ENTRIES TAGGED "data journalism"
Understanding education data, A/B testing in the newsroom, and ProPublica’s sister site in Thailand.
The 2013 Excellence in Journalism conference kicks off this Friday in Anaheim, California. Sessions of interest to data journalists include: best practices for pulling diversity data from census figures, journalists and coding, and storytelling with Google Maps, which provides an introduction to Google Earth and Google Fusion tables. SPJ’s Journalist’s Toolbox (@journtoolbox) will be tweeting live from several of the sessions for those who can’t attend.
The annual PDK/Gallup education poll was published on Wednesday, making this a busy week for data journalists on the education beat. Each year, the poll provides grist for education reporters looking to glean insights about the nation’s public schools. But the Educated Reporter, a blog of the Education Writers’ Association, warns data journalists to proceed with caution when using polling data in education reporting.
If last week’s news belonged to Nate Silver and his transformation of journalism, this week belongs to Jeff Bezos, and the hopeful speculation from many corners about his ability to revamp newspapers’ struggling business model. Slate concludes that If Anyone Can Save the Washington Post, It’s Jeff Bezos, pointing to his uncanny ability to find “new ways of selling old things.” Blogger Walter Russell Mead says that Bezos and the Post are part of a larger trend towards the marriage of tech and state. The Street says Bezos is not saving journalism, he’s saving Amazon, contending that the purchase is simply a power grab to preserve Amazon’s media and retail dominance. Meanwhile, Mashable calls Bezos Journalism’s New Best Friend.
A third installment of the TechRaking conference series produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting began on Wednesday. TechRaking III, “Mining the News,” is an invite-only event for journalists and data professionals, co-hosted by Google. Visual.ly will donate $10,000 in development time to help produce the winning project.
Insights and links from the data journalism beat
Data science in the public interest is en vogue, as collaborations between data scientists, nonprofits and human rights groups are springing up everywhere. Journalists at the Knight Foundation are following suit. This week, the foundation gave details about it’s $2 million Knight News Challenge for health-related data projects. The “inspiration phase” launching next month invites citizens, journalists, and community groups anywhere in the world to dream up ideas about how to turn public data sets into useful information that could improve the health of communities.
Over at the Neiman Journalism Lab, a journalism professor writes that we are now entering the age of the “Digital Media Data Guru,” a person with a hybrid of computer science and journalism skills who is able to “do it all” in the newsroom, and recommends that journalism schools prepare students for the data-centered work ahead of them.
Tidbits from the data journalism beat
The big news in data journalism this week was Nate Silver’s announcement that he’s leaving the New York Times and taking his FiveThirtyEight franchise to ESPN. The chatteratti immediately weighed in: TIME credits Nate Silver with elevating data journalism to the level of “real reporting”, The Washington Post says that his genius lies in journalism, not math, and Salon asks whether Silver will be able to predict Oscar winners in the same way as a Presidential campaign.
The news app editors at ProPublica have developed another digital tool for your data journalism kit. Upton is a new open-source web scraping framework that makes web scraping easier by providing reusable components. (And it’s named after the great muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair!)
Notes and links from the data journalism beat
It seems that new data journalism tools are being released every day. The latest data journalism tools include: CivOmega, a modular prototype for government data that allows developers to plug in their own APIs and Fact Tank, a new data journalism platform from the Pew Research Center. Also, for journalists in the US concerned about protecting their own personal data, government investigators now face more hurdles when seeking a reporter’s records. And for a little data journalism levity, check out the latest project from Noah Veltman, a data journalism fellow at the BBC. Veltman used the GovTrack Bulk data API, SQL and Python to conduct a self-described “overly in-depth analysis” of Congressional Acronym Abuse from 1973 to the present.
Your links for the week:
- The alpha of CivOmega: A hack-day tool to parse civic data and tell you more about Beyoncé’s travels (Neiman Lab)
The idea of “a Siri or Wolfram Alpha for government data” — something that can connect natural language queries with multfaceted datasets — had been kicking around in the mind of MIT Media Lab and Knight-Mozilla veteran Dan Schultz ever since a Knight Foundation-sponsored election-year brainstorming session in 2011.
- Introducing Fact Tank: An Interview with Pew Research Center President Alan Murray (Data Driven Journalism)
Obviously, we collect vast amounts of data, about demographics, about a variety of issues – we are basically a data shop. In the past, most of the dissemination of our data has been done through existing media. But we also felt it was important for us to get our own data relating to news events out to the public more quickly and more directly. Additionally, we also felt it was important for us to play a role in aggregating data sets which we can then present ourselves.”
A flurry of articles are published each week purporting to give us a “progress report” on the state of data journalism. This week, Frederic Filloux of the Guardian and former Financial Times Journalist Tom Forensky debate whether the quality of data journalism is improving fast, or not fast enough. No matter which side of the argument you fall on, there’s no doubt that newsrooms are snapping up data journalists at a fast clip. To that end, the Knight Lab offers advice on the three types of people newsrooms should hire in order to build strong data journalism teams.
Your links for the week:
- Data Journalism is improving – fast (Guardian)
The last Data Journalism Awards established that the genre is getting better, wider in scope and gaining many creative players.
- Is it Data Journalism Or Fancy Infographics? Progress Isn’t Fast Enough (Silicon Valley Watcher) The information conveyed is excellent but what does that do towards developing a sustainable business model for quality journalism? If data journalism can get us to that point then we can say it has made great progress but it’s not improving fast enough.
