VIDEO PLAYLIST: Finding stories in company accounts

Company accounts can be a goldmine of story leads — from “following the money” and uncovering complex webs of relationships, to simply reporting concerns and individual payments.

I’ve put together a playlist of videos covering a number of different techniques you can use to find stories. Those are:

  1. What stories can be found in company accounts
  2. How to find stories in the text section at the front of company accounts
  3. Finding stories in the cash flow statement
  4. Using accounts to find stories about relationships and potential conflicts of interest
  5. Tools and tips for journalists using company accounts
  6. Finding stories about tax, pay, debt and other leads

The entire playlist is embedded below.

You can also read my posts on teaching journalists how to find stories in company accounts; how one journalist used these techniques to tell a story about a social media platform for sex workers; and tips from a story about a fashion charity.

You can find resources related to the video in this GitHub repo including examples of accounts and links to stories using these techniques.

The video was first made for students on the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and is shared here as part of a series of video posts.

How CORRECTIV launched a live sanctions tracker in under a week

German investigative non-profit CORRECTIV launched its sanctions tracker less than a week after the invasion of Ukraine. In an interview with OJB, Olaya Argüeso Perez talks about the background to the project, how it’s been used — and what they’ve learned since.

“It was my co-editor-in-chief Justus von Daniels who had the idea”

“We were discussing how to address the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a non-daily investigative outlet,” Olaya says. “And very soon we realized that the sanctions were going to play key role as the main and maybe only Western tool against Russia and its allies.”

Continue reading

VIDEO: Computational thinking in data journalism

I’ve written previously about the importance of computational thinking as a technique in data journalism, as well as some examples of that.

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 computational thinking is and how it can improve your ability to work with data as a journalist, with some exercises and examples that help you exercise your own computational thinking.

Links mentioned in the video include Adrian Holovaty’s post A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change; Politifact; and How BuzzFeed News Used Betting Data To Investigate Match-Fixing In Tennis;

Computational thinking challenges can be found here.

Continue reading

Video plays 4 roles online — here’s a video all about that

When making video for the web there are four broad roles that it is likely to play: it might illustrate a story; add to it; distil the story; or tell it.

In the video below, made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism at Birmingham City University, I talk through examples of each type of video, as well as some tips on considering variety of shots, and sequence. You can find links to the examples below.

Videos mentioned:

Continue reading

VIDEO: Mapping for data journalists

If you’re using maps as a data journalist it’s important to be aware of the editorial choices you are making — and how they can skew your reporting.

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 introduce critical cartography, the different types of maps you might choose to use to tell a story, and the different types of stories that they can tell.

I also give some examples of geography-based stories that might be better told with other charts, and list some tools and tips that can be used to tell geographical stories.

Links mentioned in the video include Theo Kindynis’s research on critical cartography; and Stories Behind A Line. And there are two related videos I refer to which are embedded below. First, a West Wing clip on mapping (more on that here):

Continue reading

VIDEO: The 3 chords of data journalism

With just a few basic data journalism techniques you can tell a lot of data journalism stories. I call these the “three chords of data journalism” — a nod to Simon Rogers’s talk on data journalists as the new punks. Those chords are: sorting; filtering; and calculating percentages.

In this 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 walk through how to use those techniques in practice, using gender pay gap data to demonstrate how those techniques can be used to find outliers and potential interviewees; to drill down to a particular category or area in a dataset; and to put figures into context.

VIDEO: Where data journalists get data from

Journalists get hold of data using four broad approaches: it might be newly published or issued; it might be leaked; they might request it; or they might seek it out based on an idea or in reaction to a news event.

In this second short 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 go through the different ways that journalists obtain data and the different types of story that those sources can lead to.

VIDEO: What is data journalism — and why is it growing so much?

Data journalism isn’t just about spreadsheets and interactives: in this video from my MA Data Journalism classes at Birmingham City University I look at why the news industry has expanded its focus on data journalism over the past decade, and how thinking about definitions of data journalism can help reporters think more broadly about potential stories and subjects beyond official statistics.

I also look at related terms such as computational journalism, robot journalism and augmented journalism — and what we can learn from those definitions as practitioners.

This is part of a series of videos recorded during the coronavirus pandemic.

VIDEO: How to write for the web (BASIC principles)

The best online journalism has a range of qualities: it tends to be succinct, easy to scan, and it considers how a user might interact with it — whether through links or embedded elements, or more conversational elements like comments and social media hashtags.

One way to remember those qualities is the mnemonic BASIC: Brevity; Adaptability; Scannability; Interactivity; and Community/Conversation. In the video below I talk through those five qualities, and how to put them into practice when writing for the web.

This video was first made for students on the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University and is shared as part of a series of video posts. A shorter version can also be found here.

Investigating the World Cup: tips on making FOIA requests to create a data-driven news story

Image by Ambernectar 13

Beatriz Farrugia used Brazil’s freedom of information laws to investigate the country’s hosting of the World Cup. In a special guest post for OJB, the Brazilian journalist and former MA Data Journalism student passes on some of her tips for using FOIA.

I am from Brazil, a country well-known for football and FIFA World Cup titles — and the host of the World Cup in 2014. Being a sceptical journalist, in 2019 I tried to discover the real impacts of that 2014 World Cup on the 213 million residents of Brazil: tracking the 121 infrastructure projects that the Brazilian government carried out for the competition and which were considered the “major social legacy” of the tournament.  

In 2018 the Brazilian government had taken the website and official database on the 2014 FIFA World Cup infrastructure projects offline — so I had to make Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to get data.

The investigation took 3 months and more than 230 FOIA requests to 33 different public bodies in Brazil. On August 23, my story was published.

Here is everything that I have learned from making those hundreds of FOIA requests:

Continue reading