"None of this is new," Simon Rogers, news editor for data at the Guardian, assured attendees of last night's Frontline Cub event on data-driven journalism. "There was a table of schools data on the back page of the first edition of the Guardian."

But as a packed audience at last night's gathering would attest, there is currently a thirst amongst journalists and audiences for data visualisation and better handling of data in stories.

We asked Rogers, programmer and editorial developer for the Times Julian Burgess and audience member and regional newspaper journalist Mary Hamilton why journalists and news organisations are switching to data and data visualisations.

Tips from the experts
Speaker David McCandless joked that the panellists were the A-team of data visualisation and the panel shared a wealth of personal experience and advice for journalists handling and presenting data in stories.

David McCandless:
  • Sketch design ideas on paper first - if it works as a sketch, it will work online;
  • You must shape data with story or concept: "Information design and data visualisation is about bringing more clarity and removing the noise";
  • "If you're writing a piece in word - it's a linear structure; if you're working in Excel you've got another dimension, left-to-right. It gives you a bit more flexibility to structure things different and it's tidy."
Julian Burgess
  • If you're using data, link directly to the source or publish it if it's your own;
  • Don't panic when confronted with a lot of data. Turn it into something usable, identify what types of data are in a spreadsheet or document and count and question it;
  • Look to see if there are other data sources you can link to your new data that will add context or build a story.
Martin Blastland
  • You need to understand the definitional concepts behind the data you're looking at;
  • Look at where your data is coming from, who's collecting it and why they are doing it;
  • "Data is always wrong, but it depends how wrong. Is it wrong enough not to use it?"
Simon Rogers
  • Create data visualisations and applications that can be used by readers and staff within your newsroom to find stories;
  • Remember that your readers can be experts;
  • Interactives should tell you a story.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).