“It doesn’t matter which country you’re in, or what university you visit, there’s a common refrain that you’ll hear in the halls of J-schools across the globe: “I’m not good at math”.
Of course, this aversion often leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. If students don’t think they’re good at numbers, they avoid them altogether. Yet, to find and accurately report on stories in today’s data intensive society, journalists need these skills.
This calls for a reconsideration of journalism programmes around the world. Teachers need to ask themselves: What are the most relevant strategies to equip students with the skills required for finding facts in datasets? To understand them? To scrutinise them? And to communicate them to the public in the most appropriate and understandable manner?
Over the entrance to the Los Angeles Times headquarters hangs a banner with the newspaper’s promise to the world: REAL JOURNALISM, REAL IMPACT. When I visited in April 2018, the paper was still quietly situated in its historic downtown Los Angeles headquarters, right next to the City Hall and the Grand Park. Three months later, the paper moved out of its historic downtown building to a facility near Los Angeles International Airport, bringing itself closer to the rest of the nation in the latest episode in a series of ownership changes that have been going on for decades. I went there in search of a pair of data journalists, Doug Smith and Ben Welsh, who relayed to me a remarkable story of the evolution of data journalism in recent decades.
(Aaron Mendelson at his KPCC desk in Pasadena, California. He was interviewed by Roselyn Du of Hong Kong Baptist University in February 2019 for his data journalism works.)
Aaron Mendelson can usually be found working on one radio broadcast or another in his office at Pasadena, California. Where most journalists work with verbal content, Mendelson also concerns himself with data analysis. He is thankful to his master’s degree from UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He said the data skills that he is now using at work for Southern California Public Radio’s data journalism and interactive projects are mostly learnt from there. Continue reading “Aaron Mendelson: Would numbers work with radio?”→
(Matt Carroll interviewed by Roselyn Du and her students at Hong Kong Baptist University in 2018)
Matt Carroll was in Hong Kong in October 2018. He was invited to be a keynote speaker for the week-long Pulitzer Prize Winners Workshop (PPWW) held at Hong Kong Baptist University. The rooms where he spoke were always more than full, with some people having to stand at the aisles or sit on the floor.
Loads of imagination about programming has been running helter-skelter in my mind before I step into the spacious and well-polished Spectrum studio on the 11th floor of an office building at Sheung Wan in this bright Saturday morning. As someone who has been concentrating only on courses about liberal arts since senior school, I always consider coding as something far away from my daily life.
But today, Chico Xu, Ivy Wang and I, as student reporters, are going to take a glance into this sophisticated business which we once thought was irrelevant to the lives of us and the lives of many, but which actually is, and to a large extent.
The event we are attending is called the Global Pandas Documentation Sprint, a worldwide event held simultaneously in more than 300 countries on March 10, 2018, aiming at improving this Python library’s documentation with clearer explanations and better examples, and trying to leave, at the end of the day, with the library enhanced “in a perfect state,” as put by its official website.
The hope for pro-democracy camp to regain its veto power in the legislature vanished as Edward Yiu Chung Yim failed to beat his rival Vincent Cheng Wing-shun in last week’s by-election.
Legislative By-election 2018 was held on 11 March for four vacant seats in the council, following after the oath-taking saga which disqualified six councilors. New legislators were elected from three regions – New Territories East, Kowloon West, and Hong Kong Island, as well as Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency.
Election is all about numbers – voter turnout rate, numbers of votes, and percentage of voters supporting candidate A or B, making it a golden opportunity for data visualization. In this article, we select three local news media, which are Initium, SCMP, and HK01, to discuss their different coverages on the by-election.
Open Data Day is an annual celebration of open data all over the world. In the year of 2018, more than 400 cities simultaneously organise hackathons on Mar 3. According to one Hong Kong organiser, Bastien Douglas, most local organisers of ODD are government affiliates. In Hong Kong, communities like OSHK and ODHK lead the organisation every year. One highlight for ODD-HK-18 is the talk from Jessica Lo, the system manager from OGCIO responsible for the open data portal: data.gov.hk
It is time to break-down the broad concept of “data journalism”. When talking about the combination of data and news, we usually refer to two processes, sometimes conducted in an integral manner. One process is to discover news points from datasets. The datasets can provide a lead for further investigation. The final product does not necessarily reflect the usage of data. It may look the same as normal news products mainly composed of interviews and photos. This is called “data mining” in the science domain. Another process is to present news points using data. There come to all kinds of charts and interactive/ immersive presentations. This is called “data visualisation” in the science domain.
Let’s focus on the “data mining” part in this article. That is to discover news from datasets, or more precisely discover a news lead from datasets. The further development of the entire news story may take much more efforts with a combination of traditional and modern methods. For easier discussion, we treat “news” in the general form: something the audience does not know before reading, a.k.a, something that “appears new”. It could be the status update of a current affair, or it could be the “new knowledge” to the readers (probably be “common knowledge” to experts which we don’t want to waste time debating).
As advocated by the “Road to Jan”: the most profound theory takes the simplest form. As a first step, we try not using programming, or even sophisticated spreadsheet skills. One can readily find some “news” with a bit “nose for news” and be computer literate is good enough. In this article, we will demo a few news points mined by our undergraduate students from Hong Kong government data portal: https://data.gov.hk . It took around 20 minutes in the second class of a data journalism course. We start with a public dataset from the portal, check out the data tables and eyeball if there is anything interesting. The process is so quick that we would like to give it a brand name: Lightning News. One can sharpen his/her news sense and data sense by doing this as daily exercise.