Journalistic techniques for storytelling with official statistics

June 7

2019

Statistics NARRATED

Eurostat

Luxembourg

Maarten

Lambrechts

Maarten Lambrechts?

Today

Storytelling and journalism

Storytelling and Stats Explained

Lunch

Telling stories with data visualisation

Makeover of a Statistics Explained article

9:30-10:45

11:00-12:30

12:30-14:00

14:00-15:30

15:30-17:00

Storytelling

I

Once upon a time...

I told you a story

Once upon a time,

somewhere

 

there was someone

or something

 

who did something or something happened to him/her/it

 

which resulted in him/her/it/someone

doing or being something else

Context

 

 

Character

 

 

Cause

 

 

Effect

Actually, I told you another story...

...and I told the readers a story

Stories are everywhere

Paintings, newspapers, games, novels, papers, fairytales, television, sports, religion, advertisement, theater, politics, science, poetry, manuals, ...

Through stories, we

Learn

Understand

Remember

Convey ideas

Literary stories

 

Evoke emotions

through empathy

 

Have a story arc:

problem, resolution, climax, ...

 

Teach you something (morale, society, ...)

Some narrative patterns

Narrator

Cause and effect

Sensory language

Crosslinking: looking forward, looking backward, coming full circle

Appeal

News stories

Inform rather than entertain

Features

~ Literary stories, no Eurostat equivalent

Breaking news

~ Eurostat press release

Explainers

~ Statistics Explained

Types of news stories

5 journalistic techniques

5W, 1H

Where?

When?

Who?

What?

Why?

How?

Context

Context

Character

Cause and effect

Sensemaking

The inverted pyramid

The News

important details

BackgrouND

Journalistic reality

Fixed length

Breaking news comes in

'When in doubt, leave things out'

'Cut from the bottom'

Make it personal

Address the reader

Put the "you" in the headline

Put in real people

 

Personification

Use a narrator

Storytelling and Statistics Explained

II

"Statistics Explained is both an innovative electronic publishing platform and a gateway to Eurostat's statistical information, providing rich information on any statistical subject treated by Eurostat. Because it works in a way similar to Wikipedia, it is easy to use and easy to navigate.

Statistics Explained is:

  • an encyclopaedia on European Union statistics;
  • a portal to further information for occasional and for regular users;
  • a statistical glossary."

"Statistics Explained is both an innovative electronic publishing platform and a gateway to Eurostat's statistical information, providing rich information on any statistical subject treated by Eurostat. Because it works in a way similar to Wikipedia, it is easy to use and easy to navigate.

Statistics Explained is:

  • an encyclopaedia on European Union statistics;
  • a portal to further information for occasional and for regular users;
  • a statistical glossary."

Media

Goal 1: attract readers, sell ads

Goal 2: impact, change behaviour

Interpretation and sensemaking

Offers insights

Newsworthiness

Framing

(Cherry)picking numbers

Informing + entertaining

Rational and emotional

Stat office

Goal 1: publish data

Goal 2: disseminate data

Reporting of numbers

User needs to create insight

Disconnected from news cycle

Neutral

All the data

Data publishing + informing

Rational

Data

publishing

Storytelling

The relevant characteristics of Statistics Explained:

  • publication platform (both collaboration wiki and dissemination channel) for all Eurostat's published content (to a large extent replacing paper-only publications of the past):
  • statistical articles presenting description and analysis of data;
  • background articles on methods, nomenclatures, context, ...;
  • online publications (= briefly introduced table of contents linking to individual articles);
  • glossary items.

The relevant characteristics of Statistics Explained:

  • publication platform (both collaboration wiki and dissemination channel) for all Eurostat's published content (to a large extent replacing paper-only publications of the past):
  • statistical articles presenting description and analysis of data;
  • background articles on methods, nomenclatures, context, ...;
  • online publications (= briefly introduced table of contents linking to individual articles);
  • glossary items.

Stories for the Statistics Explained user

Disclaimer

Looking to Statistics Explained from a journalistic perspective

Might contradict existing guidelines

Might go beyond CMS's capabilities

The Statistics Explained user is online

Next page is only on click away

Next page is only one tap away

Visual consumption

The homepage is was dead

Statistics Explained, your guide to European statistics. Statistics Explained is an official Eurostat website presenting statistical topics in an easily understandable way. Together, the articles make up an encyclopedia of European statistics for everyone, completed by a statistical glossary clarifying all terms used and by numerous links to further information and the latest data and metadata, a portal for occasional and regular users.

