Finding Stories in Spreadsheets

Bill Bennett:

This post is mainly for journalists and those who are interested n how we work.

I purchased Bradshaw’s Scraping for Journalists book last year. I won’t say it changed my life, there’s little call for data journalism in New Zealand and even less interest from publishers willing to pay for the work. And yet I’ve found myself using lessons from this book in my work.

it’s more than a primer, it’s a text book and an operator’s manual. It’s also good value, after I paid for the book, the publisher sent around half a dozen updates at no extra cost.

Originally posted on Online Journalism Blog:

Finding stories in spreadsheets book cover

Cover design by Matt Buck/Drawnalism

My latest ebook – Finding Stories in Spreadsheets – is now live on Leanpub.

As with Scraping for Journalists, I’m publishing the book week-by-week so the book can be updated based on reader feedback, user suggestions and topical developments.

Each week you can download a new chapter covering a different technique for finding stories, from calculating proportions and changes, to combining data, cleaning it up, testing it, and extracting specific details.

There’s also a downloadable spreadsheet at the end of each chapter with a series of exercises to practise that chapter’s technique and find particular stories.

Along the way I tackle some other considerations in telling the story, such as context and background, and the importance of being specific in the language that you use.

If there’s anything you’d like covered in the book let me know. You can also buy the book in a ‘bundle’ with its sister title Data Journalism…

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This is what I have to put up with

There’s a danger of the day getting off to a rough start when you get a press release opening like this:

HP and VMware, Inc. today announced plans to collaborate to deliver the industry’s first federated network solution. This solution is designed to provide customers unified automation of, and visibility into, their physical and virtual data centre networks, enabling business agility and improving business continuity.

Just what could this possibly mean?

The company formerly known as HP has done something with VMware. It’s something to do with data centre networks and going by the last six words it could be good or it could just be the HP public relations team reached deep into the “important-sounding, but meaningless” clichés box.

It goes on a bit like the example above. Wading through the stodge, I get the impression there’s a software defined network in there somewhere. I could insult my readers intelligence and regurgitate this nonsense.

My heart goes out to the poor downstream PR people who have to deal with this kind of rubbish coming from corporate HQ. I suspect the poor souls would have a heart attack if I rang to ask for clarification on the meaning of, say, “a unified network operations model that will radically simplify IT in the software-defined data centre.”

And HP wonders why no-body wants to buy its kit any more…

Working with WordPress and iA Writer

Here’s an experiment I’ve wanted to try for a while: write a post using iA Writer and send it quickly to WordPress.

The trick is to learn the formatting commands – the next word should be in italic type and this in a bold face. Then you save the finished document to HTML. At least I think. Let’s see how this test post works.

If I can get this right, it should speed up my writing.