The National Union of Journalists has scheduled two new dates for my one-day course of data journalism training: Monday 18 May and Monday 9 November, both at the NUJ’s office on Gray’s Inn Road in London.
This course is aimed mainly at those already in journalism, who want practical methods that can be used immediately – and who want to know about the pitfalls as well as the benefits.
Specifically, the course will cover how to assess and improve the quality of data; how to combine it, or mash it up, without making a mess; the reality of using the Freedom of Information Act to get material; and how to turn numbers into pictures, whether graphs or maps. I will also talk about when it makes sense not to rely on data. Advanced mathematical ability is not a requirement, although common sense is always useful.
Any chunk of text that includes ‘delighted’ or ‘excited’ in the first sentence looks like a dull press release. So how about this: I am chuffed to announce the commercial launch of the first service from Public Service Intelligence Limited, a joint-venture between myself and Boilerhouse Media, a marketing communications consultancy.
The service in question, Council News Monitor, is an email sent first thing each workday with news on local authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and every region of England in every edition. For the last few weeks, we have been sending it on a free trial basis.
Data plays an increasingly big part in journalism. It can conjure exclusive stories out of a slab of figures. It lets journalists take full advantage of government policies on open access and freedom of information. It can produce some really nice graphs and maps.
It was only two years, one month and eight days ago that Damian Green fed the last pieces of Labour’s ID card scheme into a giant industrial shredder in Witham. The coalition, on getting into power, promised to destroy ID cards and protect the NHS. Although some think the government is putting the NHS through a metaphorical shredder with the changes that take effect on 1 April, that is overdoing it. In general, the coalition has kept its promises on these two issues.