Statistics Explained, your guide to European statistics. Statistics Explained is an official Eurostat website presenting statistical topics in an easily understandable way. Together, the articles make up an encyclopedia of European statistics for everyone, completed by a statistical glossary clarifying all terms used and by numerous links to further information and the latest data and metadata, a portal for occasional and regular users.

The Statistics Explained user is a non-expert

Not familiar with the topic jargon

Not familiar with statistical jargon

Easily scared away

Likes stories

The headline is crucial, sometimes the only thing the users see

 

Trigger the user to click through/start reading

Short Not too long

SEO-proof: should contain the topic

1 message

Headlines

Before

After

How EU unemployment rose and fell over 20 years

Unemployment down in all EU member states

Meet the only EU country where unemplopyment didn't go down

Unemployment down all accross Europe: how is your country doing?

Before

After

Statistics prove it: Air Europe keeps doing well

EU air transport leaves crisis behind

50 million passengers each year: 4 EU airports do it. Do you know which ones?

The lead

Your second chance to convince the reader to read your piece

 

Should contain 5W 1H

No details

Contains most newsworthy elements

New statistics are never the 'What'

Newsworthy?

surprising

counterintuitive

in the news

record

everyday life

particular group

Before

This article presents an overview of European Union (EU) statistics related to mental and behavioural disorders, Alzheimer’s disease (which is a disease of the nervous system) and intentional self-harm (which is an external cause of morbidity and mortality). It focuses on four aspects:

  • deaths from mental and behavioural disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and intentional self-harm;
  • the extent of depressive disorders;
  • healthcare for mental and behavioural disorders and Alzheimer’s disease; and
  • the availability of specialist healthcare resources (beds and personnel).

After

Each year more than 180.000 mental patients die from their illness in Europe. The number of specialists taking care of the mentally ill is growing, but at the same time the number of psychiatric beds in hospitals is declining.

Before

This article presents statistics on the mobility of tertiary education students in the European Union (EU) and forms part of an online publication on education and training in the EU. It focuses on tertiary education students who are internationally mobile. In theory, this concerns students studying in an EU Member State who completed their secondary education elsewhere (regardless of whether this was in another EU Member State or in a non-member country); in practice, a number of different criteria are used, notably the country of usual or previous residence, or citizenship. The first part of the analysis focuses on tertiary students and the second part on tertiary graduates, with a brief final analysis comparing the number of students with the number of graduates.

After

Cultural and historical ties determine the origin of foreign students accross the EU. 1 in 2 foreign students in the United Kingdom comes from Asia, while you will find many African students in France and Latin American students in Spain.

Lead can help you focus

 

Start your writing process with the lead

Body

General writing guidelines

 

Be consistent

Avoid repetitions

Active verbs

Avoid jargons

Avoid definition codes

Write the article for your mother

Schoolgirl

Journalist

Business analyst

Professor

Writing for websites

 

Short sentences

Short paragraphs

Make text scannable:

bolding, subheadings, pull quotes

Telling stories with data visualisation

III

Why visualisation?

  1. Interpreting numbers becomes easier
  2. Trends become clearer
  3. Let users contextualise themselves
  4. Message is supported and amplified
  5. Augments reliability
  6. Makes long text breath
  7. Replaces lengthy paragraphs full of numbers (elevator journalism)
  8. Easy sharing of message
  9. Can be aesthetically pleasing
  10. Draws attention

Bars or lines?

Something else?

Title, colors and annotations tell the story of a chart

The annotation layer is the most important thing we do. Otherwise it's a case of here it is, you go figure it out.

Amanda Cox, New York Times

Text-visualisation relation

Make it easy for the reader

A chart referenced in the text should be next to the reference

Text and visualisation should have the same message, but work complementary

Don't repeat everything in text and visualisation

Make text and visualisation not contradict each other

Colors can be shared between text and visualisation

Colors and text can be linked together interactively

Visual stories

 

More storytelling with data visualisation:

 

The New York Times: How the recession shaped the economy in 255 charts

 

Hans Rosling: The best stats you've ever seen

Neil Halloran: The Shadow Peace

Makeover

Choose a Statistical Explained article

 

How could the article be made more attractive, more readable and more engaging for the general public?

Consider:

 

Main message and story?

5W 1H

Inverted pyramid

Headline

Lead

Writing improvements

How to tell the story with data visualisation?

Thank you

Journalistic techniques for official statistics

By maartenzam

Journalistic techniques for official statistics

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