The Data Journalism Podcast
By Alberto Cairo & Simon Rogers
The Data Journalism PodcastAug 09, 2023
Alan Smith: Inside the FT's data journalism operation
Alan Smith is a rare breed: he leads the FT's team of data reporters and designers, but has a background in the stuffy world of official statistics as former head of digital content at the UK's Office for National Statistics. Alan is also author of How Charts Work, a handbook on designing with data using the FT's principles.
He chats with Simon and Alberto about his approach to data journalism and how to make numbers accessible for everyone.
Data journalism in Kenya, with Eunice Magwambo
This week we meet data journalist Eunice Magwambo, whose team has trained over 2,000 journalists in data journalism and visualisation and is part of a new movement of talented data reporters in the region. She talks about how data journalism in Africa is different, the appetite for data-led stories and the importance of sharing those visuals.
You can find more of Eunice's work here.
Live from Perugia: Data Journalism in Small Newsrooms
Recorded live at the International Journalism Fesitival in Perugia, Italy on April 21, 2023. This panel brought together some great practitioners producing award-winning data journalism in small newsrooms and sometimes on their own. Moderated by Simon, the panel includes:
Yvette Cabrera, Center for Public Integrity
Miguel Angel Dobrich, Dobcast, Uruguay
Yao-Hua Law, Macaranga, Malaysia
Sisi Wei, The Markup, US
Great data journalism is often seen as a resource-intensive exercise that only huge newsrooms can afford to indulge in. But the speakers in this panel prove that's not the case. Working in small teams - sometimes alone - they managed to pull off some of the year's best work. Learn from their experiences, tips and techniques.
Organised in association with Sigma Awards.
Live from Perugia: The State of Data Journalism Today at the International Journalism Festival
It's a different kind of episode! Live from the 2023 International Journalism Festival in Perugia, this session features co-host Simon plus the following great speakers:
Moderated by Lars Boering, director of the EJC
The session looks at how data journalists work, who they collaborate with, and the latest trends and sought after skills within the field. These are just some of the questions The State of Data Journalism Survey 2022 asks journalists from around the world every year. From identifying favourite data tools to sharing thoughts on the future of the field, this panel discussion delves into the current state of data journalism.
The Sigmas: inside the world's data journalism awards
How do you judge data journalism in 2023? The Sigma Data Journalism Awards is the only global award for the field and this episode sees Simon and Alberto chatting with Gina Chua, Aron Pilhofer, Kuek Ser Kuang Keng and Marianne Bouchart to discuss the state of data journalism today, the point of the awards and what's happening next.
Rani Molla: data for journalism
Rani Molla is a senior correspondent at Vox Media, reporting for Recode on the intersection between work, technology and the future. She uses data to tell stories every day, whether it's about our return to the office (or lack of), the impacts of AI on our world or the rise of burnout.
In the latest episode of the pod, we chat about how she uses data to tell stories, her favourite tools and why data always makes journalism better.
Florence Nightingale and the history of dataviz
RJ Andrews is the founder of data design studio Info We Trust and author of a new series of books delving into the deep history of of data visualisation and storytelling. In this episode of the pod, he talks about three significant parts of the history of data visuals: Florence Nightingale, Emma Willard and Étienne-Jules Marey. While Nightingale created powerful visuals that changed how we understand mortality, Willard portrayed time itself. And Marey wrote a guide to visualising data that seems current today. You can buy the books here.
The music this week, made with TwoTone, is life expectancy, based on a dataset used in the Nightingale book and provided to us by RJ. Life expectancy at birth is defined as the average number of years that a newborn could expect to live if he or she were to pass through life subject to the age-specific mortality rates of a given period. Data compiled by Our World in Data based on estimates by James C. Riley, Clio Infra, and the United Nations Population Division.
The science of dataviz, with Jen Christiansen
In this episode of the pod, she talks about her approach to visualising scientific stories and to graphics, based on her long career in the field. "For any scientist to have their work in the lab or in the field and be worthwhile, you need to communicate it to someone - whether you're communicating it to your peers or to the broader public or to funders ... And I think that most training has been focused on making sure people can write, but we don't have a lot of training for everyone in terms of design fundamentals and different languages you can use that are pictorial to help get your point across and to help people have greater understanding of what it is that you're doing."
