A guide to data journalism

Data journalism has become increasingly popular over recent years. Its use of facts and figures presented in graphs and maps has created a quick concise way of presenting the news.

Some people argue data journalism is all about infographics however 80% of a data journalist’s work is actually research and analysis. Studying data journalism will develop your general knowledge as you are not restricted to researching simply one topic of the media.

People may believe that data journalism itself is a brand new phenomenon however it has been going on since the early establishment of journalism. Even the first ever edition of The Guardian contained several data journalism projects.  Yet the internet and new technologies have helped develop data journalism over recent years to see its rise in popularity and acknowledgment.  A fairly recent story that increased the awareness of data journalism was a report published by The Telegraph and then The Guardian to reveal the MP’s expenses.  This was certainly an eye opener and received lots of scrutiny!

Here are some data journalism websites worth visiting: datadrivenjournalism.net, Propublica.org, okfn.org

So you’re looking to create a data journalism project, where to start?

The best way to start with a data journalism project is by asking a question, then finding context that would be relevant to your story. For example, data on UK population would need you to look at interesting topics rather than just the basics. Perhaps you could look at contributing factors to the decrease or increase in the population at certain times. Make sure you create a certain angle in your project so data will be interesting and specific.

So you have your story, now to find the data. Fortunately various new websites have been created to make data research easier, a very useful site is onlinejournalismblog. Wikileaks and Cablesearch are also very useful. Wikileaks is publishing new data sets nearly almost every day so there will always be something new and interesting to find. Data.gov, crowdsourcing.org and data.gov.uk will see you on your to collecting reliable data sets.

Buzzdata is a great website for checking out data. If you’re doing an investigative piece it will enable you to communicate with other users on what you are searching for and also find users previous data sets.

Monitor the responses to freedom in information requests on whatdotheyknow.com

Another way to get data is through the social media and interactivity!

Extracting data can take time. If you found a table you wanted to use there is a formula to help you. On your own blank spreadsheet use the code =ImportHtml then in brackets add the html after the fomurala. After you have inserted the html to the code write “table”.0 and close your brackets. This will extract all the data into your own formulated spreadsheet.

After getting your data it is now time to ‘clean’ your data. This will mean making sure all dates and names etc. are fitted to the same format. A quick way to do this is google refine. This is a tool which looks through all your data noticing different trends/corruptions. It will take you on a step by step  guide making sure all your data sets follow the same suit.

When creating data journalism, spreadsheets will become your new best friend. Make sure you refresh your skills on excel/google spreadsheets, if you need some help doing this check out this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L1OVkw2ZQ8

After you have your spreadsheet filled with data, start to look for either similarities or anomalies in the data, this can be done by selecting a column using the descending or ascending tools. You should have already have decided on your angle of the article so use the tools on Excel to help you define the data you have retrieved and construct your material to show your desired patterns.

Then the rest is really up to you! Select a format in which you wish to present your data i.e pie chart, bar graph. Tools such as Many Eyes are very useful in visualising data. Then write a few sentences describing the meaning of data you have collected and get ready to publish!!!



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