Data Crunch with Federica Cocco and John Burn-Murdoch

Data Stories


Get started with the topic of today so today as i said we have not one but two guests and we're talking about out of very interesting new data or data analysis and communications series from financial times and it's called beta data crunch and it's very very interesting series we're going to talk about it in a moment the end to talk about it we have federica cocoa and john bird murdoch welcome welcome federica and john on the show hello so we typically start the show with our guest introducing themselves so can you briefly give us so little bit of a background with your interest and maybe even your current position of financial times i'm john and i'm a senior data journalist at the f. not so i work as part of a big team including dates journalist statistics journalist graphics interactive all of all these the things developers analysts designers reporters yes so crunched his one of the things involved in at the moment as well as just doing lots of data driven an reporting and stories and graphics and my name is federica must statistics journalist i started working at the f. t. three and a half years ago i started out my career as a fact checker then i became a reporter i worked for the daily mirror and the times over time i just got frustrated with how after working as a fact checker how news organizations treated numbers and statistics and i felt like they weren't taking them that seriously and so when i joined the f. t. i just felt like i found the right place for me and here i get to count as much as possible statistics knows very good you have a lot of great data journalism coming out of a f. t. and the fun format that caught our eye we want year as well we want to talk about is the crunch series so can you tell tell us a bit about what that is and how you came up with the idea and how it works so crunched is a series of short videos where we address topics picks that are newsworthy we tried to explain so explain them so they're sort of an explainer format and we also fat fat check maybe controversial signs of them so for example we've done videos on on abortion on inequality on poverty you just addressing the issues behind statistics how you define the numbers and helping readers to understand how the fact checking process works but because quite often when people hear about charts and numbers you know the general population is maybe sometimes it scared of them so we try and make it fun and engaging engaging and very colloquial conversational we quite often use props we've done data visualizations with hera bows or a coke globe job or these number blocks that i used to use an elementary school in italy so we try to be creative with it as well i think they're sort of blending with one of the other questions nations we're going to discuss here as well about the the impetus behind this series and i think one thing we should mentioned as well this this is very much a collaboration between us on the data team and the video team itself self so juliet rebel on a on the video team was one of the well she was probably the initial spark actually who who suggested federally federica and i work on something like this and each of these episodes involves three or four people from the video team of course doing all the direction recording as well oh i think then yeah in terms of sort of other other reasons for doing this we both as along with a lot of people at the f. t. big funds the way that people hunt rustling have done data virtualization in the past in terms of really thinking about it as fundamentally trying to reach and engage with with people rather than just rather than this sort of like publication on one side reader on the other side and nothing in between really trying to think about how to actually bring people in make this stuff more accessible start conversations thing so yeah mona shalaabi from the guardian is another big inspiration mars is somebody who can then communicate numbers and a really fun and engaging way yeah and again i think mona was a big inspiration in particular for decision to try and draw these charts by hand rather than just presenting sort of prepared digitally designed and printed and another another reason for starting this series is that the f. t. is trying to attract younger audiences and so for example there was a focus focus group years ago that asked breeders how they pictured the f. t. if if if the if the frontal times were to be a human being and a lot of readers particularly or people in this focus group particularly women said they imagined a man in a suit the had their vacuum and so we're really there's a lot of efforts to try and and redesigned image rebrand because a lot of people who work at the f. t. r. like cost very a young they're very geeky very enthusiastic we have a lot of fun together in the office and so we were trying to to show that as well and to to do that i mean john and i work on stories that range from politics to markets to corporate new stories and the these things to cheat as i said to the general population they might be very dry but they can be really really interesting once you get into sure yeah absolutely i mean certainly certainly certainly from my part of trying to change that stereotype i'm not wearing a suit in any of these to try to make that clear but again i think my my way of thinking about about this is i i want as we're on the same page with this we want to produce something which if if someone stumbles upon one of these videos on youtube they weren't looking for they just get recommended it next we want to produce something where they they sit there and a give us give us a chance they don't immediately think oh what's this boring old financial mt thing they actually think oh what's this let's have a look so we're just trying to make something which feels a bit more native to that younger generation yeah i think what what really surprise me i think it's interesting that you've been mentioning a number of people who's working flint's your work but i still see a couple of really interesting interesting innovations in the way you you you create these videos so the first one the first one that caught my eye my eyes is this idea that you actually drawing in real the time the the extra graphs right i've never seen anybody do that i think it's really interesting right and by the way one question for you later on his how do you do