History of data journalism

I have no critical comment on this video as it is just an interesting piece of information on the history of data journalism from the Guardians perspective.


What did I learn from APIs?

Sometimes finding data stories when you don’t understand how to use the tools  can feel like you are watching a popular programme but in a different language. Take the Fresh Prince for example, everyone loves watching it. But if it was broadcast in the UK in French I doubt the appeal would be as great.


Fresh prince in French? Picture courtesy of flicker creative commons

So as part of my Pass the Baton of Knowledge on series I decided to look at APIs.
APIs was an interesting and hard task to master. It involves coding as well as other complex bits of data that takes some time to learn. However the output is powerful!

Lesson 1:Dont run before you can walk –As with all data ensure you start with something manageable, start easy with the example given in this blog and than progress from there onto more complex stories.

Lesson 2: Explore- Look for new data sets, I was amazed at the amount of APIs you can find, there is a vast amount of data sources so explore what is out there.

Lesson 3: Have fun-Too be honest at first I found this very difficult, but after re-reading my notes and other data sources I was able to post a step by step guide for all my Data Queen fans.

Thanks for reading!

Application Programme Interface (APIs) How to?

As part of my series on passing on the baton of knowledge, I will be looking at API, which stands for Application Programming Interface.

It is a way a website or service can allow integration of its content into other websites.

News organizations can develop APIs so their content can be customized with additional information at other web sites. It’s one more way for a news organization to participate in and make its content available to a larger online network.

See for example:

As part of the City journalism MA we have been learning how to use APIs with data journalist Paul Bradshaw.

Today I am going to show you how to use APIs using Google refine:

USING GOOGLE REFINE (don’t close the black box, and open using Chrome or Firefox without any other applications running)

We created a simple excel doc with 3 postcodes, and downloaded it into Google refine


Quotation Marks


+value, a command without the quotation marks

Need another plus before remaining string, +.json


Click OK


Edit Json

Go to OJ blog


Add [“geo”]


What’s changed in Json? Focused on geo branch

Add Lat


Copy expressions, call it latitude, click ok


do longitude now




You are able to combine this with the Police API data and find out even more information, such as crimes in a specific location.




Rape reports versus people proceeded against (2008-2013) from the Metropolitan police

rape 222Very interesting set of data showing the number of people who have reported rape versus the number of people who have been charged. This is a useful and challenging set of data as it shows that less than 50% of people have actually been charged, but those people reporting rape or sexual assault over the last five years has increased by 17 per cent.



data pic 2

Map of the UK Picture courtesy of IPPR

Immigration in Britain is a  bone of contention for many, with Brits claiming that the number of Europeans in Britain outweighs the number of expats abroad.
I came across a brilliant data map a few weeks ago which highlights the number of Brits in Europe. The source is the Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR).

….This got me thinking

Are there any other news outlets that have tackled this story? I hunted around and found two news outlets. The first is  BBC News.

What I liked?

BBC News pulled together great visual tools to really show what the data means, showing the reader the amount of Brits living in particular countries. It offers you a worldview, continent and country view. To really see more on this click on the link here.

BBC News

The BBC data map. Picture courtesy of the BBC

It has used great tools to visualise the data to show the reader in comparison to various countries this is how many people live here. That’s a powerful story one which can not be argued with.

BBC News

Data Mapping. Picture courtesy of the BBC

What I didn’t like so much?

Wasn’t much that I didn’t like to be honest, my only suggestion would have been to compare these numbers to the number of immigrants in the UK, than I think you have an even more compelling story.

Next was Channel 4:

They had taken the story further by comparing the number of expats abroad with the number of Europeans in Britain.

Channel 4 News

Fact Check. Picture courtesy of Channel 4

What I liked?

Loved that they had taken the story further and the news peg was Gordon Browns quote. The data was more recent (2010) than BBC News (2006), which was great. Finally the verdict and commentary from Cathy Newman on the data was great.

What I didn’t like so much?

I didn’t like the lack of visualizations, such a compelling story it would have been brilliant to use a infographics or even a picture of Mr Brown or a map comparing the data. This would have made it much more powerful.

Data Queens verdict:

Although the story from Channel 4 took the news piece that one step further and made the data more news worthy for the reader, the lack of tools used to present the data, in my opinion, makes this a pretty poor piece but a great story.

Winner: BBC News-Good story, great visualisation.

Thanks for reading!

What can data journalism do for you?

The Queen of all data pictures...

The Queen of all data pictures…picture courtesy of flicker creative commons

Part of my four week series on data journalism and passing the baton of knowledge on is to look at how to get the best tools. I thought it would be useful to look at what data journalism can do for a young journalist or anyone in the profession. I think this would have been a better question to start with prior to looking at the types of data that you can obtain.

……So better late than never and here goes.

I stumbled across this brilliant website called multimedia journalism. It looks at the usefulness of data journalism and how as a journalist you can paint a brilliant picture for your readers when you allow the data to enhance your piece, but not to dominate or control it.

Here are some of the useful ways data is enhancing journalism, from Mirko Lorenz, as quoted at a Data-driven Journalism conference.

1.Data is used increasingly to visualise very complex issues. The use of infographics and videos have been enhancing data journalism and providing very compelling visuals for readers.

2.The publication of the Afghanistan war logs by the New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian have raised awareness that better use of data might lead to very big stories.

3. Similarly, the way The Guardian handled the expenses scandal of British MPs in 2009 has sparked interest in various elements [that] might be involved in this.

4. Think crowdsourcing. Think opening up large stores of public data and turning it into open data that everyone can share.

5.Think uncovering scandals and being able to prove it with numbers.

6.Think providing people with dependable services, helping them to decide when buying, insuring, participating or making life choices.

7.To do that journalists will have to learn new tricks. They have to get used to working with tools that will help them to make data flow.

The site also discusses some of the stories that have used data journalism and how it enhanced the story -telling. The Guardian has had some compelling stories which have used data:

1.Afghanistan War Logs

Special report page, providing information from many angles, based on the leaked documents published by Wikileaks

2.Investigate your MP’s expenses

An innovative crowdsourcing application allowing users to check 458,832 documents, adding indications whether the documents should be investigated further or not

MP Expenses: Who claimed what? The full list

Including an open spreadsheet for every MP

Since using data within my journalism, I have found that it is all about the data enhancing the piece and not dominating. Many pieces within print journalism, will list reams of statistics or numbers, but will place no substance behind what they mean or how they help with the story that they are trying to tell the reader.

I have come to the central conclusion that data is powerful, if used to enhance the story and not as just a list of numbers.

If you want to find out more about how data can help you-why not check out the website for yourself-

Thanks for reading!