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Five key courses for journalists in September

July 31st, 2013 | 1 Comment | Posted by in About us, Training

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Did you know that Journalism.co.uk organises one-day, evening and online training courses? We provide new skills to trained journalists. We are aware that we all need to keep learning, so we offer intensive and practical training in areas such as data journalism, social media and online video.

Rather than bringing in trainers who spend little time in a newsroom, we like to invite people to lead courses who are working journalists or who spend a large proportion of their of their time practicing a key skill.

And as our trainers are professionals taking a day out of their normal schedule to share their skills, these courses don’t take place very often. It is the first time that we are offering courses run by Luke Lewis from BuzzFeed and by Glen Mulcahy from Irish broadcaster RTE.

We have a great line up for September. You can click the links to find out more.

1. Data journalism (4 September)

Paul Bradshaw is a data journalism expert and is running this course which will get you started in dealing with data. You’ll be able to use data as a source of stories and learn how to present information online.

Paul divides his time between being a visiting professor at City University, London, course leader for the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, and a freelance trainer, speaker and writer. He founded Help Me Investigate, a platform for crowdsourcing investigative journalism, and the Online Journalism Blog.

2. Growing social media communities (19 September)

Luke Lewis, the editor of BuzzFeed UK and former editor of NME.com, is leading a course on growing social media communities. Interested in finding out how to make your posts go viral? Then sign up to the course.

This course has a great venue too. It’s being hosted by VICE UK in Shoreditch.

3. Mobile journalism (19 September)

Glen Mulcahy has been key to introducing iPhone and iPad reporting at Irish broadcaster RTE. In this one-day course he is leading you will learn how to shoot and edit broadcast-quality footage using an iPhone or iPad.

If you think you know how to use your phone, take a peek at this course description and you will probably realise that Glen can teach you some valuable lessons. (And if you want to see the quality of his teaching skills, take a quick look at this video of him presenting at news:rewired.)

This course is taking place in the building in London Victoria which is home to MSN UK and Microsoft.

4. Open data for journalists (19 September)

Kathryn Corrick and Ulrich Atz are experts in open data. This course takes place at the Open Data Institute, which launched earlier this year having been founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

This course is designed to provide journalists with an introduction to open data.

5. Online video (30 September)

Adam Westbrook is a multimedia producer and has been a key voice in the development of online video. He is running a one-day course in which you can learn how to shoot and edit video. Cameras and an editing suite are provided.

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#ijf13: Data journalism pointers and Excel starter tips

April 24th, 2013 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Data, Events
Image by Abron on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Image by Abron on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Data journalism is not a new phenomenon. Speaking at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Steve Doig from the Walter Cronkite school of journalism highlighted this by talking about the impact of the rise of the personal computer in the early 1980s and how this helped journalists track “patterns” in the data they were getting hold of.

Before this technology arrived, such reporting was “often based simply on anecdotes”, he said. Giving the example of covering “the problem of drunk driving”, journalists would have previously had to have referenced a “bad example of such an accident” before moving to discuss the “larger problem”, he explained.

The nice thing about data journalism is it lets you go beyond anecdotes to evidence.

His workshop ran through some of the key features of Excel to help journalists sort, filter, “transform” and “summarise” data.

Below is a summary of some of the key points he raised – the full tutorial is available online.

  • Sorting, filtering, transforming and summarising data with Excel

When it comes to the most common format of data, Doig said it “tends to be alphabetical”, which will not make it immediately clear to a journalist what the story, or stories, behind the data are.

So we want this to be “more journalistically interesting”, Doig said. As an example he demonstrated how journalists can sort numbers by highest or lowest.

When it comes to filtering data, he described some particularly large datasets as “forests”, and that journalists “only want to see the trees that we’re interested in”.

Using Excel journalists can hide data they are less interested in and effectively keep their work area tidy.

