I use computational methods to gather, analyse and visualise data for the purposes of journalism.
More specifically, these are the things I do:
Read on to find out more and please feel free to say hello.
I am a Senior Data Journalist at The Telegraph, sitting under the wider umbrella of Visual Storytelling. As such I can be found working on both day-to-day news stories and also longer-term set-piece digital projects.
I cover a wide range of different topics - from general elections to The Great British Bake Off - and collaborate with experienced journalists, designers and developers across the newsroom to produce innovative visual journalism.
Prior to joining the Telegraph I was a data journalist on Trinity Mirror's Data Unit for just over two years. The Data Unit is an in-house data journalism news wire sending stories out across Trinity Mirror's regional titles as well as to the Mirror itself.
Around two-dozen of my stories made front-page leads in Trinity Mirror's regional titles as well as one for the briefly formed New Day newspaper. My greatest hit was a scrape of the police's unidentified dead bodies database, a story that went on to be used on five front pages.
Much of the data work I do on a daily basis is still conducted in Excel or Google Sheets - sometimes you just can't beat spreadsheets - but I also do a lot of work in R.
I've been using R for more than three years now after being introduced to it while on work experience with the data team at The Times and Sunday Times. I was drawn to it initially because I wanted to analyse data that was too big for spreadsheet software but my use of it has evolved since then to include creating visualisations, scraping and even using machine learning algorithms.
These are some of R packages I use frequently:
dplyr, tidyr, lubridate
ggplot2 + add ons, extrafont
As well as allowing you to work with large datasets, R allows you to write scripts that make your analyses reproducible. A good example of this is the bankruptcies scraper I wrote with
rvest that can be run again and again at the touch of a button.
R has also been a game-changer in terms of how the data team at The Telegraph produce their own visualisations. I have written a custom theme that applies the correct stylings to ggplot graphics in R and this (along with some tweaks in Adobe Illustrator) allows us to produce quality visualisations quickly.
Learning R has been part of a wider journey for me of learning the basics of computer programming. This started when I took CS50x, an online introduction to computer science taught at Harvard and available via EdX.
Bulding visualisations such as this has been something I've kicked-on with while at The Telegraph and plan to continue do so in the future.
I consider my coding journey to still be very much in progress and I'm constantly looking for new technologies to help me tell better stories. As well as just generally enjoying learning about this stuff, data journalism (if that's even a thing anymore) is a fast evolving field.
This year I started teaching an Introduction to Data Journalism module to students on journalism Masters courses at City University, London - the university I attended when I got my journalism degree!
The module is aimed at beginners and covers an introduction to working with data in spreadsheets, visualisation and scraping.