• What does data journalism look like in 2017?
• Why is it important? How does it support the subscription business model for journalism?
• What do we need to have in place to do all of this?
• How do we know whether or not it’s working?
⭐ Bonus features: a deep-dive into Asia’s gender divide, and a behind the scenes look at the FT’s data-driven coverage of the 2017 UK general election ⭐
Cutting-edge data journalism increasingly relies on bespoke or technically complex datasets whose creation, curation or comprehension requires either specialist data gathering skills, specialist data analysis skills, or both
A good dataset is a trusted and authoritative source. You rarely quote your sources just because they happen to be in town: you go to them when their insights can be brought to bear on a wider story
Leading news organisations are increasingly recognising the power of visual formats in communicating key facts and narratives quickly, effectively and memorably
This is increasingly where the value lies
More and more journalists of all descriptions are capable of locating and working with published datasets
// Spreadsheet journalism != data journalism
That should now be expected of any digital journalist. Writing stories based on the same numbers sitting in front of every reporter on your beat reduces your scope to provide unique value for your readers
The real value is to be found in developing your own datasets. Broadly speaking, this can be done in three ways:
• Creating a dataset from scratch
• Collecting or curating datasets to create something worth more than the sum of its parts
• Working with data in extraordinary formats or volumes
Case study 1: FT | The demographics that drove Brexit
All of the data used in these post-election analyses was in the open for months or years, but the value comes from knowing where to find it and how to interpret it when the moment comes
“Social science done on deadline” — Steve Doig
Among the highlights were:
• The success of its digital subscription model...
• The importance of visual elements to its future...
• The need to spend less time on low-value-added news, more on unique journalism...
• ...and the need to be smarter and more strict about efficient use of editorial resources
The products of cutting-edge data journalism are typically deep, detailed analyses and visualisations, as well as quicker pieces in cases where the quality of the visual presentation or the exclusivity of the underlying data generate unique value
• They’re a great vehicle for differentiation through value-added journalism, and for brand-establishment/consolidation
• When used intelligently, they set you apart from your competitors and minimise the risk of being seen as “just doing what everyone else is doing”
• Readers will come to see them as a core part of your premium product
Data-driven journalism: Using scripts, tools, APIs to automate part of the process of routine journalism, thus freeing-up reporters’ time to spend on deeper, more complex, more fundamental stories and analysis
Graphics: A showpiece graphic whose visual strength and depth will attract, hold and reward readers’ attention might once have required several week’s work. Now the same impact can be achieved by one person in a day or two
Graphics and stats are inherently optimised for social
• “A picture speaks a thousand words”
• People love being able to share something which proves a point, debunks a myth etc. Stats and graphics lend themselves perfectly to this
• Social media streams are growing busier and busier. Clear, crisp graphics will stand out in those feeds, and if they tell a clear story or impart a message that taps into people’s emotions, they’ll fly
The collapse of the French Socialist Party in one image pic.twitter.com/J99m2kdpA2— Marcel Dirsus (@marceldirsus) April 24, 2017
• Quantitative methods: in statistical analysts, predictive modellers and "creative data collectors"
• Data visualisation: specialist in rich, non-standard graphics across static, interactive and animated forms
• Subject knowledge: collaborating with specialists elsewhere in the newsroom is ideal for deeper pieces, but for quicker hits — and best results all around — encourage technical specialists to pursue interests in core areas of the news agenda
Technical specialists should have time built into their schedules to allow for expansion and or honing of their skill-sets
Use graphics to tell stories. Every news organisation could substantially improve the quality of its visual output without making any more charts. Lose the boring ones. Lose those which are simply accompaniments to self-sufficient work. Lose the ones used purely “to break up the text”. Never commission a graphic because "it’s an important story, so it needs a graphic”
See also: Brian Boyer’s Six Commandments of Data Visualisation (via Martin Stabe)
Give your visual journalists editorial and creative agency. They and you will benefit enormously. The made-to-order bar chart is no better than the 400 word story that all of your competitors — and 50 other websites — has. It’s a low-value use of a high-value skillset, it does nothing to strengthen your journalism or your brand, and it can be demoralising for those involved
Signs of success include:
• Direct, verbal reader recognition of the added value provided by this work
• New subscriptions from — or first-time visitors to — these pieces of content
• High reach and engagement on social media
Abortions, infanticide, lethal neglect?
Why would that lead to more men?
And what would drive the son preference?
What might the impacts be?
A still-dominant agricultural sector, and accompanying attitudes to physical labour
Entrenched gender roles in society
• The R statistical programming language
• The pandas data analysis library for Python
• Jeremy Singer-Vine’s newsletter, Data is Plural
• The d3.js data-visualisation library
These slides are at bit.ly/ddj-manifesto