Data journalism at the New Zealand Herald

Chris Knox

Data Editor at the New Zealand Herald (in January 2020)

chris@functionalvis.com

30 January, 2020

import ChancesAre from “../massey-journalism-2019/ChancesAre” import Venn from “./Venn”

The Data Team

Making complicated things understandable and engaging

  • The Herald was two Wellington based data journalists - Keith Ng and Chris Knox
  • Feel free to ping us via email, slack, twitter or the phone
  • Or use a zoom call to have us walk you through chart creation

What is data journalism?

Paul Bradshaw from Birmingham City University says:

Data can be the source of data journalism, or it can be the tool with which the story is told — or it can be both.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism says:

Data journalism is simply journalism.

The former is a new and trendy term but ultimately, it is just a way of describing journalism in the modern world.


Why use data in stories?

  • Data is the story
  • Fact-checking/importance checking
  • Context
  • Trust
  • Clarity and/or conciseness
  • Engagement

Data is a source

  • Trust your instincts
  • Don’t use it out of context
    • One number by itself is often misleading
  • Be skeptical

What does data give the narrative?

Narrative/Cognitive tension?

Not sure exactly what to call it - but I think it is important.


What is a visualisation?

Using the tools at hand; size, colour, shape, and position to represent (encode) the values in the data.

Why do we need visualisations?

  • Often they are the best way to communicate things
  • Summary statistics (mean/median) always hide things

Chart choice

  • Different charts will highlight different aspects of your data more effectively.
  • Choose the chart that shows the aspect of the data that you are interested in
  • Line and Bar charts are often a safe choice
  • Take care with maps and pie charts

FT Visual Vocabulary

Bad or deceiving charts

  • Charts and graphs can be used to deceive
    • Don’t do this.

The best way to get a sense for bad charts is to peruse vis.wtf or /r/dataisugly. There is also a good writeup here

The most common bad things are:

  • Incorrect, missing, or misleading labels
  • Inconsistenct scales
  • Truncating scales
  • Comparing things that shouldn’t be
  • Too many things

A few rules

  • Barcharts always start at 0
  • Line charts don’t need to start at 0, but always ask yourself if the range you select is going to make an insignificant change look important
  • Only use pie charts for parts of a whole and only when there are less than 5 categories
  • Avoid maps for showing quantities
  • LABELS
    • titles, captions, and labels are what guide readers into your chart