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Rob Orchard: “We’re at the beginning of a data revolution”

Rob Orchard’s brilliant presentation on the drama in data explores the way that data can provide powerful visual stories, particularly in combination with longer features.

“Data journalism is the antidote to knee-jerk production”, he says and emphasises the power in data stories capturing the big picture and the sheer number of people affected in any given story. “We’re at the beginning of a data revolution,” he says.

“With data, you can tell stories of human emotions in ways other forms of articles can’t.”

For Delayed Gratification, Orchard says he uses data to surprise readers but also aims to link news pegs to interesting figures about people. A particularly successful use of data in Delayed Gratification Orchard mentioned was an article on English peoples’ streaming of Three Lions during the World Cup, juxtaposing a chart that showed Spotify’s streaming figures against the dates key matches were played, providing an interesting and amusing source of information.

Discussions of Brexit can’t be stopped says Orchard. His team monitored comments on online news articles unrelated to the topic, such as the Beast from the East and the time Ed Sheeran broke his arm in a cycling incident and found a huge number of comments about Brexit. This resulted in several pages of engaging material about how many comments were left on a non-Brexit article before Brexit was mentioned, with some commenters even linking Brexit to Paddington Bear and The Ashes.

Ultimately, Orchard captured the beauty and thought-provoking narrative that data journalism can create.

Words by Molly Dowrick


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