Friday, 13 November 2015

Masterclass 1: Data Journalism, new practical projects

Data Journalism: new practical projects


In this masterclass we offer a new range of data journalism projects, with step-by-step instructions to completing them.

The first is designed to replace the project found in module 13B4 of the print and ebook versions of Multimedia Journalism.

A replacement has become necessary because Many Eyes, the platform we used there to turn our data into a range of visualisations, has now been withdrawn by its makers, IBM.

The three steps of data journalism: gather, process, visualise

Here's a reprise of the approach to data journalism we take in Chapter 13 of MMJ.

The easiest way to grasp how to do data journalism is to think of what you do in more traditional practises of the journalism craft

You gather information, you sift it, pick out the significant and interesting bits, and present it to the audience in as interesting way as you can. In short, you:  

  • gather raw information, 
  • process or filter it, and 
  • shape or visualise it.

You do exactly the same when data is your source material, rather than a collection of quotes, documents and events.

So in this and all other practical demonstrations of doing data journalism we will follow three steps:

  • Gather or find data
  • Process or filter data
  • Visualise data

Gather or find data
Go to Open Data by Socrata, , which is an open data resource. You'll be prompted to open an account at Socrata at some point, if you don't already have one.

I've taken as an example a data set I found there on alcohol consumption per country from the World Health Organization (WHO). It offers a breakdown of per capita alcohol consumption among adults over 15 across 193 countries.

You can find that dataset here (you'll need to open an account at Socrata if you haven't already got one):

You'll see this is a very simple data set with only two columns of information, which makes it ideal as a first data journalism project

Process or Filter data

Filtering data involves two tasks:

·      Cleaning it up by removing any information that we do not want in our visualisation

·      Sorting the information in the data by, for example, adding subsections of the overall data.

We aren't going to do either with this piece of data, but if you want an idea of how you might filter data in Socrata, they have a useful video demonstration here:

Visualise data

We are going to use a platform called Silk to visualise this data.

So we need to export it from Socrata and upload it to Silk.

Under the Export options in Socrata, choose 'Export  as a CSV  for Excel' and, for ease, save it to your desktop.

Open Silk and click on Create a new Silk.

Name it.

You'll be invited to view a three minute video of how Silk works. It's worth pausing to take a look as it explains how silk is organised

Here's what it says in summary:

When you upload a spreadsheet to Silk, each row of your spreadsheet is a unit of data. With the alcohol consumption example we are working with, each line has the name of the country and the alcohol consumption in litres per individual over the age of 15 in that country

Silk turns each of those lines into what it calls data cards.
So with this example, when we upload it a data card will be created for each of the countries covered.

Your spreadsheet needs a row at the top which has the titles or headings that enable the software to organise your data.

This one has just two, location, and alcohol consumption per capita. If that line were missing for any reason, Silk or any other visualisation tool could not make sense of the data, so you'd need to add appropriate headings.

That's something you'd do at the Filtering data stage.

I could also have a column that grouped indiviual countries into the continents they are a part of. If I did, then Silk would organise these data cards into  groups, which would mean the information could be filtered and presented continent by continent

Your data is also converted by Silk into what it calls pages. You can add elements to those pages, each of which is given its own unique url.

So if you are writing an article and want to embed pages of data - subsets of the overall dataset - at particular points, you can do so.

Let's go ahead and upload our data into Silk.

Click to Proceed and choose the 'Upload spreadsheet' option. Then click and drag the spreadsheet you have saved to your desktop into this area of Silk.

Click 'start import'.

The data on your spreadsheet is being turned into data cards. When that has happened you can click to explore data cards.

'Explore' is where you create visualisations in Silk

Try them out. Think, in each case, how easy that particular visualisation makes the data to 'read'.

Ideally, we'd like the type of visualisation we finally choose to enable readers to see at a glance some salient facts. For example, which countries have the highest  per capita consumption, and which the lowest.

Some types of visualisation aren't much use. 'List' givers each country in alphabetical order, with the consumption. 'Grid' and 'Mosaic' don't add anything.

Groups is useful.

