Data Journalism

On Friday I attended a really interesting information session at NICVA with other Comms/PR folk from the NI Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS).

This was a follow-on from the CIPR event we ran for the sector back in September, where feedback showed a real interest in more opportunities to network, share learning and access more training when it comes to engaging with the local media in particular. Hence Friday’s event:

Kathryn Torney (@Kath_TheDetail) kindly gave us her time to explain her role as Deputy Editor of investigative news website @TheDetailTV - an award winning investigative news and current affairs website for and about Northern Ireland.

The news site has become popular in its own right, launching some of the biggest stories in the health, social justice and education sectors this year, but it is also its ability to feed geographically-relevant stories across the country to local news outlets that has earned it notoriety.

Me concentrating on the right! Courtesy of @WhittOnTwitt

Succinctly, Kathryn explained that “data journalism” is merely good journalism using statistics. But it is the depth and breadth of data they get access to and subsequently analyse that really makes the difference as they release findings that can challenge the selective data used by government departments for example. They also layer the stories, personalising them with interactive maps and graphics, making full use of online capabilities and allowing each individual reader to see a slightly different story angle, most appropriate to them.

Kathryn also told us about the Detail Data Project launching in the new year. A partnership project between The Detail TV and NICVA, funded by the Big Lottery Fund NI, the aim is to turn data into a powerful resource for social change, anabling the VCS to access Journalism/Research/Training, culminating in 30 high impact stories.

So if PR/Comms people want to look into data journalism as part of their content marketing, storytelling or campaigning, what are this new breed of journalists looking for?

  • issues people care about
  • a strong news angle
  • interactive graphics (an issue that delves into local areas)
  • human element (video/audio interviews)
  • potential to make a difference - inform policy
Leon from Northern Visions NVTV. Photo courtesy of @WhittOnTwitt

In the second part of the morning we heard from Leon, freelance production manager at Northern Visions (@northernvisions) an arts and digital media centre and local television broadcaster based in Belfast. The channel has finally been granted its Ofcom licence and now broadcasts on Freeview Channel 8/Virgin Channel 159 from 6pm-10pm nightly.

There is a real community ethos across a channel like this, from their 6 minute-long news pieces, allowing more in-depth story elaboration, to the local ads and music, heritage, arts, panel show ideas. This is a broadcast outlet that shouldn’t be overlooked as it is viewed in an estimated average of 30,000 households of the 215,000 it reaches daily across Belfast.

Attending events like this reminds me how important it is to keep your knowledge and skills updated in this industry, why we should never get blindsided by the generic press release when planning campaigns and not to undervalue the impact of a cup of coffee and a scone among like-minded peers!

Kudos to Elizabeth Hendron (Comms at NICVA) who has set up a Yammer account for VCS Comms/PR officers as a sort of online forum where we can chat outside the formal networking events. It’s in early days but is already proving useful and easy to navigate so I would highly recommend it! If you want to know more contact Elizabeth @NICVAPress