Data journalism and regional news – a relationship that presents challenges, but far more opportunities, according to a post by Mary Hamilton on her Metamedia blog.
Following on from the first UK Hacks/Hackers event last week, she reflects on the use of data by reporters across what she calls “three-tier journalism”: national, regional and hyperlocal. For the first and last, there are clear-cut differences in the data they need, she says. But for regional press, it can be a bit more tricky.
National news needs big picture data from which it can draw big trends. Government data that groups England into its nine official regions works fine for broad sweeps; data that breaks down by city or county works well too. Hyperlocal news needs small details – court lists, crime reports, enormous amounts of council information – and it’s possible to not only extract but report and contextualise the details.
Regional news needs both, but in different ways. It needs those stories that the nationals wouldn’t cover and the hyperlocals would cover only part of. Data about the East of England is too vague for a paper that focuses primarily on 1/6 of the counties in the region; information from Breckland District Council is not universal enough when there are at least 13 other county and district councils in the paper’s patch. Government statistics by region need paragraphs attached looking at the vagaries of the statistics and how Cambridge skews everything a certain way. District council data has to be broadened out. Everything needs context.
But the opportunities for great stories within all of this is “unending” she says, and something well worth regional press investing in.
The question is how we exploit them. I believe that we start by freeing up interested journalists to do data work beyond simply plotting their stories on a map, taking on stories that impact people on a regional level.