If you click on Group and then, under the 'Group by' option that appears, use 'Litres per capita', you get individual countries grouped under levels of consumption, which mean you can quickly see geographic and cultural patterns in the data.

Visualise on a map

Map sounds promising but you'll find you are prompted to add categories via dialogue boxes to organise the data. Silk gives suggestions.

Experiment with them.

You should find a set of markers added to the map, and when you click on them you get information on alcohol consumption, as in this example:

But that takes a lot of work by the reader, who has to click on a country pin to find out what the alcohol consumption there is, so doesn't help them all that much.

Use the 'Colour by' dialogue and you get a more useful picture.

Now, a coloured disc appears on each country, with a number on it. The number represented the consmption, rounded to the nearest litre, and the discs vary in size depending on the level of consumption in that country.

So, now we are beginning to get a visual representation of the data that helps readers interpret it at glance, rather than by wading through lists of figures.

Publish your visualisations

At any point I can publish the visualisation Silk has created for me, and share it in various ways, including via a link:

Here's that link:

Click on it and my visualisation will open up in a nicely presented Google map, with the map element presented effectively in context. This is one of the  individual pages Silk has created for me, so I could use it as part of the article I am writing.

From there I can pick up code to enable me to embed it in the article I am writing, if I'd like to:

If you do click to publish you'll then have to click on Explore again to get back into the data.

Run along the rest of the options.

Bars and columns give you an immediate comparison.

With columns you need to scroll across to reveal which country is represented in each stack.

See anything immediately interesting or surprising?

Which country would you have guessed, befroe looking at this data, had the highest alcohol intake?


Infact, according to his WHO data it is little Luxembourg.

Second comes Ireland.

In terms of giving an instant indication of what the data shows, this is an effective visualisation.

As you'd expect, Muslim countries show the lowest readings.

Silk limits you to 3,000 rows of data, and will reject any data set that exceeds that total when you try to upload it.

Further tuition on Silk and Socrata Open Data

Silk has a guide: How to use silk for journalism, here:

Silk's YouTube channel is here:

Socrata's guide to its Open Data initiative


Friday, 11 September 2015

Previewing the brand-new 2nd edition of Multimedia Journalism, published October 14 2015

Equipping you for the fourth revolution in journalism

Yet again, journalism is undergoing radical change.

James Harding, the BBC's director of news and current affairs, speaks of a fourth revolution in journalism.
First there was print, and then came the first three revolutions:
• Radio
• Television
• Online
Each caused radical upheaval in their turn.

The fourth revolution, which is taking place right now, is being caused by mobile technology.

Harding, who is responsible for shaping the BBC's vision for news coverage, told staff: "In the age of the smartphone, we have entered the age of smart news, of handheld, news of what, for want of a better term, I will simply call interactive news – news that is portable and personalised; news that is fully internet-enabled and responsive; news that is available to everyone, everywhere, right now; news in which everyone has a hand on the microphone, i.e. not just broadcast, transmitted or distributed, but shared, exchanged, checked, investigated and explained as much by the audience as the author; news that can plug you in to what’s happening anywhere in the world, but equally root you into where you live and work; news that puts the world, with all this implies, in the palm of your hand."
The Multimedia Journalism (MMJ) project is designed to equip student journalists - and, indeed, working journalists - with the skills they need to join this revolution.

With its textbook in paper and ebook form, its companion website, its mobile and social media presences, MMJ teaches how to do journalism across all media and on all platforms.

It will take you through from day one to graduation, covering all practical, journalistic aspects of your course.

It will give you everything you need to know to develop as a fully rounded multimedia journalist.
It will start by assuming absolutely no knowledge or experience, and accompany you through to full competence: the level of competence required to graduate from a practical undergraduate or postgraduate journalism course.

It will take you through the practice of reporting - of storytelling - in text, audio, still and moving images, mobile platforms and on social media. MMJ takes as its starting point the way news, information and entertainment is consumed today.

How do you consume your news?

Chances are, you use a mix something along the lines of the following:
• News alerts on Twitter
• Status updates on Facebook or other social networks
• News headlines from a range of titles you like
• An app - either free or (possibly) paid for - on your mobile phone or tablet computer
• A free print product (if you live in a city) that you pick up before or after your morning commute
• TV news

You may, just possibly, also buy a newspaper.

