Henry Taylor

Jun 12

Learning on the job

Barely has a moment passed over the last year without thoughts turning to jobs. We are fortunate enough to receive emails from our tutors detailing internships and offers of employment each and every week.

There are, of course, plenty of talented candidates out there who have studied the trade without access to a structured, academic course, but the fact remains that for many organisations, a reputable MA from a reputable university will stand you in good stead for application season (especially when specific skills are required).

Although the Interactive MA at City has undoubtedly made me a far better journalist, the one thing it could not easily prepare me for was working life on my first job. After starting work at ExaroNews.com as a resident data journalist focusing on scraping projects, the sudden gap between what the classroom teaches you and what is required in the professional workplace became apparent.

When it comes to the type of scraping-heavy data journalism I do for Exaro, this disconnect mostly presents itself as the unique challenges that each project throws up. On my first day, I suddenly realised that for my first project, there were no more sanitised, neatly-formatted datasets to work on and no more webpages to scrape with clean, efficient HTML going on behind the scenes. I was on my own.

Instead, I had to rely on the fact that I knew I had the skills to tackle the problem in front of me, even though I wasn’t quite sure which ones would do the trick.

I am ultimately glad of this wake-up call, however. My learning curve has increased dramatically, and the confidence I have gained from successful problem-solving along with my colleague, George Arnett, has led to me learn new techniques that I once thought were beyond me.

Undoubtedly, the same will go for anyone coming out of the safe environment of academia and going into the harsher world of results, deadlines that you can’t miss and most importantly, complete responsibility for the work you produce.

May 10

Data journalism: a conversationA brief Storify demonstrating a typical sort of conversation I have had many times over the past…View Post

Data journalism: a conversation

A brief Storify demonstrating a typical sort of conversation I have had many times over the past…

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Infographic v Interactive

While working on The Hackney Post during City’s production weeks, I was seconded away from the web…

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Infographic v Interactive

While working on The Hackney Post during City’s production weeks, I was seconded away from the web…

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May 07

2,740 new candidate planets have been discovered: get the full listMy first byline for the Guardian’s data blog. The Tableau visualisation was created by John…View Post

2,740 new candidate planets have been discovered: get the full list

My first byline for the Guardian’s data blog. The Tableau visualisation was created by John…

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Census 2011: UK’s population rises 7 per cent to 63.2 millionFor this article, the Telegraph’s Online Graphics Editor, Mark Oliver, created the main heat map…View Post

Census 2011: UK’s population rises 7 per cent to 63.2 million

For this article, the Telegraph’s Online Graphics Editor, Mark Oliver, created the main heat map…

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'Jedi' religion most popular alternative faithThis is the most successful data byline I’ve had to date. I was fortunate enough to be on work…View Post

'Jedi' religion most popular alternative faith

This is the most successful data byline I’ve had to date. I was fortunate enough to be on work…

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May 06

Cleaning up data in Google RefineGot some messy data that you need to clean up? Google Refine (technically known as Open Refine, but…View Post

Cleaning up data in Google Refine

Got some messy data that you need to clean up? Google Refine (technically known as Open Refine, but…

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May 05

Quickly turning around dataInspired by the chaps over at Google, Twitter unveiled their first Transparency Reportin July last…View Post

Quickly turning around data

Inspired by the chaps over at Google, Twitter unveiled their first Transparency Reportin July last…

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Dec 03

Data’s debut

Data’s debut

“What exactly is data journalism?” my flatmate asked earlier this evening.

“Ermmm…it’s sort of like normal journalism, only with lots of Excel spreadsheets,” I reply.

“No. Wait. That’s a shit way of describing it. There may not actually be many…

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Nov 18

#transparency: Government requests to GoogleIn my last post I wrote about how I learned to use Google Fusion tables to create an interactive…View Postshared via WordPress.com

#transparency: Government requests to Google

In my last post I wrote about how I learned to use Google Fusion tables to create an interactive…

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Nov 04

Playing with Google Fusion TablesI’ve heard a lot about Google Fusion Tables over the last few weeks. Simon Rogers, editor of the Gu…View Postshared via WordPress.com

Playing with Google Fusion Tables

I’ve heard a lot about Google Fusion Tables over the last few weeks. Simon Rogers, editor of the Gu…

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Oct 17

Links – Oct 17

From what I can gather, data journalism seems to be both an art and a science. All of us on City’s Interactive MA will eventually approach similar problems in different ways.

The other students on the course are also running their own data blogs. They’re…

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Oct 16

How to: a basic scrapeView Postshared via WordPress.com

How to: a basic scrape

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Oct 14

Scraping for beginnerscourtesy of wickes.co.uk
It’s Sunday night. I have had four days to ruminate on what I learned in…View Postshared via WordPress.com

Scraping for beginners

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courtesy of wickes.co.uk

It’s Sunday night. I have had four days to ruminate on what I learned in…

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Jun 09

Journalists and NGOs – who benefits most?

The newspaper industry as we know it is collapsing. No one knows how fast, but few people argue that it’s at a leisurely pace.

For many current students (myself included), the plan is to get onto the bottom rung of a national’s ladder and see how far you can climb.

This article – concerning charities funding journalists to promote their causes – caught my eye a couple of months ago. It alluded to something that increasingly feels less likely to come across in the changing journalism landscape – options.

I was feeling relatively positive about what the future may hold, until I read this Guardian article that hints at wider disinterest on the charitable sector’s part to fund the media.

Of course, a lot of ethical questions are raised over how to remain objective as journalists if funding is coming from NGOs (nongovernmental organisations) that – by definition – are pursuing specific agendas.

However, social media and the increasingly crowded internet makes it harder for NGO’s to have their voices heard and to effectively communicate their messages. Not only are they competing with other NGOs for attention, but ethically-minded bloggers and citizen journalists are also taking advantage of the fact that we live in an age of democratic publishing.

It’s reasonable to assume that the newspaper industry will adapt to the changes brought on by the digital age more successfully than NGOs – if only because it has to. Once that adaptation has happened, by exploiting the advantages that journalists can offer, the charitable sector could access a considerably larger readership than it would otherwise manage to amass on its own merit.

With that in mind, is it not short-sighted for any NGO to be so concrete in its refusal to work with journalists? As Liberian reporter Mae Azango says in the above Guardian piece: “They’re fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.”

There would of course be many kinks to iron out, but it seems to me that both sides have something to gain – new avenues to pursue and truths to uncover on the part of journalists, and widespread media attention on the part of NGOs.

Surely such a partnership would be more beneficial than a system that can give Paris Hilton the Heart of Gold Award and appoint Geri Halliwell as a UN Goodwill Ambassador?

Note: It makes a different point, but Marina Hyde’s article in yesterday’s Guardian brilliantly exposes some of the idiocies surrounding the celebrity-fronted tactics some charities resort to.

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