Earlier this month, I spent a week working under David Ottewell in Trinity Mirror’s data unit.
The data unit, formed only last year, comes up with various data-based article ideas for the different Trinity Mirror regional titles, which it presents in an internal bulletin. The regional titles then choose to use the findings as and when they wish.
I was given several interesting projects throughout the week, the most important of which was my research into MPs’ expenses. (The data on expenses can be found here.)
This led to a story on Wales Online:
I also did some research into how consistent each Premier League manager’s team selections have been this year. (The idea for the article came from someone at Wales Online, who had an inkling that Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s lack of success so far as Cardiff City manager might have been caused by his frequent tinkering with team selections.)
There was significant interest in this research from different Trinity Mirror titles. First, it appeared in the Manchester Evening News, but it also appeared on Wales Online and it even featured on the Mirror’s national site.
Some of the work performed by the data unit is long-term preparation: for instance, I helped to compile a spreadsheet of national teams’ World Cup records, ahead of the FIFA World Cup in June.
Much of the work, however, came simply from the day-to-day inspiration of the team members. For instance, David Dubas-Fisher had the idea of comparing the levels of support of football teams in the Championship this season; David Ottewell then suggested that we expand this research to a comparison of away support and home support (as teams’ home support can be influenced by various factors like ticket prices and the clubs’ catchment areas).
The result was that Burnley came out on top, to the delight of celebrity fan Alastair Campbell, whose retweet of the research led to much debate of our findings:
My final piece of work during this enjoyable week was to produce interactive maps of dentists listed on the NHS website as currently accepting new adult patients. I created these for different Trinity Mirror regions, as we thought they would be of use to readers. One of the maps, of Liverpool’s available dentists, is below*.
Note: click on the map to be taken to an interactive version.
*If you wish to see the other maps – for Birmingham, Coventry, Newcastle and Middlesbrough – let me know by commenting at the bottom of this article.
All in all, it was an excellent week, and one in which I learnt a lot about data journalism. I am grateful to David for giving me the opportunity.
For advice on getting work experience in journalism, have a look at the section on Wannabe Hacks.
Jess Denham, one of last year’s Interhacktives, interviewed David Ottewell last year. Read the interview here.