What about your other information and entertainment needs?

You might buy one or more glossy magazines that fall into the categories of general consumer or specialist consumer titles.

That's particularly likely if you are into fashion, movies, gaming. Or you may read them on a tablet.
Your interests and hobbies may also be served by a range of other apps, headline alerts of email newsletters.

So if you follow a particular sports league or team, for example, you are likely to be signed up for news from them, and this news will often be produced not by independent journalists but by journalists employed by the club or league itself.

A lot of what you read or watch will come to you - those in your social circle will share or like a video on YouTube, say, or a news story that has been shared by someone you know on Facebook, or linked to on Twitter.

You might listen to a radio station, or download podcasts of news or other information to listen to on your smartphone, iPod or tablet while you are on the way to work, at the gym or on a run.
So that's a pretty complex media landscape, and because we have so much choice about where we get our news, information and entertainment, everyone’s pattern of media consumption is likely to be unique to them.

How you learn to deliver news and information in the age of the fourth revolution

So if you want to be a journalist, how to you find a way to make a living in this complex landscape?
The answer is to acquire all the skills it takes to produce that news and information, across a wide range of media.

To become, in short, a multimedia journalist.

Someone who can use all the modern tools that are available to us as gatherers and disseminators of news and information - to be equally at home writing for print or online, doing an audio or video report, taking still images, crunching data to reveal the stories hidden within it, and using a wide range of social media to find, research and publish stories.

That's what the MMJ project sets out to help you do.

And, because this is a revolution, MMJ can't stand still. So, while the textbook will remain a guide to the unchanging principles of good practice, in whatever medium you operate, the online versions will be constantly updated to take in new technologies - new software, hardware and ways of doing journalism.  

MMJ 2nd edition is published on October 14 2015

Its available on Amazon in the UK
And in the USA

Friday, 18 October 2013

3 models for brand journalism in the fashion industry

How brand journalism is challenging the traditional PR model of third-party endorsement
This is a guest post from Laura Roig Vericat, who has recently completed a dissertation looking in detail on how brand journalism is transforming coverage of fashion. 
Third-party endorsement has always been the core essence of public relations, however, background research shows a rise of brand publications within the fashion media landscape, which is challenging the traditional PR model regarding the use of the media. Precisely because of that, the disclosure of the brand authorship within those publications raises concerns about the transparency and credibility of the source. Are brands able to be perceived as an authoritative media source?
Through a content analysis of three brand publications and interviews with relevant practitioners and journalists, my study looks at the different approaches to Brand Journalism that fashion brands are developing at the moment, as well as looking at different insights regarding the link between the authorship and the credibility of the source.
Research shows that there are three main approaches to Brand Journalism: ‘One-brand’, Multi-brand’ and ‘Off-brand’. All three approaches feature different stories based on the lifestyle of their target audience, but only two have a product focus and include the media model of content-to-commerce, adding links to e-commerce. The Edit, Net-a-Porter’s magazine, and MANGO Magazine, for example, enhance all stages of the decision making process, from inspiration to purchase. NOWNESS, a publishing venture form LVMH, is building a media channel to generate awareness instead of pushing sales.
Brands acting as publishers, could not be linking the authorship of the content to their brand in order to present themselves as independent publishers. They could potentially be risking their transparency in order to be viewed as more credible. In fact, research shows that while The Edit and MANGO Magazine have clear links between the brand and the content, NOWNESS, disassociates itself from the brand.
PRs interviewed for the study point out that consumers are willing to engage with brands in an editorial way, however, if brands aim to provide biased content, they would rapidly dismiss them. Without the filter of journalists, consumers become the gatekeepers of information and transparency and honesty is key to engage with them.
Also, after having analysed the fashion media landscape, it looks like traditional publications are failing to provide relevant content. In fact, research shows that consumers are now focusing on content instead of a channel.
Talking about the content, PRs agree that the endorsement power of third parties such as experts, celebrities and consumers is helping brands to be perceived as authoritative sources.

