- Pick the right chart for your story – against a deadline
- Mapping tricks and techniques: using Fusion Tables and other tools to map Olympic torchbearers
- Picking the right data to visualise
- Visualisation tips for free chart tools
- Avoiding common visualisation mistakes
- Create an infographic with Tableau and Illustrator
- Making data interactive
If you want to learn some basic or intermediate data journalism skills I’m running two single-day courses next week, with places still available.
The first is Introduction to data journalism: taming the numbers on Tuesday September 11.
The second is Intermediate data journalism: take data to the next level on Thursday September 13.
They’re being run with Journalism.co.uk and you can book places on either course through their site. If you book on both days you save £50.
In a guest post Alexandra Stark, Swiss journalist and Head of Studies at MAZ – the Swiss School of Journalism, argues that it’s time for journalists to take action on business models for supporting journalism. Stark proposes a broadened set of skills and a new structure to enable greater involvement from journalists, while also fostering further teaching of such skills.
Ask a journalist if his or her job will remain important in the future: “Of course,” he or she will answer while privately thinking, “What a stupid question!” Try changing this stupid question just a bit, asking: “How will it be possible that you’ll still be able to do a good job in the future?” It’s likely you won’t receive an answer at all. Continue reading
I’m delivering a special day of data journalism training in Birmingham later this month, at the nominal cost to attendees of £25.
The course is being organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and Birmingham City University.
I have an enormous amount of respect for Peter Preston, and much of what he says in Sunday’s Observer piece about careers in journalism is spot-on. But this line strikes me as just wrong:
“If you want to be a journalist, try to get on one of the 68 National Council for the Training of Journalists accredited courses, along with 1,800 or so other hopefuls, but in general beware courses the NCTJ shuns (of which there are far too many).”
There are so many assumptions underlying this sentence that it’s a challenge to unpick them, but here are the main two:
- That ‘being a journalist’ is limited to newspapers – regional newspapers, to be specific. Most other employers of journalists – national, broadcast, magazines and online – rarely ask for NCTJ qualifications. Even regional newspapers – the heartland of the NCTJ – do not recruit a majority of trainees with an existing NCTJ qualification.
- Secondly, that courses not accredited by the NCTJ have been ‘shunned’. I teach on a journalism degree which chose, a decade ago, not to pay for NCTJ accreditation. The decision was taken by the then-head of journalism, the redoubtable and wonderful Sharon Wheeler, for reasons both financial (the money that would be paid to the NCTJ for a shiny badge would be better spent elsewhere) and educational (the NCTJ strictures make it hard to be flexible in a changing media environment). That decision was restated by our current head of journalism Sue Heseltine, and I agreed with it: I didn’t see what we would gain for the money we pay to the NCTJ other than a marketing tool that we do not need (we receive around 10 applicants for every place).
That decision was also informed by the problems universities have had with the NCTJ, which I’ve written about elsewhere (the comments to which are particularly interesting). I’ve also written about the assumption that journalism degrees are comparable to training courses.
I don’t have a problem with NCTJ training in particular – indeed, I wish more journalists had the sort of understanding of local government and law that their courses teach – but I do have a problem when it is seen as the only, or best, route into journalism (an image perpetuated by the NCTJ’s own marketing materials). The same is true of university courses, which vary wildly in quality and scope (the latter is not such a bad thing; a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be good for any creative industry).
The only good advice I can think of for aspiring journalists is to simply go out there and do journalism – because there’s no longer anything stopping you – me or Peter Preston included.
I had an interesting meeting recently with an MP who wanted to get a handle on the state of the media right now and how good journalism could be supported. Rather than just hear my voice I thought it would be worth starting something wider that involves more voices, and point him to this.
To kick things off, here are some of the things I thought the government could do to create an environment that supports good journalism:
- Release of public data (I’ve made this case before – it’s about helping create efficiencies for anyone reporting on public bodies). He seemed to feel that this argument has already been won.
- Tax relief on donations to support investigative journalism: a number of philanthropists, foundations, public bodies and charities are starting to fund investigative journalism to fill the ‘market failure’ of commercial news production. In addition, an increasing amount of investigative journalism is being done by campaigning organisations rather than news organisations, and there is also the opportunity for new types of businesses – social enterprises and community interest companies – to fund journalism.
- Encouraging innovation and enterprise: as regional publishers reduce their reporting staff and shut down their less profitable publications, gaps are appearing in local news coverage. Local people are launching news sites and blogs to fill those gaps – but not quickly enough, or with the resources, to match what was left behind. Funds to support these startups are much-needed and might also encourage journalists who have been made redundant to put their experience into an independent operation. There is no evidence to suggest that subsidising existing publishers will subsidise journalism; indeed, I would suggest it will stifle local innovation and economic growth.
- Reskilling of redundant journalists: related to the last point, I would like to see funds made available to help put redundant journalists (more Chris Browns and Rick Waghorns) in a position to launch news startups. They have a wealth of experience, ability, knowledge and contacts that shouldn’t be left to waste – give them online and enterprise skills.
- An effective local news consortia: The Digital Britain-mooted local news consortia is a vague idea in need of some meat, but clearly it could go some way to meeting the above 2 by supporting local independent media and providing training. Allowing the usual suspects to dominate any new operation will see business as usual, and innovative independent operators – including those who work on a non-commercial basis – will quickly become disillusioned. The idea of putting some or all of the commissioning process in the hands of the public, for instance, could be very interesting.
- Address libel laws: one of the biggest obstacles to investigative reporting is the potential legal costs. Most newspapers now make a hard commercial decision on stories: if the story is worth enough money to make it worth fighting, it gets published; otherwise, it doesn’t. Public interest or importance is not the major factor other than in how it affects likely sales. Likewise, startup operations are likely to shy away from edgier reporting if they feel they can’t afford to fight for it in the courts. Stopping councils from suing for libel was an important step; keeping libel laws out of science should be the next one – and it shouldn’t stop there.
So those are the ideas that occurred to me. What would you suggest this MP, and government, do to help journalism?