AMA with Vincent Ryan

Conversations with Data: #39

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Research. It’s at the core of all good journalism, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy...or is it?

Our recently launched course, Fundamental search for journalists, has been especially designed to help journalists advance their research skills. Using Google’s tools, the course showcases efficient ways to search and verify online information -- all from the comfort of your own desktop. And, like all of our courses, it’s free!

The course is taught by Vincent Ryan, who’s joined us for an AMA in this 39th edition of Conversations with Data. Formerly of the Sunday Times, Vincent now works with the Google News Initiative to help journalists find, verify, and tell news stories around the world.


What you asked

First of all, let’s talk about your course. If there’s just one lesson you hope journalists take away it, what would it be?

Vincent: “The power of search modifiers. The most basic tip in finding information but still one of the most powerful.”

What other kind of tool do you wish existed for data journalists (but doesn’t yet)?

“An intuition checker. A tool that would tell you if your hunch is worth pursuing before you put three days of effort into sorting the results to see if there is anything newsworthy.”

Your course also touches on verification. In your opinion, what are the most important considerations when using online tools to verify data accuracy?

“Treble checking that the data does indeed refer to what you believe it to be in your hypothesis.”

To get ahead in data journalism, what do you think are the most important skills or techniques that reporters should focus on developing?

“I don’t think that data journalism is radically different from traditional journalism. At the end of the day it is the value of the story that matters. Being able to understand what constitutes a good yarn is the most crucial skill for all journalists.”

Similarly, what are the biggest challenges facing data journalists today and what can be done to overcome them?

“Time is always the biggest challenge facing all journalists. Having an understanding editor is the best way to overcome it.”

Take Fundamental search for journalists here.

ICYMI: other happenings on

Because we know you’re busy -- and perhaps a lil too busy to constantly refresh for new content -- we’re launching a new section to highlight the site’s latest happenings. This week, we’re showcasing our recent Long Read, De-identification for data journalists, by Vojtech Sedlak.

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Just like confidential human sources, journalists also need to evaluate what data to publish without revealing unnecessary personal details. In this Long Read, Vojtech provides an introduction to privacy in the context of data journalism and practical tips on how de-identification techniques can be introduced into journalistic workflows. Read it here.

Our next conversation

Data isn’t just found by scraping online sources or obtaining government records; increasingly, journalists are turning to sensors to glean data from the physical world. In our next edition, we want to hear about your experiences using sensors to collect data or tell stories. Comment to submit!

As always, don’t forget to comment with what (or who!) you’d like us to feature in our future editions.

Until next time,

Madolyn from the EJC Data team

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