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Archive for the ‘foi’ tag

Data journalism in the newsroom secrets of success plus Freedom of Information request inspiration

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Factors behind successful data journalism teams

A new report from Knight has looked at some of the big players in the data journalism sphere worldwide (BBC. NYT, Guardian, Chicago Tribune and more) to look at the secrets of their success.

The four key findings (ironically distributed in the pdf below) are in summary:

1. Locating the data-journalism team close to the news desk: Members of data journalism teams emphasize that being close to the news desk gives them critical access to editors and reporters as they and the data team develop and plan data-driven news coverage.
2. Encouraging reporters and developers to work together to come up with ideas for data-driven stories: Because developers and reporters often have specialized skill sets, it’s important to bring them together to brainstorm story ideas.
3. Recruiting reporters and developers who bridge the skills gap: Find or develop people who can work as journalists and developers on your data journalism team.
4. Producing stories that show what data mean and why the audience should care: Data-driven stories about topics affecting the lives of news consumers produce impact and drive Web traffic.

Integrating data journalism in the newsroom by

(nearly) 500 ways to introduce yourself to the local FOI officer

Data journalist Claire Miller has come up with this cracking list of ideas for story prompts on Freedom of Information – everything from the cost of training days for councillors to the number of forced adoptions.

This list needs bookmarking – on the office wall!

Don’t forget there’s advice about formulating FOI requests and an easy, transparent system which helps cut down on duplication to make the application at

Written by sarahhartley

January 10th, 2013 at 7:47 am

Keep the free in Freedom of Information

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The Justice Select Committee will hold its first evidence session in the post-legislative scrutiny of FOIA inquiry on Tuesday 21 February.

Along with a great many other journalists, I’ve put forward some thoughts including why the idea of widening  charges for FOI requests would be an unpalatable solution to the problem of cutting the costs of administering the system.

While there’s no doubt that some FOI requests are time-consuming and therefore costly to supply, applying more fees to the process as a matter of course would, in my view, disproportionately impact on freelancers and independent publishers eg. community websites and hyperlocals.

Without the might of a news organisation behind them, even a tiny fee could be enough to deter a hard-pressed community website editor
and result in important local issues being unreported – especially in areas already suffering from lack of accountability through regional news cuts/closures.
Financial Times editor Lionel Barber warns that a cost limit could also result in having no information released at all if charges were applied to redacting of sensitive information:

“At present, cost limits only apply to the expense of locating and extracting information, but not redaction or other costs. These expenses must not be rolled within the cost ceilings. Allowing officials to count such costs towards the limit would encourage them to consider exemptions or redact heavily in order to waste time, and thereby hit the cost limit without releasing any information.”

If the system needs to be less costly, let’s look at other ways to achieve that. For example, greater transparency in what information has previously been released.

If there was proper transparency it would surely save time and therefore money as well as making the whole system more manageable and useful to the public.

In the spirit of that, I make all my FoI requests public via whatdotheyknow (view them here) and on this blog to save others’ time and the public purse some pennies.

As of January, there were 100,000 such requests in the public archive . If this, or something similar, became standard practice would the overall number of requests (and therefore costs) would be reduced without any reduction in the amount of information being made public?

* There’s also a wealth of journalists’ submissions on this at which include reports of lack of assistance from authorities, delaying tactics and extending the scope of the act.

Written by sarahhartley

February 19th, 2012 at 4:40 pm

BBC North job applicants, hires and paygrades

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This morning over at The Northerner I posted details from a recent Freedom of Information request which gives more infomation about the number of people applying for jobs and MediaCityUK, those who were hired and the paygrades in place at the new home of the Beeb in the north.

To provide further transparency, I’ve also published the full document below.

The data referred to is also available in spreadsheet form via my data store page. Please do drop me a line in the comments below if you use this data elsewhere.

[scribd id=78336085 key=key-1wghrfooctk7tdabx4gn mode=list]

Written by sarahhartley

January 16th, 2012 at 8:46 am

The downward slide of local government advertising spend

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It’s only one council (Manchester) but the direction of travel is clear.

Snapshot of advertising spend from a council Many Eyes

Figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show the extent of the drop in council spending on advertising in newspapers over the past three years.

The data shows;

* Trinity Mirror newspapers (MEN and associated weeklies) saw a less steep drop in revenue than the national press and took the lion’s share of the spend with £581,965.81 in 2009/10.

* Just two areas of advertising saw increased budgets over the period – outdoor advertising (billboards etc.) almost doubled from £65,096.04 in 2007/8 to £128, 427.33 in 2009/10 and digital advertising got a budget of £4,655 in the last year after previously having none.

* Online only recruitment advertising dropped to zero in 2009/10.

The full data set for this visualisation of advertising spend in £ is available here.

The figures were obtained by campaigner Zahid Hussain who is seeking to establish how decisions on advertising are made by the council. He has since submitted a further request for information .

Written by sarahhartley

May 3rd, 2011 at 8:21 am