps such as WhatsApp, or traditional email. These include:
The ability to take control over opting in or out of communications (rather than being endlessly ccd in on unimportant messages)
The ability to have ‘office hours’ and customise notifications based on your priorities and availability (rather than getting notifications for all communications)
A particularly powerful search functionality for finding documents or messages from previous communications
The ability to set yourself reminders
Automation of aspects of work, such as alerts
When it comes to teaching and learning there are two obvious selling points: firstly it empowers students to manage their own communication (with attendant benefits for mental health).
Long-form journalism enjoyed a resurgence when editors tried to retain readers in the early 2000s — but the rise of mobile-first publishing has presented a challenge. In a special guest post for OJB, Michael Bugeja outlines how it can draw on narrative techniques from literary essays to keep readers reading — and coming back for more.
“While 123 seconds – or just over two minutes – may not seem long, and afar cry from the idealized vision of citizens settling in with the morning newspaper, two minutes is far longer than most local television news stories today.”
But buried in the report were some problems: only 3 percent of long-form and 4 percent of short-form news returned to the content once they left it — and both types of articles had brief lifespans after content was posted, with interaction after three days dropping by 89 percent for short-form and 83 percent for long-form. Continue reading →
Bárbara Maseda has dedicated the last four years to publishing data where none exists. “In Cuba we use investigative journalism tools to search for information that elsewhere in the world would be in a press release,” she says. Other journalists’ data problems, such as receiving data in formats that are difficult to analyse, “are my highest aspirations”.
Somewhere between the heated accusations and counter-accusations, however, there was an important lesson to be learned — and a reasonable discussion to be had.
It is a lesson about understanding very different online cultures, about new journalistic practices, and an emerging dimension of journalistic ethics that few reporters have truly gotten to grips with. Continue reading →
Middles and endings of long features are no less tricky than the beginnings you can spend so much time writing and rewriting. Often people fall back on particular habits which may not quite ‘work’ for the story being told.
Telling a story in chronological order, for example, is not always the most effective approach. Stories where the action is not equally dispersed chronologically can ‘sag’ in these cases and the momentum of a strong beginning get lost.
In those situations a storyteller with a varied toolbox might use places, or themes, or scenes, to keep that momentum going instead. Continue reading →
Beginnings are notoriously tricky for any writer. For news reporters the advice is simple: start with the ‘new’ thing in your story, and make sure there is a verb in there: a person has said something; a report has revealed something; authorities are looking for someone, warning about something, planning to do something; and so on.
But in longform and feature writing the approach is more subtle. Although we can choose to report that something has been ‘revealed’ right at the start, this risks removing tension from the story and leading the reader to abandon it before they have the full picture.
Instead, then, journalists use a number of techniques to keep the reader engaged across a longer format — with the important implied promise that the story is going to be worth it.
So, for anyone struggling to think of a way to start a longer story — or feel that you can improve the approach you’ve chosen — I’ve pulled together seven types of beginning that are used in longform reporting and feature writing, with some considerations to bear in mind — and plenty of examples. Continue reading →
When I saw Danish broadcaster TV2 Østjylland’s innovative meme-driven Instagram strategy to reach younger audiences, I immediately wanted to know more. So I spoke toHead of News Louise Petterson and Art Director Kristine Helms to find out how the organisation took on the challenge of a new language on a new platform — and what they have learned along the way.
With TV audiences ageing and public service broadcasters struggling to retain mass appeal, many news organisations have looked to new platforms to reach younger audiences. At TV2 Østjylland, Instagram was part of the mix — but they were acutely conscious that the organisation could no longer rely on traditional approaches to storytelling that journalists were used to.
“We couldn’t take a TV narrative and just put that onto Instagram or Facebook,” explains Louise Petterson. “We had to define a new narrative, a new way of communicating with a younger audience. Continue reading →
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).