This event starts at 3:30 p.m. at Territories room on Mezzanine level.
This event is a preview for an all-day Saturday and Sunday event on data journalism. There's still a couple spots available.
of the teaser is on the story, ahead of the data
Glen McGregor: Data journalism becomes powerful at the individual level, not the summary level.
Why use data?: McGregor says you no longer need to attribute, you can state facts. You can uncover stories that even your interview subjects don't know.
David McKie: "PDFs are evil" because they prevent you from being able to do the math yourself and drill down to the lowest level where some of the most useful information is.
Having more data gives you more power for analysis and storytelling, McKie says
Fred Vallance-Jones's class at King's College requested 5 years of data on police calls in Nova Scotia in order to do an in-depth investigative report - they got the data after only a couple of weeks.
The police data led to identifying a high-crime area in Nova Scotia, says Vallance-Jones. His students developed a report regarding people making a positive difference in that community.
The raw data in the previous example was used to create a strong human interest story.
Audience question: Do you ever have to input data manually?
McGregor says he's only done it for really important stories. He suggests you should always demand data in text or excel.
The presenters have shown easy ways to get access to useful data. Some suggested data to mine has included
food recall data and lists of bicycle thefts in your city.
McKie says using data you can discover stories that would never be reported because the people who usually hold the data would never discuss the trends you discovered
McGregor: "Data journalism helps you find the stories the media people don't want you to tell"
On Statistics Canada, McKie says you need to ask for more detailed breakdowns than what is published - it's free and only takes a few days
The more detailed data sets are vital for small-market publications
One of McGregor's biggest stories was on traffic tickets. He requested 5 years of parking ticket data after getting what he felt was an unjust ticket.
McGregor says he sees every column in a data set as a possible topic for a story. In the traffic ticket example: officer name; time of day; type of car.
McKie asks the audience to think of all the different buildings that get inspected and the different kind of inspections: Bars; restaurants; nursing homes; apartment buildings.
According to Federal and Provincial legislation, the government has a "duty to assist" in requests for information, McKie says.
Question: How up front are you with people about what you are reporting on when you request data?
McKie: "I would tell them I don't know until I see the data."
Vallance-Jones: "I would even say it's a bad idea" because you have a right to the information and they do not have a right to ask you. Also you may end up using the data for something else entirely.
Question: "Is it dangerous to read too much into your results." Vallance-Jones agreed that it can be, so you should control against that risk.
Vallance-Jones ends off by showing how you get to a story about gambling addiction by starting with data on video lottery terminal licences.
He found that VLTs were far more likely to be found in poor areas and that poor people are far more exposed and thus likely to get addicted to VLTs.
Question: Did [Nova Scotia Gaming Commision] have anything to say to you about that? Vallance-Jones: "I don't recall that they did, no."
Vallance-Jones admits that one problem with data journalism is that the info can be subjective, but points out that journalism does not have the same requirements as a research paper.
The overall message of the teaser seemed to be about generating real human interest stories from what looks like bland data.
The events tomorrow and Sunday will give much more advice on how to find and analyse detailed
Tomorrow's event takes place at Ryerson's Rogers Communication Centre at 80 Gould St., Rm 183 starting at 9:30 a.m. - There still may be spots available, so head to the registration desk if you are interested in signing up.