- Want to build a data journalism team? You’ll need these three people (Knight Lab)
When I started using software to analyze data as a reporter in the late 1980s, “data journalism” ended once my stories were published in the newspaper. Now the publication of the story is just the beginning. The same data can also be turned into compelling visualizations and into news applications that people can use long after the story is published. So data journalism — which was mostly a one-person job when I started doing it — is now a team sport.
I think we can all agree that “free” is usually a good thing. To that end, investigative journalists got a huge boost this week from Tableau, which has decided to provide journalists with free licenses for their desktop professional software. Also in the links, the Global Editors Network has announced this year’s data-driven journalism award winners. And Matt Waite of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune offers tips for journalists about how to avoid some of the common pitfalls that lead to the collection of bad data. Your links for the week:
- Tableau Software to Provide Complimentary Software to Journalists (IRE)
“At Tableau we believe that data is an important part of the civic conversation,” said Ellie Fields, Senior Director of Product Marketing. “Journalists have embraced Tableau Public as a way to tell important stories with data, and we want to support them in their work. And while Tableau Public is a fantastic product for making data open, journalists often need to keep their data private while they are developing a story. Providing free licenses to Tableau Desktop Professional will let them do that.”
- 6 mistakes newspapers make with data journalism (INMA)
Too much of what is claimed to be “data journalism” in today’s media is really just ego-driven “data porn” — pretty pictures created around numbers with no real reader value, according to an international “data guru” with strong journalism credentials.
- Handling Data about Race and Ethnicity Or, How Matt Waite Got his Butt Kicked (Mozilla Open News)
Race and ethnicity are tricky topics with loads of nuance and definitional difficulties. But they aren’t the only places these issues come up. Anytime you’re comparing data across agencies and across geographies, be on high alert for mismatches.
As the field grows, and the demands for “data journalists” proliferate, journalists find themselves walking a fine line between embracing technology’s potential in the field, and never losing sight of the crucial role of the journalist — which has traditionally been focused on helping people acquire the tools to make sense of information. This week’s links include stories about how journalists and storytellers are adapting the profession for success in this new world of information, where the data tells the story.
Journalism and Technology
- What News Nerds Can Learn from Game Nerds, Day One (The ProPublica Nerd Blog)
In journalism, we’ve heard over and over again that mobile is the future. So what kind of storytelling can we do to take advantage of the fact that if they’re on their smartphone we know our readers’ physical location, and that with the right inspiration, they are willing to move great distances? What if on election day, we could help voters find their most convenient polling locations?
- The danger of journalism that moves too quickly beyond fact (Poynter)
The best thinking about journalism’s future benefits from its being in touch with technology’s potential. But it can get in its own way when it simplifies and repudiates the intelligence of journalism’s past. Machines bring the capacity to count. Citizens bring expertise, experience and an expanded capacity to observe events from more vantage points. Journalists bring access, the ability to interrogate people in power, to dig, to translate and triangulate incoming information, and a traditional discipline of an open-minded pursuit of truth. They work best in concert.
- A pioneer retraces the data trail (The Age)
Author Simon Rogers founded the Datablog in early 2009 and oversaw it until May 2013 when he became Data Editor at Twitter. This book is a “best hits” compilation, a primer for data journalists and a compendium of weird and wonderful facts.
Notes and links from the data journalism beat
Data journalism is becoming a truly global practice. Data journalists from the UK, China, and the US are sharing data-oriented best practices, insights, and tools. Journalists in Latin America are meeting this week to push for more transparency and access to data in the region. At the same time, recent revelations about NSA domestic surveillance programs have pushed big data stories to the front pages of US papers. Here are a few links from the past week:
Transparency…or Lack Thereof
- OpenData Latinoamérica: Driving the demand side of data and scraping towards transparency (Neiman Journalism Lab)
“There’s a saying here, and I’ll translate, because it’s very much how we work,” Miguel Paz said to me over a Skype call from Chile. “But that doesn’t mean that it’s illegal. Here, it’s ‘It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.” Paz is a veteran of the digital news business. The saying has to do with his approach to scraping public data from governments that may be slow to share it.
- The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism (zdnet.com)
On Thursday, June 6, the Washington Post published a bombshell of a story, alleging that nine giants of the tech industry had “knowingly participated” in a widespread program by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). One day later, with no acknowledgment except for a change in the timestamp, the Post revised the story, backing down from sensational claims it made originally. But the damage was already done.
- We are shocked, shocked… (davidsimon.com)
Having labored as a police reporter in the days before the Patriot Act, I can assure all there has always been a stage before the wiretap, a preliminary process involving the capture, retention and analysis of raw data. It has been so for decades now in this country. The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the FBI and NSA are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. But the legal and moral principles? Same old stuff.
- Big Data Has Big Stage at Personal Democracy Forum (pbs.org)
Engaging News Project’s Talia Stroud tackled the issue of public engagement in news organizations. Polls on websites don’t yield scientifically accurate results, nor do they get people to address difficult issues, she said. “These data are junk. We know they’re junk,” Stroud said. “City council representatives know they’re junk. Even news organizations know that the results of these data are junk. The only reason that this poll is being included on the news organization’s site is to increase interactivity and increase your time on page.”