Announcing the line up for Data Journalism UK 2017

Megan Lucero

The Bureau Local’s Megan Lucero

We’ve confirmed the line up for this year’s Data Journalism UK conference on December 5 — and I’m pretty excited about it.

We’ve managed to pack in networked data journalism and investigations, automation and the internet of things, and some practical sessions too, with my new MA Data Journalism students pitching in to help.

Tickets are available here including early bird and afternoon-only options, but you’ll need to be quick — the event sold out last year.

Here’s more detail on the running order…

Networked data journalism

Kicking off the day is Megan Lucero who has been leading the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s project Bureau Local.

The former Times data journalist will talk about what they’ve learned one year in to the project, which was established with £500,000 from Google’s Digital News Innovation Fund.

Also aiming to stimulate data journalism at a local level is the BBC’s new Shared Data Unit, based here in Birmingham.

Peter Sherlock, who heads up the team, will be talking about the first few months of that project as the unit takes on its first secondees from partners in local media.

Data investigations

On the day that we held the last Data Journalism UK conference, Johnston Press announced that they were forming a new investigations unit. Project lead Aasma Day will be here this year to talk about what has happened since.

There’s a terrific first panel of investigative journalists including the winner of this year’s Paul Foot award, Emma Youle and The Ferret’s Peter Geoghegan.

And Karrie Kehoe will be speaking about how she works on computational investigations at the Irish broadcaster RTÉ.

Automation and factchecking

Two more recipients of funding from the Google Digital News Initiative are speaking in the afternoon. Urbs Media CEO Alan Renwick has worked with publishers such as Thomson Regional Newspapers, Mirror Group, TES and DMGT, and was Strategy Director at regional group Local World.

Now he’s leading The Press Association’s robot journalism project RADAR (‘Reporters And Data And Robots’).

And Mevan Babakar from FullFact will be speaking about their project to automate factchecking.

Joining them will be CW Anderson, the editor of the book Remaking The News, currently working on a forthcoming book about data journalism, and former Guardian media and technology reporter Mercedes Bunz, co-author of ‘The Internet of Things‘.

Hands-on sessions

We’ll have practical sessions at different points in the day, with attendees invited to nominate skills they would like covered.

Trinity Mirror data journalist Rob Grant will be doing a session on R for journalists and I’ll be doing a session on handling big data, based on a story that involved analysing 37 million rows of crime data.

You can book tickets on the Eventbrite page, or by clicking on the image below.

Filed under: online journalism Tagged: Aasma Day, Alan Renwick, Bureau Local, CW Anderson, data journalism UK, Emma Youle, Ferret, FullFact, Google Digital News Initiative, investigative journalism, Johnston Press, Karrie Kehoe, Megan Lucero, Mercedes Bunz, Mevan Babakar, Peter Geoghegan, Peter Sherlock, RADAR, robot journalism, RTE, Urbs Media

When Reporters Get Hands-on with Robo-Writing


Digital Journalism Vol. 0 , Iss. 0,0



The availability of data feeds, the demand for news on digital devices, and advances in algorithms are helping to make automated journalism more prevalent. This article extends the literature on the subject by analysing professional journalists’ experiences with, and opinions about, the technology. Uniquely, the participants were drawn from a range of news organizations—including the BBC, CNN, and Thomson Reuters—and had first-hand experience working with robo-writing software provided by one of the leading technology suppliers. The results reveal journalists’ judgements on the limitations of automation, including the nature of its sources and the sensitivity of its “nose for news”. Nonetheless, journalists believe that automated journalism will become more common, increasing the depth, breadth, specificity, and immediacy of information available. While some news organizations and consumers may benefit, such changes raise ethical and societal issues and, counter-intuitively perhaps, may increase the need for skills—news judgement, curiosity, and scepticism—that human journalists embody.

Tow Center Guide to Automated Journalism

Executive Summary

In recent years, the use of algorithms to automatically generate news from structured data has shaken up the journalism industry—most especially since the Associated Press, one of the world’s largest and most well-established news organizations, has started to automate the production of its quarterly corporate earnings reports. Once developed, not only can algorithms create thousands of news stories for a particular topic, they also do it more quickly, cheaply, and potentially with fewer errors than any human journalist. Unsurprisingly, then, this development has fueled journalists’ fears that automated content production will eventually eliminate newsroom jobs, while at the same time scholars and practitioners see the technology’s potential to improve news quality. This guide summarizes recent research on the topic and thereby provides an overview of the current state of automated journalism, discusses key questions and potential implications of its adoption, and suggests avenues for future research. Some of the key points can be summarized as follows.

Read full report

The Robotic Reporter: Automated journalism and the redefinition of labor, compositional forms, and journalistic authority

Carlson, M. (2015) The Robotic Reporter. Digital Journalism. Vol. 3 , Iss. 3,2015


Among the emergent data-centric practices of journalism, none appear to be as potentially disruptive as “automated journalism.” The term denotes algorithmic processes that convert data into narrative news texts with limited to no human intervention beyond the initial programming choices. The growing ability of machine-written news texts portends new possibilities for an expansive terrain of news content far exceeding the production capabilities of human journalists. A case study analysis of the pioneering automated journalism provider Narrative Science and journalists’ published reactions to its services reveals intense competition both to imagine an emergent journalism landscape in which most news content is automated and to define how this situation creates new challenges for journalists. What emerges is a technological drama over the potentials of this emerging news technology concerning issues of the future of journalistic labor, the rigid conformity of news compositional forms, and the normative foundation of journalistic authority. In these ways, this study contends with the emergent practice of automated news content creation both in how it alters the working practices of journalists and how it affects larger understandings of what journalism is and how it ought to operate.

Jane Smith: Robot journalism

Imagine a news story written and published within three minutes of the event happening. That’s a real scenario described by Emily Bell in her T P Stead Lecture at the British Library last week. I was intrigued by her title “Robot reporters” and went to hear more about “Journalism in the Age of Automation and Big Data.” Bell, who formerly ran Guardian Unlimited and is now director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the University of Columbia in New York, was arguing that journalists need to know about the technologies that help create and distribute their stories. These days that means they need to work alongside software programmers and engineers and understand the algorithms that underlie services that mine big databases and expose news stories—like Google News. In particular, they need to know the biases of the algorithms—because they will have some—and that it is much harder to find out about these than it is with human informants and writers, particularly if the code is commercially confidential—as it is with the Googles and Facebooks of the world.

Read full blog post by Jane Smith

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