What is data and computational journalism?

30 Mar 2015

What does the Reuters data and computational journalism team do? For that matter, what is data and computational journalism, anyway? We asked Maurice Tamman, Editor in Charge of Data and Computational Journalism to explain.

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Let’s start by saying what it isn’t. It’s not doing a Google search and copy and pasting a couple of numbers from a PDF; it’s not looking up an indictment online; it’s not opening a spreadsheet attached to an email, sorting a column and finding the largest or smallest value. Although those are all useful skills to have.

At its core, data journalism is reporting, albeit a different kind from door-stopping politicians or cold-calling bankers. But it’s just as hard-core and relentless, and requires a unique combination of reporting instincts and technical skills. And that has created new capabilities that let us extend Reuters journalism in fresh and important ways.

In the last few months, Reuters has published three remarkable sets of stories that illustrate how we have become one of the global leaders in this journalism specialty. These are stories that would not have existed but for the technical skills of data and computational journalism team members Janet Roberts, Ryan McNeill, Charlie Szymanski and Mike Pell. All of them, working alongside other reporters, created compelling narratives that formed the flesh around a backbone of data reporting.

And in each example, they told stories around subjects that had never been told so precisely and with data that had largely been ignored.

Reuters Investigates: Water’s Edge

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Starting in September, the “Water’s Edge” series examined the global issue of rising seas and sinking land. At the heart of the series was Ryan McNeill’s analysis of hundreds of tidal gauges from around the world, some of which have been documenting the daily ebb and flood tides for a century. The sea levels they measure have been religiously recorded but few have bothered to examine what they have to say.

Ryan did. He looked at tens of millions of records and found that some  locations have seen sea level rises measured in feet over the last 50 years. He was able to identify the places that have seen the greatest impact in the US and elsewhere, and reporting from those locations – along the eastern US seaboard, Texas, south England and Jakarta – documented the economic, social and personal consequences of this shift in the seas.

Going beyond the politics and contentious debates about the causes of climate change, the series focused on the measurable data and offered the clearest evidence of the issues already confronting governments and companies – key information that both our financial and media customers need.

The series was awarded third-place in the prestigious Phil Meyer Award, the data journalism contest run by Investigative Reporters & Editors.

Special Report: The Echo Chamber

Then in December, the “Echo Chamber” series examined the growing influence of a small cadre of lawyers on the U.S. Supreme Court. To do that, Janet Roberts examined about 15,000 petitions to the court, accessing the data through our sister company Westlaw. She created a database from those records that allowed her to track lawyers, their law firm, the issues raised in the petition, and if the petition was granted by the court. case

Again, this was something that had never been documented with such precision. She and Charlie Szymanski then deployed algorithms hardly ever used in journalism to “read” each petition and assign specific topics to each case.

Working with other reporters, they produced a series that documented the insularity and influence of the Supreme Court bar – critical information not just for our legal customers, but for anyone whose business or livelihood might be affected by a Supreme Court ruling. The series also  included interviews with eight of the nine justices.

The series received widespread attention in both the legal and mainstream press and is one of six finalists for the prestigious Goldsmith Award for investigative journalism.

Special Report: Pemex Contracts

And in mid-January, Michael Pell used a Mexican federal government database of suspect contracts granted by Pemex, the government-owned oil company, and compared those audits with suspect contracts taken up by theoretically independent investigators working inside the oil giant. He found that the investigators almost never acted.

Michael’s use of the data was a first in Mexico and underscores the opportunities to employ data journalism skills beyond the U.S., in what should be a core competitive advantage for a global news organization such as Reuters.  All of the data was publicly available in Mexico but no one, until Mike, connected the dots.

Using the data to identify particularly egregious examples, Mike and two other reporters illustrated the dysfunction of the Pemex contracting system and how the company is turning a blind eye on wrong-doing.

Within a few weeks of publishing, the company announced it was revamping its contract reviews.

Those are just a few examples of how data journalism is changing Reuters and our profession; as data proliferates and computing power increases, the opportunities for us to surface more such insights and tell better stories continue to grow.

A Mobile Master Class from ONA London

27 Mar 2015

london-logo-200x188On March 6, nearly 200 journalists, editors, producers, designers and CEOs traveled to Reuters for ONA London: Mobile, the first Online News Association conference outside of North America. This day-long series of sessions, workshops and networking focused on producing the news for mobile devices, touching on everything from newsroom culture to designing better experiences on mobile.

ONA have pulled together video, audio, presentations and live blogs so you can learn from the expert presenters and knowledgeable attendees. Video recordings and speaker resources from the sessions are only available to ONA members; audio recordings of the sessions and live blogs are available to all.

You can find the full video list and speaker resources here. To find out how to become an ONA member click here.