Journalists can also use Excel to “transform data using functions and formulas”. For example, he showed the delegates how to create new variables, such as working out a crime rate per 100,000 people when you already have statistics on population and crime. This then helps the journalist “make fair comparisons between places of different size”.

Finally, you can “collapse your data down by categories”. This can be achieved by using pivot tables, which enables the users to select certain variables and bring those together.

For example, if you wanted to look at the number of murders by region, but the data is also broken down into smaller geographic areas, you could build a pivot table, select the ‘region’ variable in ‘row labels’ and select the column stating the number of murders and put it in ‘values’. This would combine the number of murders per region.

  • Data stories are not only for economics or business journalism

Here is just a selection of the different types of data story subjects Doig highlighted:

- Budgets and taxes
– Crime patterns
– School test scores
– Auto accidents
– Demographic change
– Pet licences
– Air quality
– Sports statistics

  • A simple toolbox can get you far when you are starting out

Highlighting some of the key tools for working with datasets, Doig said Excel lets journalists do the majority of the work they would need to, supported by database software like Access, mapping tools like ArcMap, a text editor and social network analysis plug-ins such as NodeXL.

And when it comes to visualising the data he pointed to data journalism staple Google Fusion tables, as well as coding language such as Ruby, Django, perl, python.

  • Tap into industry resources

Doig recommended a number of outlets and online platforms offering industry expertise on data journalism:

Data journalism handbook
– EJC
– NICAR
– Investigative reporters and editors
– SKUP
– Global Investigative Journalism Network

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#PPAdigital: Paul Bradshaw’s five principles of data management

September 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Events

At today’s PPA Digital Publishing Conference, Paul Bradshaw, publisher of the Online Journalism Blog, visiting professor at City University, London, and course leader for the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, talked about data both in terms of data journalism and data analytics.

He set out five principles of data management.

1. Data is only as good as the person asking questions

Bradshaw said that whether the data is from analytics and used for commercial purposes, or whether it’s editorial data and you are doing an investigation, “the key thing is to have questions to ask” of the data.

That should drive everything, rather than you being led by the data.

2. Data can save time and money

Bradshaw is frequently told that data journalism is resource-intensive or a publishing company does not feel it has resources “to do data stuff”.

But he argues that data saves time, does not have to cost money or rely on having a team of developers.

He explained that people he has trained find they learn computer techniques to do things that they previously did manually.

They might scrape websites very neatly into a spreadsheet, they may pull data from an analytics package into spreadsheet, they might visualise that dynamically – and that all saves time.

You might prepare for a big event by having spreadsheets set up or feeds set up or triggers.

3. Data is about people

There can be a danger of becoming “bogged down in the data”, Bradshaw warned. “But really stories are told about people and to people.”

He advises taking “a step back from that data” to find “the people that it is telling a story about”.

He said that in the case of data journalism, that is about finding case studies; in the case of analytics you can use the data to create profiles or pictures of the people who are using your site.

4. Good data is social, sticky and useful

“If data is going to be useful it needs to have a point, people need to be able to do something with it,” Bradshaw said.

People may share it socially, he explained. And it becomes “sticky” if it allows people to spend time exploring it.

5. You can be driven by the data or driven by the story

“Sometimes you are getting data passively and you are looking for stories in it, sometimes you are seeking out data because of the story or lead or question you have,” Bradshaw explained. And that comes back to his first point. “It’s really important to have questions” rather than to be “passively driven by the data”.

And Bradshaw demonstrated how his principles make “a lot more sense” when you replace the word ‘data’ with ‘journalism’.

  • Journalism is only as good as the person asking questions
  • Journalism can save time and money
  • Journalism is about people
  • Good journalism is social, sticky and useful
  • You can be driven in journalism by the source or driven by the story

Listen below to hear audio of Paul Bradshaw setting out his five principles of data management:

Paul Bradshaw leads data journalism courses for Journalism.co.uk. The next course is on 5 December. There are details at this link.