that right and i think what really works what works really really well is that you have to people on the screen and and it's a very nice and casual conversation but it's not trivial at the same time right so i see these two elements as a very innovative vivere i like it a lot i guess it's a bit like the conversations that we might have at a pub generally that's when you become a journalist the first thing that they tell l. u. is this is how you decide if a story is good and how you communicate to imagine you're at the pub with your grandmother or imagine you are talking to your aunt aunts and driving away what's the first thing that you tell her just before she drives away so we thought about that and we thought about the conversations at the pub and they're sort of very very faithfully reflect that quite often you know we'll have debates about politics so in by turning them into videos and and thinking about our audience and people might want to listen to us there's also that extra element of having people commenting on the videos and aas being able to talk them and if they have any questions on the data then we can answer them so there's an extra interactive try yeah yeah yeah it is perhaps not surprising the as journalists journalists a lot of our ways of thinking about things involve the pub but it is remarkable how you know it's the same thing when when we've covered elections in the past on all always is be thinking okay what are the half dozen things that would be a great talking point when you were in the bump in the bar because it's it's not idea that first of all i think when you think about it in that context you're immediately thinking about making something fun interesting engaging you know no one wants to be the person who says what about such and such and everyone just turns the other one's uh-huh so when you imagine someone to across from you i think i think it really helps and then you also want to make it like we say not not lighthearted in terms of not taking issue seriously but just a bit more engaging so that someone feels that this is a conversation they can almost be part of raw than than just being told not and as he said without not being condescending i mean a big inspiration for me was i worked for a couple of years at a tabloid and tabloids get really bad raps but actually they're they're incredibly good at communicating new stories to anyone and that was reading reading important for my formation as a journalist work there and to know how to hard-right something to make simple without being condescending without being haughty without thinking that i'm better than anyone else for understanding something that's certainly something that i'm really really keen to eliminate from not you know not that it's a problem in data journalism but just sort of eliminate from the narrative about numbers that they're scary that they're complex lex and that not anyone can understand them i do genuinely believe that anyone count as long as they're passionate enough yeah i think again just to add one more thing on that point point that distinction between condescension and making something more accessible i think is really important on there was some conversation between a few days because asian partition is on twitter recently were i can't remember who it while someone was saying that the idea of talking to a broad audience was for them essentially code code for saying we should dump something down but that's absolutely not the way we are predecessor get is not the way a lot of a lot of tabloid approaches it's about thinking i want to put something out here it's not going to matter whether you are a postgraduate or whether you left school aged sixteen you're going to be able to see what we're talking about an understanding so i think that's really the aim here and also this is something that concerns you something that is very important because journalists this is every you know everyone a ah news stories about economics about finance about markets about mc metrics like poverty and inequality or about bush and they concern everyone and and so it's if if we don't make something understandable if people turn the other way it's on us it's not on them it's our fault yeah absolutely yes i think that's a great gap you're filling there and i think you're doing it really well so can we learn a bit about the process of what's happening behind the scenes especially early like how do you get you mentioned the sort of easygoing conversation and very like you're good team and you know like playing the ball into each other all the time to prepare is it like scripted doctor you know exactly what you're talking about or do you just talking and you keep the best bids or oh how do you end up with i'm curious because i have a podcast to run as well so as you can tell so far like february we really just don't like each other attack the nice is quite natural i think is like we said like federica said we're trying to create the natural flows so so you ask about script and we d- we don't tend to write word for word what we're going to say but will will be more like bullet points i think a few times that we tried to script it we sounded entire yes juliet anywhere exactly it's like you you sound it sounds sounds more official and also as soon as you slip up and miss one word it just completely throws you so we find that it makes a lot more sense to we we'll we'll rehearse things again canonise sort of rough outline censor know enough we know a lot about all of the different talking points so that whatever whatever way the conversation goes we can just make the natural thing this stuff is does require a bit more training and nothing that we're getting better at is just how we actually look on cameras so there are a lot of the stuff that i don't think comes across seemed to have three little things angles and where we should be looking at different times some is is completely natural and it's exactly what you'd expect but there are other bits when we'll have julia or one of the other videography saying how can you not look at that when you say oh can you look at each other when you're talking so it's becoming more natural but certainly the first couple of sessions we had quite of an back stage direction do you do like a couple of full run throughs and do a couple of takes the whole story or to repeat individual like like bits of

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