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OPENING KEYNOTE: BEHIND THE SCREENS: CREATING A GREAT NEWS APP

Buzzfeed’s News App Editor Stacy-Marie Ishmael and BBC’s Mobile Editor Nathalie Malinarich opened the day with an honest discussion about what creating mobile news means in their newsrooms and how they built and relaunched recent mobile apps at their respective organizations.

Recorded video and speaker resources (ONA members)
Live blog

THE MOBILE-FIRST NEWSROOM

Get a behind-the-scenes look at how two different newsrooms are approaching mobile. The Guardian’s Mobile Wditor Subhajit Banerjee, USA Today’s Managing Editor for Digital / Mobile / Social Patty Michalski and moderator Steve Herrmann, Editor of BBC News Online, share how their newsroom teams are set up, how they use analytics in the newsroom, how they respond to trends and more.

Recorded video and speaker resources (ONA members)
Live blog

TIME LORDS: DELIVERING SNAPPY MOBILE VIDEO CONTENT

Joanna Webster, Global Editorial Director, Reuters TV and Cameron Church, Director of Stream Foundations, share tips for creating videos for mobile and explain the value of curation partnerships for news organizations. Number-one takeaway: You are not your audience.

Recorded video (ONA members) 
Live blog
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Reuters partners with ITN Source to make available rare and previously unseen clips

19 Mar 2015

The digitization of the Reuters archive is currently making hundreds of thousands of rare and largely unseen news clips available to producers and viewers around the world. Reuters, the world’s largest multimedia news provider, and ITNSource, the footage licensing division of leading news and multimedia content provider, ITN, are partnering to preserve this unique material for the benefit of future generations.

To date, over 115,000 Reuters clips have already been digitized and published on itnsource.com, expanding the Reuters digital archive to 450,000 clips and counting.

The three-year project is set to finish in 2016, and the most recently digitized material is available to view here.

Ashley Byford-Bates, Global Head of Reuters Pictures and Archive said: “Having our assets in digital format is critical – this gives our clients and prospects a real opportunity to explore, discover and ‘see’ the footage.

“With over 30,000 hours of content now preserved, we can now focus on the really exciting tasks of enabling the exploitation, utilization and development of new programs, projects and partnerships.”

Footage is being digitized from a number of early cinema newsreels including Paramount and Gaumont British which form part of the Reuters collection, plus footage from 1957 to 2006 which formed the Reuters News syndication service. (more…)

Editor to Editor by Peter Bohan: While you were sleeping

19 Mar 2015

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Greetings,

Like you, no doubt, I sometimes hit the sack early to catch up on my dreams.

But I’m glad to know I have a wire that has me covered. So is CNN.

In Ferguson, the shots came after midnight and the Reuters alert moved at 12:17 a.m. CT, the urgent at 12:35 a.m., and the Update 6 at 5:43 a.m. – just in time for morning coffee and my screen.

A picture says a thousand words:

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Sincerely,

Peter Bohan
Executive Director
Reuters America Service

Reuters-TIMA hits the red carpet at the Oscars

11 Mar 2015

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Martin Veal not only looks sharp in a tuxedo, he also has the mammoth task of overseeing coverage of special events for Reuters-TIMA Location Services. We asked him to keep a diary detailing our coverage of the Oscars, the inaugural event of our partnership.

Friday February 20th

The eyes of the world will be on Los Angeles this weekend as the 87th Academy Awards take place in Hollywood.  Reuters-TIMA Location Services have landed in California and begun to set up the live facilities on site.  This is the exciting culmination of weeks of careful planning and coordination between the Reuters bureau in Los Angeles, and staff in Washington DC and London from both Reuters and TIMA.

Our base in Hollywood this weekend’s far from glamorous. It’s a trailer sitting in a car park behind the scenes, but it means we have everything we need close at hand. Over the day the parking lot fills up with identical trailers and satellite uplink trucks, as well as catering and bathroom facilities.

Our live camera is being set up on a specially-constructed steel bridge over the red carpet on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s right at the entrance of the Dolby Theatre where the awards ceremony takes place.  It’ll give a perfect backdrop for client ‘lives’ as the nominees arrive for the awards.

IMG_8097We’ll be broadcasting live for clients in Europe as well as Latin America, so we need to ensure that our transmission route’s working as planned.  The US has a vast fibre network crossing the whole country which means we don’t need to hire our own satellite truck to broadcast from the Oscars. (more…)

Tales from the trail: Reuters & U.S. newspapers

04 Mar 2015

PeterBohanPeter Bohan was a Reuters journalist for 30 years before becoming Executive Director of Reuters America Service, a product aimed at U.S. newspapers, web sites and broadcasters as an alternative to The Associated Press. Peter – Midwest Bureau Chief at the time – built the service starting in 2010 in tests with Tribune Company, which  became the anchor client for RAST in 2011. Peter spends more time than anyone working with U.S. newspapers to see how Reuters can address their needs.

