I think that starting into data journalism is hard for everybody so it wasn’t going to be me the exception to this rule. Before this assignment, I just had used Excel and in a very basic level. It came as a challenge since almost everything I wanted to do was pretty new for me.
I believe that one of the best ways to learn about something, is not only researching about it a reading a bunch of manuals but looking for good examples made by other people and trying it yourself.
On a personal level, my first – big – problem when it comes to infographics is that my design skills are practically non-existent. I know the basic things and the theory but when I have in front of me a blank canvas, I don’t even know where to begin. Even though, I believe that you have to try before saying that you can’t succeed. So I tried. And maybe the result wasn’t amazing, but it was something. And that’s always a start.
It really surprised me the big amount of data visualization tools available nowadays, it is impossible to __ all of them and sometimes it makes it hard to decided which one is the best for the piece or story you want to create.
As with infographics, I tried to find good examples online to fully understand the best way of doing it. Recommended by Alberto Cairo on his blog, I came across with Newsvis. It is still in its first stages as it was created by Robert Kosara at the beginning of this month but it has potential to become a great visualizations directory.
I also explored other websites, most of them can be found on my Netvibes account. I started following experts in the field on Twitter to see good uses and examples and to benefice from the tips they share sometimes, that are usually very useful.
Even if it was too late to join Knight Center’s MOOC Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization by Alberto Cairo, I managed to find the videos in Youtube at watching them was a great first step in understanding both, but while for infrographics it gives a bigger picture, it was very useful to start approaching data visualization.
I joined the NICAR (the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting) mailing list and, although if I found very interesting some of the conversations that were taking place between the different “subscribers” there were usually in a very high technical level and some times it was hard for me to follow them, let alone participate in the discussions.
Using the tools
As I said before, there are so many tools for data visualization and infographics nowadays, that is almost impossible to get to know all of them, or at least the most important ones.
I think that one important lesson learnt from using the tools is that, even if you find yourself with a problem that may seem to not have solution, don’t give up and keep trying other ways of doing it, because there is solution. Somebody before you did it, that means it can be done. Maybe it will take you longer – when I think now how long it took me to map the percentage of smokers in Fusion Tables I find it funny, seems so easy now!- but you will have it at the end.
Build the news
Focusing on data visualization started to become important when we decided to participate in Build the News, the hackton organized by News UK. The weeks leading up to the event, my team and I spent the time looking for data around welfare in general, and regarding pensions when we decided to narrow it down. The problem I always have when I’m doing something very data based mainly focused in the UK is that I have a lot of extra work because I have to understand the background and the way things work here before tackling it, as laws and regulations are usually different to the ones in Spain.
Build the News were a stressful couple of days but really interesting, and the things we did there opened my eyes and made me want to explore further some of the things we tackled during that weekend. It was also a great moment to meet and mingle with people with very similar interests.
Proposal for Assignment 2
After the Build the News weekend and finding more about longform stories, I realised that I really wanted to give it a try and creating a real longform story from scratch. I think is a really innovative way of telling things that is going to develop even more in the future. We already have some great examples like the famous Snow Fall story. It is a different and interesting way of presenting stories and I also believe it provides an enjoyable experience for the readers.
The topic I would like to investigate is the immigration debate that is raising lately in the UK. Even if it has been going on for a while now, it seems that it will still be a “hot topic” in the next months, even more with the upcoming European elections.
- Alberto Cairo (2012) The Functional Art
- Hassel Fallas, “Data-Driven journalism secrets”
- Sandra Crucianelli “Guía Práctica sobre Periodismo de Datos” (Spanish)
- Simon Rogers. “Anyone can do it. Data journalism is the new punk”
- Steve Duenes,Erin Kissane,Andrew Kueneman,Jacky Myint,Graham Roberts,Catherine Spangler, “How we made Snow Fall”