Nicolas Kayser-Bril: Simple tips for data-driven journalism

Image by Mark Hakansson

Nicolas Kayser-Bril, chief executive and co-founder of Journalism++, said today that ‘data illiteracy’ amongst journalists had prevented the wider take-up of more sophisticated forms of digital journalism.

Delivering the keynote speech at news:rewired – digital stories, Kayser-Bril offered some ‘down-to-earth’ tips on how to bring data-driven journalism to the newsroom.

Data-driven journalism was scarce, he said, as many journalists did not possess the skills necessary to carry out anything other than basic digital tasks, adding that only a small number of people actually knew how to use Excel to enhance their journalism.

He said:

By doing some very basic math, you can improve your stories.

Kayser-Bril said the use of data journalism was not longer just limited to stories about finance.

He suggested building a simple datastore for newsrooms by creating Google Spreadsheets. Using spreadsheets to store data in a structured format means that developers are able to build interactive apps and data visualisations, he explained.

He highlighted how The Guardian newspaper often used Google Docs as a way of drawing together information from its journalists and readers that could then be highlighted to its readership.

He also highlighted how data had been used by journalist Jens Finnas to plot the richest 100 Finnish people, showing how much they paid in tax.

When asked about tools for the trade, Kayser-Bril said:

There are a lot of new tools coming out every month, you can use Google Charts as the most basic tool.

He also recommended use of a tool called Datawrapper.

During a Q&A session following his keynote, Kayser-Bril was asked by a delegate if there were particular things to consider when building websites that might use such interactive visualisations.

He said:

As journalists we tend to spend all our days on laptops or desktops and we fail to recognise that most people consume news on their mobiles.

The trick, he said, was to be as simple as possible, adding:

Most of these interactive tools require a lot of CPU power, which won’t work on mobiles. So I would recommend using a simple jpeg image.

If you have a story that you need to tell using data, let’s use technology that works with mobile phones.

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