MANGO Magazine features mainly fashion bloggers and consumers

In fact, the use of such referees in brand publications is attracting the attention of traditional media. This way, instead of only competing for readers, brands and traditional fashion magazines complement each other, making brand journalism a source of information and traditional media a traffic driver.
The Guardian features content first published on NOWNESS, linking back to their site
Findings also show that brand personality gives credibility to the source, however, it also acts as a filter so brands only covering their own products are most likely to only engage with brand fans. Adding other points of view within the content, including products from other brands for example, not only gives more transparency to the approach, but also helps the brand to appeal new consumers. By providing a wider content, brands also create a key word cloud that helps the publication to be found by search engines online.
Another interesting fact is that having commercial motivations behind the content doesn’t necessarily affect the credibility of the source. In fact, this study shows that convenience prevails to independency demonstrating that the new media model of content-to-commerce can actually benefit brands willing to develop a publishing venture.
Transparency and content appear to be more valued than the independency of the source when conferring credibility to the media. It looks like PR has the opportunity to build a media system in its own right and Brand Journalism appears to be the medium. However, there is a time factor to be considered and the constant delivery of those values is essential to build a credible media: “brands need to focus on how they can leverage traditional media to not only drive sales today, but audiences tomorrow”, - Tom Martin.
* Extract from MA dissertation submitted for Westminster University, Master’s degree in PR,
London, 2013. The copyright of this document is shared by University of Westminster
 The dissertation has been published on Issuu and it is available here.
It is also embedded below

</ div>

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

iPad app creation for non-coders and non-designers: Previewing Masterclass 60 at Multimedia Journalism

News consumption on tablet computers is growing fast

Not all news organisations feel the need to create a dedicated iPad and Android-friendly app 

Many take the view that standard websites can easily be read on such devices
Which is true, but which ignores the particular look and feel of such tablets. They are particularly good at creating an electronic equivalent of the pleasure of consuming a glossy magazine on paper, for example. 
What's held many individual journalists back is the fact that, to create an iPad app has generally required a knowledge of coding, or hiring an app developer at some cost.
So when I noticed that Google Campus London was welcoming a new startup called Fliplet, which promised "an app-building platform that lets users create a professional-looking app without needing technical or design skills" I decided to check it out. 
Fliplet proved very straightforward to use - I could create an app as easily as I might plan, design, structure and build a Wordpress site, and there’s a free trial while Fliplet is in beta.
The Getting Started blog post from Fliplet is the place to go first
The advice you get there can be summarised as:
  • Decide what your app is for
  • Gather your content: "You can upload text, images and videos into Fliplet as well as link to external websites."
  • Build your first screens: "Fliplet already has a variety of layouts preloaded to make life easy."
  • Preview your app on the iPad
  • Go through the Apple app publishing process (they help you)
For the purposes of this exercise i'm taking content I already have, for a website that is the companion to my textbook Brand Journalism.

Key question - what will it cost?

It’s going to be a minimum of $74 per month and can be up to 10 times that, but they say: "During Fliplet’s beta you can build your app on the starter plan with unlimited users and storage. 30 days notice will be given before the beta ends and this offer expires."
We'll look at actually building your app in the next screen. First, just to make sure you know exactly what is involved, we'll go through what you need to do to get it published.
Once you have created your app you can preview it on an iPad, but to get it published you must go through the process Apple requires.
But it's complex. It takes 5 weeks to get approval if you are starting out, and costs $99.
But you can review the apps you create without submitting them to the app store

Next: Building an iPad app on Fliplet

Thursday, 29 August 2013

If you REALLY want to be a journalist - you need the answers to these 10 questions

