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#J30: How to use online tools to report national strikes

Some news outlets are reporting that today will see the biggest day of industrial action for 30 years. But the news landscape and tools used in reporting the strikes are a world away from the 1980s.

Here is a quick round-up to inspire ideas for coverage.

The nationals are providing an overview and inspiring debate, but many readers will be turning to local news sites to find out which schools are closed and which services disrupted.

  • A simple list is perhaps the most accessible way of accessing information, as created by hyperlocal Uckfield News;

For more tools and guidance on how to use Storify, Audioboo, OpenHeatMap, Many Eyes and Qik, check out this guide to livening up local election reporting.

For ideas in adding audio, follow these 10 tips.

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How to: get to grips with data journalism

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Five tools to liven up local election reporting

If you are reporting on the referendum on the voting system, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies or from one of the 305 town halls across England and Northern Ireland with local elections, how are you going to present the results?

As a text only story which reports how many seats have been lost or gained by each party? Or are you going to try visualising the results? Here are five free and easy to use tools to liven up the results.

1. Many Eyes

Many Eyes is a free data visualisation tool. If you have not tried your hand at any data journalism yet, today could be the day to start.

A. Create a Many Eyes account;

B. Create your spreadsheet using Excel, Open Office (free to download) or Google Docs (free and web based);

You could follow my example by putting ward names across the top, parties down the side and the number of each ward seats won by each party. You will need to include the total in the end column.

local elections example

C. Paste the data into Many Eyes, which will automatically read your pasted information;

D. Click ‘visualise’. In this example I selected the ‘bubble chart’ visualisation. Have a play with other visualisations too;

E. Copy the embed code and paste it into your story;

2. OpenHeatMap

OpenHeatMap is a way to visualise your results in a map. It is free and very easy to use. You start by creating a spreadsheet, uploading the data and you can then embed the map in your web page.

A. Go to OpenHeatMap (you don’t need a login);

B. Create a spreadsheet. The easiest was to do this is in Google Docs. You must name your columns so OpenHeatMap can understand it. Use ‘UK_council’ for the local council, ‘tab’ for the party and ‘value’ for the number of seats. In this example, the tab column indicates the party with the most seats; the value is the number of seats;

C. Click ‘share’ (to the right hand side of your Google Doc), ‘publish as a web page’ and copy the code;

D. Paste the code into OpenHeatMap and click to view the map. In this example you will see the parties as tabs along the top which you can toggle between. You can change the colour, zoom in to your county or region and alter the transparency so you can see place names;

E. Click ‘share’ and you can copy the embed code into your story.

3. Storify

Anyone can now join Storify (it used to be by invitation only). It allows you to tell a story using a combination of text, pictures, tweets, audio and video.

A. Sign up to Storify;

B. Create a story and start adding content. If you click on the Twitter icon and search (say for ‘local election Kent’) you can select appropriate tweets; if you click on the Flickr icon you can find photos (you could ask a photographer to upload some); you can also add YouTube videos and content from Facebook. When you find an item you want to include, you simply drag and drop it into your story;

C. The art of a good Storify story is to use your skills as a storyteller. The tweets and photos need to be part of a narrative. There are some fantastic examples of story ideas on Storify;

D. Click to publish;

E. Copy and paste the embed code into the story on your site.


4. AudioBoo

You can record audio (perhaps the results as they are announced or reaction interviews with councillors) and include it in your story.

The easiest way is to download the free smartphone app or you can upload your own audio via the website.

A. Create an AudioBoo account;

B. Download the Android or iPhone app;

C. Record your short interview. You may decide to include a photo too;

D. Login to the audioboo website and click ‘embed’;

E. Paste the embed code into your story.

Listen!

5. Qik

Qik is a free and allows you to live stream video. Why not broadcast the results as they happen?

A. Create a Qik account;

B. Download the app (iPhone, Android, Blackberry – a full list of supported phones is here);

C. The video will be automatically posted live to your Qik profile but you’ll need to add the code to your website before you record (you can also live stream to your Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel).

