Tag Archives: how to

HOW TO: Find out the ages of people using Excel

excel for journalists ebook

This post is taken from the ebook Finding Stories With Spreadsheets

“How do I calculate an age in Excel?” Marion Urban, a French journalist and student on the MA in Online Journalism in Birmingham, was preparing data for the forthcoming UK General Election.

In order to do this Marion had downloaded details on the candidates who had stood successfully in the previous election.

“It was a very young intake. But it wasn’t easy to calculate their ages.”

Indeed. You would think that calculating ages in Excel would be easy. But there is no off-the-shelf function to help you do so. Or at least, no easy-to-find function.

Instead there are a range of different approaches: some of them particularly, and unnecessarily complicated.

In this extract from Finding Stories in Spreadsheets I will outline one approach to calculating ages, which also illustrates a useful technique in using spreadsheets in stories: the ability to break down a problem into different parts. Continue reading


HOW TO: Write a ‘Get the data’ article

ft get the data

One of the simplest ways to get started with data journalism techniques is a ‘Get the data’ article.

Start by looking at examples of other ‘Get the data’ articles. A good search for this is:

intitle:"get the data" -getthedata

This searches for the exact phrase “get the data” in the title of the page but also excludes the site getthedata.org (which otherwise dominates results) by using the minus operator.

You can obviously add further terms, such as ‘news’ or ‘finance’, to narrow further.

Here are some examples:

Those three examples show two different types of datablog. The Guardian, for example, take public data which has just been released and make it more accessible to a broader audience. Continue reading

An experiment in creating an ‘Auto-Debunker’ twitter account

As the conspiracy theories flew around last Friday, one in particular caught fire: the idea that the News Of The World might have been closed down because it would then allow for its assets – i.e. incriminating evidence – to be destroyed.

Perhaps because it was published under the Reuters brand (although the byline abrogated them of any responsibility for its contents) by the end of the day it had accumulated over 4,000 retweets.

I had already personally tweeted a couple of those users to point out that comments on the article had quickly debunked its argument. And by 6.26 that evening David Allen Green had published an explanation of the flaws in a piece at the New Statesman.

But people were still retweeting: how to connect the two?

Creating @autodebunker

It took me all of 20 minutes to hack together a simple automated service that would reply to people retweeting the Reuters blog post. Continue reading