 

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Tool of the week for journalists: Datawrapper, for quick data visualisations

Tool of the week: Datawrapper

What is it? A free, easy-to-use data visualisation tool.

How is it of use to journalists? At the Guardian Activate Summit on Wednesday (27 June), editor of the Guardian’s Datastore and Datablog Simon Rogers said he had recently started using a tool called Datawrapper.

Datawrapper is a free tool that was developed for ABZV, a journalism training organization affiliated to BDVZ (German Association of Newspaper Publishers) in an effort “to develop a comprehensive curriculum for data-driven journalism”.

Here is the Datawrapper site (note the button to switch from German to English). It allows you to copy and paste data from an excel spreadsheet, Google Doc or even a web page and visualise as a graph or pie chart and then embed the visualisation.

Here is a visualisation I created to try it out – which tool less than five minutes. It is based on a study by Rippla that found half of news articles shared on Twitter are BBC News stories

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Data journalism competition open to entries

May 31st, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Data

The Knight News Challenge has entered its second phase and is now accepting applications concerned with the ‘collecting, processing and visualising of data’.

The competition aims to promote innovation by funding new ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas.

They write on their blog:

The world has always been complex, but we are now challenged with making sense of the rapidly increasing amounts of information that we are creating. According to IBM, nine-tenths of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. Cisco predicts that information generated by mobile devices will hit 130 exabytes in 2016 –  that’s the equivalent of 520,000 Libraries of Congress in one year. A report from McKinsey anticipates that the amount of data we generate will increase 40% annually. Facebook users alone add a billion pieces of content every 24 hours.

Knight News Challenge: Data is a call for making sense of this onslaught of information. “As data sits teetering between opportunity and crisis, we need people who can shift the scales and transform data into real assets,” wrote Roger Ehrenberg earlier this year.

Or, as danah boyd has put it, “Data is cheap, but making sense of it is not.”

The Knight News Challenge is accepting applications from any person or organisation, anywhere, of any age. For more information visit their blog.

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#GEN2012: ‘Trolls’ can become an asset in data journalism projects

May 30th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Events

The creator of a data-driven fact-checking tool for the French presidential election says data journalists should welcome having their own work fact-checked by readers – and says “trolls” who question your methodology can become an asset.

Sylvain Lapoix, a senior journalist at online news site OWNI, has just finished working on Véritomètre – a fact-checking tool analysing the statistical claims made by the presidential election candidates during the campaign – and which took a year to build.

He said the project was inspired by US political journalism and had not been done properly in France before.

In France, there is a tradition in political journalism which is mainly a Voltaire way of doing things – a very literary way. Politics is about speech, attitude, how you behave. Getting numbers and all the facts back into the subject was a (challenge) we had to go through.

Speaking at the News World Summit in Paris today, Lapoix said:

One thing we learnt is that when you’re a data journalist or a web journalist, you should never ever ever – I insist – ever assume that your readers won’t look that close into your own (work) because eventually they always do.

A guy actually did all the maths from the quotes we fact-checked. At some point we considered him a troll – but he was taking it very seriously so we decided to answer to him.

Lapoix said he eventually “became an asset” to them. He added:

Your readers are your biggest database of experts you could ever have. They realise they matter to journalists. At some times the readers were defending us against other readers who were doubting us.

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#followjourn – @smfrogers Simon Rogers/data journalist

Who? Simon Rogers

Where? Simon Rogers is editor of the Guardian Datablog and Datastore. Hear him speak about open data in this week’s podcast.

Twitter? @smfrogers

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips, we are recommending journalists to follow online too. Recommended journalists can be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to Rachel at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – interactive map tutorial for local election coverage

May 3rd, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Online Journalism

Any journalists reporting on the local elections may like to try out this interactive Google map tutorial for visualising council ward boundaries, on the Online Journalism Blog. The guide to creating a ward map was created by journalist Daniel Bentley.

