THE BRITISH LIBRARY

The Newsroom blog

2 posts from June 2016

08 June 2016

News is beautiful

Today's news may not always be happy, but it is often beautiful to look at. A new book, Visual Storytelling: Infographic Design in News, by Lu Yikun and Dong Zhao, shows how the rise in data journalism and reusable data sources has led to an explosion in infographics and data visualisations. These have been created by a skillful set of designers who can turn raw data into eye-catching illustrations that make better sense of the world while delighting the eye.

Visual

The book provides a background to the different types of data journalism design - pie charts, bar charts, radar charts, word clouds, 3D graphs, real-time maps and heat maps - and gives some of the history of the form. Mostly it is given over to sumptuous examples of news infographics produced by designers across the world. The index of artists at the back of the book provides web addresses, from which you can  discover the extraordinary array of work being done by what is, in effect, a new branch of professional journalism. Here are some examples (all of them illustrated in the book).

Body

Erik Nylund, 'The Average Resident in Helsingborg'. Reproduced with permission.

Erik Nylund is an infographics designer and illustrator, from Malmö, Sweden. His infographic, 'The Average Resident in Helsingborg', produced for Swedish newspaper Helsingsborgs Dagblad, takes data about the residents of Helsingborg and appositely presents the numbers as part of the anatomy of the resident (even down to one of four fingers conveniently expressing a figure of 26%).

Bond

 Erik Nylund, 'Statistics about James Bond Movies'. Reproduced with permission.

Nylund produced this infographic in response to a competition from the www.informationisbeautiful.net website, which provided data about James Bond movies and invited designers to express it creatively. It was published by the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenska Dagblade in 2012.

Workers

Ciaran Hughes, 'Workers Arise!' Reproduced with permission.

Ciaran Hughes is a Irish artist and designer, who has produced infographics for many newspapers, public and commercial sector clients. His 'Workers Arise!' was a front page graphic for the Daily Telegraph that accompanied an article on apprentices in the workplace. Its inspiration was the work of the great Russian graphic designer Alexander Rodchenko, and it makes powerful, symbolic use of the red bars and the worker's hand gripping a wrench - a model example of the coming together of theme and form.

Graph

Henrik Petterson, images from his series 'The Graph'. Reproduced with permission.

Henrik Petterson producers a regular infographic series for economia magazine, entitled 'The Graph'. Subtitled 'Britain in numbers: a statistical portrait of the month just gone', it illustrates not only how news information can be dynamically visualised, but shows by its regularity how it can function as a news service.

If you are interested to see more of the work of news infographic designers, here are some links to the individual designers mentions, some designer showcase sites and prominent news data sites:

Visual Storytelling boldly claims that "data journalism is the future of journalism".  It has certainly become an indispensable part of modern news production, and given the predicted rise in automated or robot journalism, we are likely to be seeing more and more of it. However, a robot is probably only going to provide us with bar charts. For wit, design flair, and deeper understanding, we are dependent on a talented group of designers, who like all good journalists, take raw observation and convert it into information and insight.  

Mapper

Political Meetings Mapper, produced using Open Street Map

A final thought is why the skills applied to create infographics out of current news data are not applied more often to historical news data? More and more is being done by researchers, here at the British Library and elsewhere, to undertake analyses of large-scale historical news data sets. There have been some visualisations produced, such as the maps generated by Dr Katrina Navickas for her Political Meetings Mapper project on 19th century Chartist meeting found in our newspaper archives. Machines are good at producing maps, but what more could be done if infographic designers could get their hands on such data? It's something we need to be exploring further.

01 June 2016

St. Pancras Intelligencer no. 39

It's time for another edition in our occasional series on news about news, the St Pancras Intelligencer. Here are some of the recent stories on where news and where it might be going which have caught our eye.

Accelerated

Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

Death to the Mass - Jeff Jarvis writes on the death of the traditional idea of the mass media as delivering the same content to everyone. What replaces it will be tailored to the individual, who is now the king over everything:

What has died is the mass-media business model — injuring, perhaps mortally, a host of institutions it symbiotically supported: publishing, broadcasting, mass marketing, mass production, political parties, possibly even our notion of a nation. We are coming at last to the end of the Gutenberg Age.

All well and good, says Roy Greenslade, but how in this brave new world are we to save public interest journalism?

When it comes to social media, news consumers tend to stick with 1 source - Media plurality is all very good, but humans still tend to stick with the familiar. The Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation find that 64 percent of social media news consumers get their news on just one favorite site.

43 percent of social media users don't know where the stories they read originally appeared - Some disheartening news for all news brands, as Digiday reports that 43% of social media users are unaware of them.Why China fakes 488 million social media posts a year - Mind-boggling report from Mashable on how China's government fills its social media with positive social media comments to distract its citizens from bad or politically sensitive news.

Digital archives of British national newspapers - Our own guide to current UK national newspapers available digitally at the British Library (and those which can't be found digitally anywhere).

A neighbor is better than a newspaper - A rather heartening report from Solutions Journalism Network, showing how the oldest form of news distribution - word-of-mouth - operates in rural Western mountain communities in the USA.

Instantarticles

Facebook's Instant Articles

Facebook news selection is in hands of editors not algorithms, documents show - So many stories out there about how Facebook's algorithms are shaping the world's news. The Guardian reports on the humans behind the algorithms making selection decisions much like a traditional media organisation. Quartz has Facebook’s news feed algorithm is so mysterious, users are developing “folk theories” about how it works; Will Cathcart at The Verge has a long talk with Facebook about its role in journalism; Fusion reminds us that the real ‘news curators’ at Facebook are the engineers who write its algorithms; while The Independent reports Facebook denies claims it suppressed conservative and controversial news on its ‘Trending Topics’ sidebar.

Facebook is the new paperboy - And there's more. Matt Carroll at Medium traces the history of news distribution from paperboys to platforms, and how this is changing how newsrooms work.

Social networks could do much more to protect eyewitnesses in breaking news - Josh Stearns at FirstDraftNews calls on Facebook, Twitter and Google to do more to help eyewitnesses supplying on-the-spot news at disasters to protect and understand their rights.

Beware the ‘false consciousness’ theory: newspapers won’t decide this referendum - Charlie Beckett at LSE's Polis blog says that traditional newspapers no longer have the influence over something like the EU Referendum debate that campaigners imagine they have.

How the New York Times plans to conquer the world - Alex Spence at Politico reports on how the New York Times is eyeing Europe for new digital subscribers.

Suddenly, national newspapers are heading for that print cliff fall - The end has been nigh for a while now, but Roy Greenslade is now certain: newspapers "have no future".

A BBC for the future - And finally, among all the stories coming out the BBC White Paper - funding local journalists, cutting back on sections of its News website, no longer running local news index web pages, possibly merging the News and World channels - we were pleased to see this line lurking towards the back of the document: "There should be particular scope to do more to enable access to BBC historic news archive". Let's hope so.