Journalists and educators learn the latest data and digital journalism skills at NCTJ seminar

Journalists, trainers and educators learned about the latest skills in digital and data-driven journalism at an NCTJ seminar.

Held at Facebook London, more than 60 attendees heard from an array of speakers who use data to tell stories and who work with analytics and social media platforms to grow and boost audience engagement.

The attendees, a mixture of industry representatives and journalism educators, first heard from Peter Sherlock, assistant editor at the BBC’s Shared Data Unit.

He spoke about the importance of working together in the industry and how the Shared Data Unit is partnering with regional publishers to report on data-driven stories with local human angles.

He used an example of extracting and analysing open data about electric car charging points, and how it led to a story about people being put off using electric cars, thanks to comments from experts.

Alan Smith, data visualisation editor at the Financial Times, spoke about using interactive graphics to bring data to life. He gave examples of how to improve charts so that they can tell the story.

He said: “Charts can tell a story that would take paragraphs and paragraphs to tell. They are simple but very effective.

“We are pushing that charts are reporting tools. Trained storytellers should be able to use them.

“The real value of doing stuff with data is that you can be authoritative in a way that gives insight and can surprise people.”

Attendees also heard from a panel of journalists about how to boost engagement and draw in audiences on social media and on news websites.

Sarah Brown, Facebook’s training and news literacy manager, asked the panel about what skills future journalists need to bring to the newsroom.

Jordan Halford, social media editor at Sky Sports News, said: “Know the different platforms, the strengths of those platforms and what they are trying to achieve. Take ownership of your stories and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback about audience engagement.”

Anna Jeys, executive editor at Birmingham Live, said: “Think about the story as the start of the journey. You can have the greatest story but if it is told in the wrong way then the audience won’t connect with it.”

Sam Shepherd, digital, content and social audience manager at Newsquest, added: “Don’t be afraid of the maths. You don’t have to be a maths wizard to understand data but you have to open to the idea that numbers and metrics are important.

“Learn about what each metric means and what each platform can do – and pick up the phone!"

The importance of teaching future journalists about data skills and embedding these techniques into training was also a focus of the seminar.

Gavin Allen, digital journalism lecturer at Cardiff University, introduced attendees to the new elective data and digital modules in the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism, including the programmes of study and assessments.

Claire Wilde, news editor, data and investigations at JPI Media, finished the day by speaking about the latest stories her data team have been working on and how to turn a data-driven story into a must-read piece.