Tipster: Rachel McAthy

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at Journalism.co.uk email us using this link– we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

 

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#ODCC – Open data and the ‘new digital fields of exchange’

April 20th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Events, Online Journalism

Today marked the first Open Data Cities Conference which kicked off in Brighton, set up by former head of digital development at the Telegraph Greg Hadfield.

The conference said it would “focus on how publicly-funded organisations can engage with citizens to build more creative, prosperous and accountable communities”.

Among those citizens are of course the journalists working to encourage the opening up of data held by such organisations, wishing to use it to inform their audience about the local area and/or their interests.

“Connected localism” and adopting a “principle of openness”

An interesting phrase used at the conference was “connected localism”. The man behind it, Jonathan Carr-West of the Local Government Information Unit, spoke to the conference about the importance of creating a cultural mindset around openness, as opposed to just focusing on whether or not data is useful. And once this mindset has been established, “connected localism” can thrive.

We’re going to hear a lot today about data and what we use it for and how we make it useful. That’s really important and I don’t want to move away from that too far, but I would suggest … usefulness is not the whole story.

We don’t always know what’s useful … We need to adopt … a principle of openness. Whether you’re a small organisation, a council, a government.

He added the “assumption” needs to be that information is made open and data is shared.

Don’t over-think whether it’s going to be useful or not.

And this “principle of openness” is “what creates a field of exchange within which connected localism can occur”.

If we have openness as the way of doing things, if it is culturally embedded in our practice, that would begin to enable that connected localism.

We’ll talk a lot about open cities, but we should remember in this sense it’s not just making the city open, it’s that open data is effectively a new city.

It enables us to perform radical transformations to public services, to how we live … that we need if we’re to meet the profound challenges our society faces.

He cited Mumsnet as an example of “connected localism”, and one of the “new digital fields of exchange where people can connect”, and share/discuss/solve common interests.

Encouraging responses to information requests

Tom Steinberg of MySociety offered some tips for conference delegates on how to encourage more open data and the release of information, such as that asked for in freedom of information requests:

1. Don’t expect to win an economic argument about open data with people who do not have some other reason to think it’s a good idea. It is really hard with open data as it is a new issue so literature is new.

2. You should show them tools that will improve their lives based on open data. If you’re persuading a councillor use something like TheyWorkForYou and show them how they can get sent email alerts when an issue is mentioned in parliament. 10 per cent of everyone working in parliament uses it each week.

3. Don’t shout too loudly about how it [open data] will hold everyone to account and expose wrongdoing. If people are overworked, having their lives made harder is not a thing that will make them your friend.

4. Make mock-ups. For lots of kinds of open data there aren’t good examples as government hasn’t released the data. But use the amazing power of Photoshop to say ‘here’s a page where people could go to, for example, if they wanted to complain that their bin had not been collected’. This is a way of connecting the abstruse nature of data to a concrete thing.

He suggested that bodies such as councils should consider having a person specially dedicated to looking out for, and filtering, requests, and possibly add a button to their websites asking exactly what data people want.

How the BBC is opening up its archives

An interesting example of how one organisation is opening up its archived data is the BBC, as speaker Bill Thompson, who is head of partnership development in archive development at the broadcaster, explained.

The situation, as he posed it, is about turning the BBC “into a data repository with an API” and making this data “available for public service use, for people who can find a value in it”.

One project called BBC Redux provides a store of digital recordings which, when combined with the BBC’s Snippets project, enables users to search programmes, such as news bulletins, from the last five years, for the mention of a given keyword using subtitle data.

For more from the conference follow #ODCC on Twitter.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – data journalism inspiration

April 3rd, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Data, Online Journalism

Mindy McAdams has created a Storify featuring lots of examples of data journalism to inspire budding data journalists, as well as background reading and other resources, which she has posted on her blog.

Examples include projects by the New York Times and ProPublica.

See the post here.

Tipster: Rachel McAthy

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at Journalism.co.uk email us using this link– we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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