The Year in Data Journalism: Q&A with Paul Bradshaw
What do you do?
I'm a data journalism trainer and Iecturer. I run the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University and am a visiting professor in online journalism at City University London. I'm also the author of Scraping for Journalists.
What was your biggest data driven achievement this year?
An investigation into the allocation of Olympic torchbearer places. The investigation came about as a result of scraping details on torchbearers from the official website. But it was also a great example of collaboration between non-journalists and journalists, as well as a number of techniques outside of core data journalism.
The investigation led to questions in Parliament and international media coverage. In the final week of the Olympic torch relay we published a short ebook about the affair, with all proceeds going to the Brittle Bone Society.
What was your favourite data journalism project this year and why?
I really liked Landportal.info, which is attempting to map land ownership - it's highlighting a global trend of companies buying up land in Africa which would be easy to overlook by journalists. The New York Times's multimedia treatment of performance data in three Olympic events across over a century was really well done. And I'm always looking at how data journalism can be used in softer news, where Anna Powell-Smith's What Size Am I? is a great example of fashion/consumer data journalism.
For sheer significance I can't avoid mentioning Nate Silver's work on the US election - that was a watershed for data journalism and an embarrassment for many political pundits.
Screenshot: A visualisation by Kevin Quealy and Graham Roberts for the New York Times during the Olympics
Screenshot: Land Matrix, a public database created by Landportal.info
More broadly - what excites you in this field at the moment? Any interesting developments that you’d like to mention?
There's a lot of consolidation at the moment, so less of the spectacular developments - but I am excited at how data journalism is being taken on by a wider range of companies. This year I've spent a lot more time training staff at consumer magazine publishers, for example.
I'm also excited about some of the new journalism startups based on public data like Rafat Ali's Skift. In terms of tools, it's great to see network analysis added to Fusion Tables, and the Knight Digital Media Center's freeDive makes it very easy indeed to create a public database from a Google Doc.
What about disappointments?
I am constantly disappointed by publishers who say they don't have the resources to do data journalism. That shows a real lack of imagination and understanding of what data journalism really is. It doesn't have to be a spectacular interactive data visualisation - it can simply be about getting to better stories more quickly, accurately and more deeply through a few basic techniques.
Any predictions about what the future holds for data journalism in 2013?
I've just been training someone from Chile so I'm hoping to see more data journalism there!
Anything else you’d like to share with everyone?
Photo by Dawood Hilmandi