Tag Archives: statistics

How Trinity Mirror’s Data Unit created the 2015 election interactive ‘Find My Seat’

find my seat election interactive

During the 2015 UK general election the Trinity Mirror Data Unit created a special interactive tool which allowed readers to find out more about their own constituency. The Find My Seat tool was used across all their titles including the national Mirror newspaper as well as the Liverpool Echo, Birmingham Mail, Manchester Evening News, Newcastle Chronicle and north Wales’s Daily Post. The tool has recently been relaunched for the 2017 election. Patrick Scott (now at the Telegraph) was part of the team behind it — in an interview by Antia Geada, he explains how they did it.
Continue reading

Advertisements

A new data journalism tool – and a new way of reporting uncertainty

guesstimate: how long it takes to get ready for preschool

On the last day of last year, web developer Ozzie Gooen launched his new project Guesstimate, a spreadsheet ‘for things that aren’t certain’.

It is an inspired idea: software plays a key role in shaping what we do, and we take spreadsheets’ certainty about numbers for granted. Why should we?

Throw in journalism’s default dislike of ambiguity and a political tendency to play to that… well, it can all make for some flawed reporting.

I was so impressed with Guesstimate and the opportunities it presents for a new style of data reporting that I sought out Gooen to find out more about the project and how he came to launch it. Continue reading

The BBC’s new statistics role has ended after 18 months. Here’s what the person in that role did

At the end of July this year the BBC ended a quiet experiment that had been going on for the last 18 months: a Head of Statistics role funded initially by the corporation’s innovation fund and then by election coverage money.

Anthony Reuben was the person occupying that role. A business reporter with almost two decades’ experience at the BBC, Reuters, Sky, the Money Channel and the FT, he was helping to design a new statistics course for the BBC College of Journalism when the need for a new role became clear.

“We got to the last slide, which was where to turn for more help. There were plenty of people outside the BBC, but nobody in it who had the time or skills to help with statistical questions. So we applied for a year’s funding from the Innovation Fund.”

What the head of statistics role involved

Once in the role Reuben would sit with the planning team and attend some of the daily news and planning meetings to anticipate big stories which might “set off alarm bells”. Continue reading

The hidden dangers of ethnic minority data in big surveys

Crowd of people

Just because a sample is big, doesn’t mean it’s representative of the people you’re looking for. Image by Sreejith K

One of the things reporters should always be careful about when reporting on research or statistics is sample sizes: the smaller sample, the wider the margin for error when generalising to the population as a whole (more on sampling here and here).

But sometimes the sample size is less obvious than you think. Continue reading

Panini sticker albums – a great way to learn programming and statistics

1970 sticker album - image by John Cooper

1970 sticker album – image by John Cooper

When should you stop buying football stickers? I don’t mean how old should you be – but rather, at what point does the law of diminishing returns mean that it no longer makes sense to buy yet another packet of five stickers?

This was the question that struck me after seeing James Offer‘s ‘How much could it cost to fill a World Cup Sticker Album?Continue reading

“I don’t do maths”: how j-schools teach statistics to journalists

stats Image by Simon Cunningham

Image by Simon Cunningham

Teresa Jolley reports from a conference for teaching statistics to journalism students

I am not a great ‘numbers’ person, but even I was surprised by the attitudes that journalism lecturers at the Statistics in Journalism conference reported in their students.

‘I don’t do numbers’ and ‘I hate maths’ were depressingly common expressions, perhaps unsurprisingly. People wanting to study journalism enjoy the use of language and rarely expect that numbers will be vital to the stories they are telling.

So those responsible for journalism education have a tricky task. A bit like providing a sweet covering to a nasty-tasting tablet, it was said that lecturers need to be adept at finding ingenious ways to teach a practical and relevant use of numbers without ever mentioning the M (maths) or S (statistics) words. Continue reading

The US election was a wake up call for data illiterate journalists

So Nate Silver won in 50 states; big data was the winner; and Nate Silver and data won the election. And somewhere along the lines some guy called Obama won something, too.

Elections set the pace for much of journalism’s development: predictable enough to allow for advance planning; big enough to justify the budgets to match, they are the stage on which news organisations do their growing up in public.

For most of the past decade, those elections have been about social media: the YouTube election; the Facebook election; the Twitter election. This time, it wasn’t about the campaigning (yet) so much as it was about the reporting. And how stupid some reporters ended up looking. Continue reading