• Post category:Data Journalism
  • Reading time:3 mins read

Data journalism as the answer to the story drought

I’m slowly catching up with reading and blogging again – seriously, stop paying attention for five minutes and you end up buried in interesting things.

Among the things I’ve finally caught up on is the MEN’s excellent Crime down your street series looking at the crime map figures for the whole of 2011 in Manchester (I’d been looking out for it since Paul Gallagher mentioned he was working on the figures).

What the series is great for illustrating is the way in which data journalism can be used to generate a group of connected stories off the back of a single data source, which can be planned for the paper over a number of days (potentially a good way to get people to read the website/buy the paper over several days, plus offering some guaranteed copy

The articles themselves are really well put together, with maps, tables and case studies (I hate finding case studies, but yes, they do help bring a story to life), all of which is easier to produce if you’re not trying to do it right on deadline (this is totally the reason why I hate finding case studies).

It requires a commitment to forward planning and putting time aside to work on such stories – not always the easiest, given both the amount of time it takes to put together some pieces of data journalism (‘the longest I ever spent cleaning data’ is a future game of one-upmanship waiting to happen) and the in-the-moment demands of daily newspapers.

But the pay off is good – I’m not sure how the stories appeared in the paper but they look like the provided several spreads, but the online engagement is very high, the number of comments suggests they were amongst the most commented of the day (I can’t spot any numbers for Twitter/Facebook shares)

I tend to think one of the best arguments for data journalism in the newsroom is it generates stories – as this series demonstrates one piece of work can generate several good strong off-diary stories, the kind of thing people would much rather read over a rehashed press release, making it well worth the effort.

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