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Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Data journalism: Tools, examples and techniques

One of the hot topics in journalism right now is data, and a couple of days ago I spoke at a UK Association of Online Publishers event about data journalism.  Analysing publicly available data is a great way to find new stories and tell them in new creative ways,  especially now that there are so many good visualisation tools to bring data to life.

The Guardian highlights some of the best in the shortlist for the 2012 Data Journalism Awards, set up by the Global Editors Network and the European Journalism Centre, which include entries from Ukraine, Uganda and Afghanistan.

When I speak about data journalism, I cover:

• Tools that help you manage small and large sets of data such as spreadsheets, database applications and tools like Google’s Fusion Tables

• Tools that help you uncover patterns, which can be simple charts and graphs in Excel or Google Docs.

• Tools that help you tell award-winning stories. In some cases, this might be a visualisation such as those created using spreadsheet software or Tableau.

I started off by talking about the history of data journalism, which began as computer-assisted reporting in the US and also touching on Philip Meyer’s concept of “Precision Journalism“, which inspired a great book on the subject.

I looked at some tools that can help newsrooms start to experiment with data journalism, including Google’s Fusion Tables, Google Docs and Tableau Public. I mentioned these in the context of several projects including the Australian public broadcaster ABC’s multi-platform project looking at coal seam gas drilling. I looked at how organisations such as the Sunlight Foundation are making public data more accessible and usable with their Poligraft project, which automatically adds campaign finance context to political stories in the US.

This is just a quick overview. Are there good examples of data journalism that you have done or that you have seen? Please share them in the comments.

Article by Kevin Anderson

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