CNN's Harry Enten: Data for TV
Harry Enten (@forecasterenten on Twitter) is one of the most-high-profile data journalists in the world. He explains the numbers every day on CNN - whether it's election polling, sports or even his original passion: meterology, specifically snowstorms.
"I definitely see myself as a storyteller," says Enten and he chats with Alberto and Simon about his approach to making the numbers understandable for a TV audience, which charts work (and which don't), as well as who is in his head each time he presents.
They also discuss polling and how to report on the nuances of surveys. "I wonder about what's the best way to present uncertainty all the time."
"I understand the data better than the audience does because I sit with the data for such a long period of time," he says. "And I almost have to step back and be like, okay, if I didn't know this topic, if let's say this is about people's favorite soups or something to do with cooking that I don't understand at all, what can I take away from this graphic? Would I really be able to understand it?"
Nigel Holmes: the joy of data
Nigel Holmes is a graphic designer, author, and theorist, who focuses on information graphics and information design. He's also the author of a new book, Joyful Infographics, a personal journey through visual design. Alberto and Simon chat with Nigel about why humanity and fun is so vital in graphics.
Nathan Yau: the flow of dataviz
Nathan Yau is behind one of the world's most influential data journalism and visualisation websites: Flowing Data. A statistician, Nathan started the site as a resource for students but it has become a go-to destination to find out the latest in data journalism. We discuss why dataviz matters, how to learn R and the quiz of the week.
Amanda Cox: bringing facts to the people
Amanda Cox is Head of Special Data Projects at USAFacts, an unrivaled source of public data in the US. She's also an established data journalist and former editor of the NYT's Upshot data journalism section. As the winner of multiple awards, she's been referred to as the "Michael Phelps of infographics". She chats with Simon and Alberto about her career, how she feels about treemaps and how to put data out into the world.
How Axios brings smart brevity to data journalism
The Axios team have spearheaded 'smart brevity', but how does that apply to data journalism and data visualisation? Alberto and Simon chat with the team that makes it happen: Danielle Alberti, Jacque Schrag and Will Chase about how they work and what makes a project 'Axios'.
You can check out the midterms project the team worked on with Google Trends data here. Here are some more projects mentioned in the episode:
Inside the New York Times Graphics Team
Archie Tse is the Graphics Director at The New York Times. He has been at The Times since 1995, and he has pioneered graphics reporting, often in person - especially after 9/11, traveling to Iraq to cover the US invasion, and reporting on the capture of Saddam Hussein. He is even credited by some with being an early adopter of identifying Republicans with the colour red and Democrats with the colour blue after his election 2000 maps.
Alberto and Simon discuss how his team works, his approach to data visualisation and journalism - and whether he prefers tree maps or pie charts.
The music is created with TwoTone and is based on US honey production data.
Information is Beautiful: an interview with David McCandless
One of the most successful published data journalists in the world today, David McCandless has a new book out: Beautiful News. His work is innovative, newsy, current and incredibly popular with readers — but sometimes controversial with what he calls the "chart police".
Alberto and Simon chat with David about why he gets such Marmite-type reactions to his work, how Hans Rosling opened our eyes to the power of data visualisation and the nature of beauty.
The music for today's episode is world GDP, made with TwoTone, which turns numbers into tunes.
Jessica Huseman: data stories for the US Midterm elections
Election reporting has become one of the most important journalism beats in America as we barrel towards the midterm elections. How can data journalism help?
Jessica Huseman has become the face of election reporting in America. Editorial Director at Votebeat, she also owns the data journalism training organistion Friendly State News and previously worked at ProPublica on the Electionland project. Jessica chats with Alberto and Simon about the stakes in election reporting this cycle - and how data makes everything better.
A Data Journalist in Ukraine
His team's work to analyse misinformation has won a Sigma data journalism award for best News Application and they are still producing great data journalism today, even as the country is under attack.
Some of his team's pieces include this analysis of satellite images of Russian military bases, an investigation into illegal amber mining in Ukraine and this interactive on corruption.
Data journalism for the people! Ben Welsh and MaryJo Webster on the state of local data journalism
How do you make data journalism that matters to people about where they live? In the latest Data Journalism Podcast, Alberto and Simon explore local data journalism with two of the leading practitioners of the field.
MaryJo Webster is the data editor for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and has devoted herself to training data journalists. Ben Welsh is the editor of the Data and Graphics Department at the LA Times, who also leads a new data partnership with the Big Local News Project.