We asked Peter to blog from time to time to share how it’s going:

Are newspapers doomed? That often seems to be the accepted wisdom these days. But as with most things we take for granted, perhaps it’s worth another look.

Certainly, a lot of the numbers for newspapers don’t paint a picture of health. In much of the past decade or longer, newspapers have lost advertisers and readers in droves to the Internet. Newspaper budgets get vaporized, staff are cut, and the downward spiral only seems to get worse.

We are left with a portrait of the walking dead.

But this corpse may have a pulse yet.

Some recent trends:

• The digital audience delivered by U.S. newspaper web sites in October 2014 reached 166 million unique adult visitors, a 17% increase from a year earlier.

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Reuters Photographer Larry Downing selected for Lifetime Achievement Award

23 Feb 2015

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White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) announced last week that it has selected Reuters Senior Photographer Larry Downing to receive its 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award for his exceptional coverage of the White House dating back to 1978 and spanning 6 U.S. presidencies.

We’re honored for Larry to be the first Reuters photographer to win this award.

Larry started covering the White House while Jimmy Carter was president, working for U.P.I. and then Newsweek Magazine before joining Reuters in 1997.

Over the course of his career, his reputation and access has enabled him to document countless historic events and people. As Larry remembers in his Wider Image profile, he was even included in a secret Air Force One trip to Iraq with U.S. President George W. Bush to surprise U.S. combat troops one Thanksgiving.

As Larry has said:

Pictures cannot be recreated. Great photographic moments never repeat themselves.”

Read the full story on our Knowledge Effect blog

Read an interview with Larry on Reuters Best

 

Looking back at 30 years of Reuters Pictures

19 Feb 2015

To mark the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Reuters Pictures service, a three part retrospective of iconic images is now available to view on Reuters The Wider Image and license via the Reuters Pictures websiteFor three decades, Reuters photographers have captured images illustrating the human tragedy of natural disaster and war, as well as the fallout of economic events across the continents. They have brought their lenses to bear on sport, culture and show business as well as world political and economic leaders – creating iconic images that are recognized around the world.

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Alexia Singh, Editor-In-Charge of the Wider Image Desk, had the daunting task of curating a selection of the best images from an archive of over 7 million images. “Iconic images rise to the surface over the years, you see them again and again in publications around the world and they become fixed in our collective consciousness. On the one hand this makes the job of editing a retrospective of 30 years of Reuters Pictures an easier task. However there are, of course, many more pictures that could have been included in this selection. When the iconic pictures match iconic events they are the obvious choices. But it’s also interesting to include images that stand up purely on the power of their aesthetic.”

“We didn’t set out to tell the story of the last 30 years, we do that every day on the wire, this is more of a look back at our “greatest hits”. We also wanted the photographers perspective on our history so they have been selecting their own iconic images and throughout the year we will releasing some of the photographers choices, on the day they were originally taken, in a kind of ‘On this day in Reuters History’ initiative.”

View the entire selection including behind the scenes text from the photographers Part 1Part 2Part 3


File photo of frantic Kurdish refugees struggling for a loaf of bread during a humanitarian aid distribution for hundreds of thousands of stranded Iraqi-Kurds in the mountains of Isikveren at the Iraqi-Turkish borderReuters Photographer Yannis Behrakis 

At the end of the first Iraq war about 1.5 million Kurds were fleeing in panic trying to escape from forces loyal to Saddam Hussein. About 600,000 of them fled to Turkey but half of them were stranded in the mountains at the Iraqi-Turkish border. (more…)

Announcing the launch of Reuters-TIMA Location Services

11 Feb 2015

Watch a video about Reuters TIMA Location Services

Reuters, the world’s largest international multimedia news agency, and TIMA, a global content service provider, today announced a major new global partnership designed to offer location services including studio facilities and logistical support to broadcasters and online media outlets. Reuters-TIMA Location Services combines Reuters unparalleled global editorial content, seen by over a billion people every day, with TIMA’s cutting-edge technology and considerable experience of service delivery for the international media industry.

The new service, created in response to the increased demand for live content in a shifting media landscape,will form a vast news and editorial network providing every aspect of news gathering facilities and support services. It will combine invaluable local knowledge with strategically placed broadcast and satellite resources in regional hubs. The service will launch at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony on 22nd February 2015, where live positions overlooking the red carpet will be provided to clients.

Watch an interview with Tim Santhouse, Reuters Global Head of Video Products and  Alla Salehian, CEO of TIMA.

Reuters-TIMA Location Services will offer experienced production and editorial staff on the ground at key global events, rapid access to events of regional significance, logistical services and dedicated customer support. The service will also give clients access to high-tech live studio facilities around the world, many with stunning city backdrops. (more…)

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