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by Winny de Jong
Nice to meet you! WELCOME
My name is Winny de Jong, I’m a journalist who interviews data tables next to people. This is something I wrote for my mailing list, ddj.news. If you like it, sign up here to get an email like this one in your inbox every Sunday. Enjoy!
#140 — Sunday, 7 March 2021
What I learned about learning something new
For one of the data stories (nl) I worked on this week, I needed to use QGIS. I dread QGIS: it’s an open-source software program that allows you to do all kinds of geospatial analysis. But exactly its superpower, that  you can do anything and everything geospatial with QGIS, is also it’s weakness: it is just so complicated, especially if you rarely use it!

Anyway, I ended up making this map on where candidates for the House of Representatives live. The process of learning and making reminded me of three things:
  • Sharing knowledge is important - without online tutorials and StackOverflow I could not have done it. Sure, there are books on QGIS, but I did not have time to read them and, for as far I checked, they never explained the one thing I needed done.
  • Learning new skills is inspiring. Working on this map gave the smallest insight into all the things QGIS can do. I couldn’t stop thinking of other stories you can make using geospatial analysis.
  • If you learn new skills, it is probably best to do so without staring a deadline in the face. However, if you can pull it of and both learn something new and make the deadline, the exitement more than doubles.
Once these elections are over, I need to learn more QGIS. If you can recommend a tutorial or course, or if you want to share your knowledge with me, please let me know. -- Winny
Data-driven investigative reporting started a revolution in Slovakia JOURNALISM
“A revolution is happening in Slovakia”, says OCCRPs Pavla Holcová in the Conversations with Data podcast. Using 70 terabytes of data investigative journalists revealed how the SLovakian system truly worked, teaching the country how corrupt its system was exactly.

“First, we described to the public how investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová were murdered. Then we exposed the world of Marian Kočner -- how he used honey traps and blackmail to escape justice. He was bribing the general attorney and had good connections to the police force. They were giving him information and neglecting his cases. He was even telling corrupt judges how to rule in his cases. Those people are now in jail because of the information from this data set and the public pressure.”

“A big revolution is happening in Slovakia. It's not so visible now because of the coronavirus situation, but it is changing completely.”

Listen to the full episode here or read the summary.
How the pandemic changed datajournalism DATAJOURNALISM
Looking into how the COVID pandemic has shaped data journalism, researchers found that communicating large numbers is one of the biggest challenges facing data journalists. Big numbers just don’t make a strong impression on readers.

An example of a project that tries to overcome that challenge is MISSING THEM. It’s an overview of all New Yorkers who died from COVID-19. Because, as XX explains, “An average obituary in the New York daily news is about $600. Perhaps because of this steep cost, 70% of the obituaries of COVID-19’s victims in New York belong to white New Yorkers. Even in death, there’s discrimination in how someone can be remembered.”

Read more on the research at StoryBench.
New tool DATA HAIKU
Learning curve incline:
the number of options times
the hours to learn them.
- Winny de Jong
Why nerdy poetry? Well, why not... More on these data haiku here.
NICAR21: traces of a conference TUTORIALS
This year I missed the NICAR conference on data journalism completely, due to upcoming elections in The Netherlands. However, searching the web - mostly Twitter - I found some digital traces of the conference:
  • Using data to report on climate change, by Peter Aldhous [R tutorial + slides]
  • A step-by-step guide to analyzing data with Python and the Jupyter notebook, by Ben Welsh
  • Finding needles in haystacks with fuzzy matching , by Max Harlow [slides]
  • Behind ProPublica’s Insurrection Project [slides]
  • Why you should use SQL before using Pandas, by Oleg Zero [blogpost]
  • bA rief and gentle introduction to visualization design for journalists, by Alberto Cairo [slides]
  • Git scraping: tracking changes to a scraped data source using GitHub Actions, by Simon Willison [video]
If you like, here are more links as shared on Twitter using #NICAR21. Off course, if you like it and can afford to, subscribe to the IRE who organises NICAR. :)
Computation + Journalism videos KEYNOTE
The videos of the talks given at the Computation + Journalism Symposium will be published online. Watch the keynote given by Amanda Cox on what interactivity is and what it could be, among other things, here.
Many thanks to the creators of the featured works.
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