2021 in data journalism: Scott Klein on how ProPublica does it, plus our favourite projects of the year
Scott Klein leads the teams at ProPublica that work at the intersection of journalism and technology. His teams have been recognized with a Peabody Award, several Online Journalism Awards for General Excellence, Malofiej International Infographics Award medals, the Data Journalism Award Jurors Choice Award, as well as Society for News Design Awards of Excellence, including one special recognition for “defining the design language of data-driven news apps.”
Scott is also co-founder of DocumentCloud, a service that helps news organizations search, manage and present their source documents. He sits on the board of the Muckrock Foundation.
Scott, Alberto and Simon chat about the state of data journalism in 2021, how ProPublica does it and how journalism is at the forefront of innovation.
We also talked about these projects:
- The Atlantic's Covid tracker
- Which birds are jerks
- Using old ships logs to record historic weather
- A room, a bar and a classroom
Inside The Pudding
Matt Daniels and Caitlyn Ralph are just two of the team behind The Pudding, a visual collective of great visual data journalism - where you can find great longform data journalism such as this hunt for the internet’s oldest image, this guide to why women’s pockets are inferior and how many times a character says “cool” in Community.
And The Pudding crew also have a commercial arm too: Polygraph, which produces visuals such as the ones you can find on this page on the Google Trends site.
Alberto and Simon chat visual journalism with Matt and Caitlyn and find out exactly how you can run a design agency and a cool collective in one go.
Eva Constanteras: doing data journalism in Afghanistan, Myanmar and across the Global South
Eva Constantaras is a data journalist with Internews and Lighthouse Reports who works around the world to establish data journalism units to tell public interest stories. She has worked with data journalists in Afghanistan, Myanmar and many other places around the world where numbers can make a difference.
Eva chats on the podcast about data journalism in failing states and her process to help reporters tell those hidden stories.
The Census data was published. What does it mean for data journalists?
Angeliki Kastanis is a data journalist at The Associated Press and an expert on the US Census.
They talk with Alberto and Simon about what the 2020 Census data released so far told us, offers tips and tricks for getting the most out of it for reporters - and even working as a Census enumerator.
US Census bonus episode
Tomorrow (August 12) sees the release of crucial US Census redistricting data - which will shape US government and politics for the next crucial election cycles. It will also give us unique insights into the changing demographic makeup of regions across the US. Alberto and Simon chat with Joe Germuska (executive director at @KnightLab and Project lead @CensusReporter) and Cheryl Phillips (Data/investigative journalism lecturer @Stanford and Founder of @biglocalnews).
Want to know what to expect — and how to tell stories with it? This is the podcast for you.
Stuart Thompson and Sergio Peçanha: how to use data for comment
We all know that data visualization is a great tool to explore and make sense of numbers, and also to communicate those numbers to people. But there is also a long historical tradition in visualization that uses graphs, charts, and maps for persuasion. Think, for instance, of Florence Nightingale, who used data and charts to persuade the English authorities to improve the living conditions of soldiers during war. The persuasive tradition of visualization today continues thanks in part to the work of journalists and designers who work not for the news sides of their companies, but for their opinion sections.
In this episode Alberto and Simon talked to two of them, Stuart Thompson from The New York Times, and Sergio Peçanha, from The Washington Post. How is their work similar to what traditional graphics departments in news organizations do? And how is it different?
COVID data journalism special episode
In the latest episode of the pod, Alberto and Simon get to grips with COVID19 data and the challenges of reporting on the numbers during a pandemic.
Financial Times senior visual journalist John Burn-Murdoch explains how he hunts for the key data and talks through what he thinks we will see happening next.
How to make data journalism for humans
In this episode Alberto and Simon talk to Lam Thuy Vo, a polymath data journalist who works for Buzzfeed and teaches at CUNY. We discussed her data-driven investigative stories, her quantified self projects, and her interest in providing learning resources for data journalists from underrepresented communities.
Next, we talked to visualization designers Shirley Wu and Nadieh Bremer about their recent book ‘Data Sketches' (and how to avoid working with or for a-holes). Here's a great example of their work for The Guardian.
How do you judge data journalism?
In this first episode, we go inside the Sigma Awards - the only global award for data journalism. Joining Alberto and Simon are journalists Gina Chua, Aron Pilhofer, Kuek Ser Kuang Keng and Marianne Bouchart to discuss the state of data journalism today, the point of awards and what's happening next.
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