Usually on the Multimedia Journalism site we concentrate on how to do journalism

How to be a better reporter, video editor, podcaster or whatever

This time I want to look at something different.
Something that comes before all of the 'how to do it'.
It's the 'do you really want to do it?'
It's about the state of journalism today.
So I'm posing and answering 10 key questions.
The answers are designed to fully inform you about the state of the journalism trade today in the US and the UK.
I'll lay my cards on the table right now - I think we are at the start of a golden age of journalism.
I say that because it's never been easier to do journalism: to create and publish high-quality multimedia content.
Getting good at it is the hard part, and is what the MMJ course of learning is all about.
But there are also some stark facts that anyone considering spending a lot of time and money studying journalism ought to know about before they commit themselves.
For example: there are between 40,000 and 60,000 journalists working in the UK, depending on whose figures you believe (more on that here)
Yet, each year, around 15,000 students begin journalism degrees.
In the USA, the ratio of fresh graduates to working journalists is similarly scary.
So, no pressure there then.
This doesn't mean you'll never get a job in journalism, although in the UK, applications for journalism degrees plunged by 20 per cent in 2012, and only recovered by 1.4 per cent in 2013. 
What the tough employment market does mean is that you need to be really well trained, qualified and prepared if you are to stand a chance.
You need to be well-informed about where the jobs are, and how to equip yourself for a career in journalism.
So in this masterclass we look at these things:
  • How many jobs there are and what percentage of journalism students get one
  • Where those jobs are in the various branches of the media - newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, online and in brand journalism
  • The qualifications and experience you need to be a serious candidate
and other key questions.
Along the way we'll link to further information and resources - so, for example, in the module on what experience you need we link to a rich resource of advice on getting work experience and internships and on building up an impressive portfolio of published and/or broadcast work.

Next: How many jobs are there? How hard is it to get one?

Friday, 9 August 2013

8 things every new journalism student must learn to do before they start their course

T-shirt: customised at zazzle

You’ve probably got a pretty daunting reading list that you know you ought to plough your way through

But nobody does that. And you don’t need to.

What you do need to do now, if you want to be ahead of the game when your course starts, is learn some essentials.
Here are eight things that, if you tackle them now, mean you’ll find the first few weeks of your course plain sailing.
You’ll find a short explanation of each item on this screen, plus links so you can find out more.
The links go either to further screens in this masterclasses, or out to other resources in the MMJ project.
Some are outside the paywall, for others you’ll need to become a registered user to gain access. To do that, you need to buy the book in print or ebook form. You can do that here for the USA, here for the UK.

1 Learn to write a news story following the inverted triangle method

That means, knowing that every story must answer these six essential questions about the event you are reporting on:
Who   What   When
Where   Why   How
And these questions need to be answered in a structure we call the inverted triangle or pyramid, which has these four elements within it:

You’ll find a detailed demonstration of how such a story is written in this masterclasses, on the screen called Learn to write a news story following the inverted triangle method
Plus there are loads of real-life examples of how news stories are written in Chapter 1 of the print/ebook versios of Multimedia Journalism, with supporting links and material on the immersive website here.

2 Develop a beat or specialism

The days of the generalist are over. Being a bog-standard news reporter is a dead end job when so much general news is available, and when such a low price is put on it.
To offer value, and material that people are prepared to pay for, you need to become an expert in a particular field - to cover what we call a beat, or specialism.
That might be movies, music or fashion. It could be health, education or politics.
Maybe you have no idea what specialism to choose.
If so, just pick a subject – ideally something you are passionate about – and make covering that area your way of learning to be a good journalist.
We’ve covered 12 specialisms in depth in previous MMJ masterclasses. You’ll find an introduction to them, plus advice on how to choose a specialism and how to begin covering it here.

3 Begin to develop your personal brand

There has been a fundamental shift in the way journalists establish themselves as reliable, authoritative reporters and commentators.
In Post Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present, Clay Shirky, Emily Bell and CW Anderson said this:
“[There is] a new reality for journalism school grads in which the first step in their careers will not be to tie their reputation to an established media institution, as they might have in the past, but to create their own reputation.
“Already, journalism schools are more like film schools than law schools, which is to say that the relative success or failure of a J-School grad is going to be far more variable than it used to be
“There are fewer entry-level jobs than there used to be.
“Like film school graduates, they will have to go out into the world and create a name for themselves. It's a far less predictable environment and the career paths are less clear.’”
We take a look at doing that in this masterclasses on How to build your personal brand.

Read the other 5 essentials here: Multimedia Journalism Masterclass 58