D. To do this go to ‘My Live Channel’ (under your name). Click on it to get your embed code for your live channel.

E. Paste your embed code in your website or blog, where you want the live player to be.

How did you get on with the five tools? Let us know so that we can see your election stories.

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Ten things every journalist should know about data

Data visuals

Every journalist needs to know about data. It is not just the preserve of the investigative journalist but can – and should – be used by reporters writing for local papers, magazines, the consumer and trade press and for online publications.

Think about crime statistics, government spending, bin collections, hospital infections and missing kittens and tell me data journalism is not relevant to your title.

If you think you need to be a hacker as well as a hack then you are wrong. Although data journalism combines journalism, research, statistics and programming, you may dabble but you do not need to know much maths or code to get started. It can be as simple as copying and pasting data from an Excel spreadsheet.

You can find out more about getting started and trying your hand at complex data journalism at news:rewired – noise to signal, on 27 May. More details about the event are here and you can order tickets, which cost £156 including VAT, by clicking here.

Here are 10 reasons to give data a go.

1. Everybody loves a list. Did you click on this post as you wanted an easy-to-read list rather than an involved article?

2. Everybody loves a map. Try Quantum GIS (QGIS), a free, open source tool, or OpenHeatMap, a fantastic, east-to-use tool as long as your data is categorised by country, local authority, constituency, region or county.

3. Tools bring data to life. Applications such as ManyEyes and Yahoo Pipes mash data and turn complex numbers and datasets into easy to read visualisations that work well both online and in print. Try this how to guide to Yahoo Pipes to get you started. Here are 22 data visualisation tools from Computer World.

4. Data may need cleaning up. Try using clean up tools like Scraperwiki, which helps non-technical journalists copy a few lines of code to turn a document such as pdf into a number-friendly file like a csv, and Google Refine, which Paul Bradshaw has written some useful posts on over on the Online Journalism Blog.

5. Data of all sorts is increasingly available. The open data movement across the UK is resulting in an increase in the release of data. The possibilities are huge, says Paul Bradshaw on the Guardian’s Datablog. January 2010, saw the launch of data.gov.uk, a fantastic resource for searching for datasets.

6. Data journalism can answer questions. A good place to start in data journalism is to ask a question and answer it by gathering data. Numbers work well. One option is to submit a Freedom of Information request to ask for the numbers. It helps if you ask for a csv file.

7. You can use the crowd. Crowdsourcing by asking a question on Twitter or using a site like Help Me Investigate, an open source tool for people can use to collaborate to investigate questions in the public interest.

8. Data can be personal to every reader. DocumentCloud can highlight and annotate documents to help readers see what is important and learn a document’s back story.

9. “Data journalism is not always presenting the data as journalism. It’s also finding the journalism within the data,” Jay Rosen said in relation to this article on Poynter on how two journalists from the Las Vegas Sun spent two years looking at 2.9 million documents to find out what “what’s right, and wrong, about our local health care delivery system”. The result was that the journalists exposed thousands of preventable medical mistakes in Las Vegas hospitals. The Nevada legislature responded with six pieces of legislation.

10. “Data ethics is just as important as ethics in journalism, in fact they are one in the same,” according to this post on Open Data Wire. Consider the BBC’s FoI request which showed a 43 per cent rise in GPs signing prescriptions for antidepressants and the ethics of unquestioningly relating this to the recession. Ben Goldacre has highlighted the problems with seeing patterns in data.

This is a cross post originally published on the news:rewired website. You can get your tickets here.

A full agenda for news:rewired – noise to signal, is here. A list of more than 20 speakers is here.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – using OpenHeatMap for visualisations

September 2nd, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Mapping: Great video from OpenHeatMap’s Pete Warden on how to use the tool to create visualisations of geographic data – mainly US and maps of the world available – but worth playing with. Tipster: Laura Oliver.

To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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