Exploring Data Journalism with Microsoft Power BI

29 May 2019

American journalist Bob Woodward once said, “I think journalism gets measured by the quality of information it presents, not the drama or the pyrotechnics associated with us.” If a story isn’t based on good data, people won’t accept it, and it will destroy the journalist’s (and publication’s) reputation.

Microsoft recognizes the struggle of journalists everywhere to find accurate, compelling information for their stories. To that end, it has launched the Global Data Journalism Program and has teamed up with Enlighten Designs to help.

What Is Data Journalism?

Data journalism is a fairly new concept, although journalists have been using information to make their point since time immemorial. There are two reasons for that: there is an abundance of data, and it’s now easier to access information than ever before.

For example, reporters at The Guardian used software to find connections between thousands of documents. The resulting story was an expose on MPs’ expenses, which revealed that government officials were spending thousands of pounds in unauthorised expenses. Moreover, The Guardian has launched Datablog, a blog featuring stories that explain how data informs news stories.

“Data journalism is powered by an abundance of data and ease of access to that information.”

Although the idea of data journalism might be new, it actually takes journalism back to its roots of telling the truth, backed up by information. News has always been unfurling around us, but now, reporting is ranked, filtered, and frequently ignored. Data journalism allows readers and viewers to understand the bigger story through the use of information.

Moving toward Data Journalism with Microsoft Power BI

The challenge of data journalism is that journalists aren’t really trained as data scientists. It involves working with raw data, which is unwieldy and puzzling. Raw data needs to be shaped so it can be visualised.

That process can be lengthy, too. When you have a breaking news story, you can’t afford to waste time. That’s where Microsoft Power BI comes into the picture.

“Data journalism involves working with raw data, for which journalists aren’t really trained.”

Microsoft Power BI is a data visualisation tool. It combines information from hundreds of databases, files, and web services. With it, journalists can create compelling, accurate visualisations with built-in visuals, those created by the community, or those they’ve made on their own.

To help journalists utilise Microsoft Power BI to its fullest extent, Microsoft has launched the Microsoft Data Journalism Program, in which journalists and media organisations receive assistance in using the solution. The Microsoft Data Journalism Program’s team is comprised of former journalists, data experts, and software developers.

“Microsoft’s Data Journalism Program helps journalists and media organisations create interactive data visualisations.”

In addition, the program offers a web portal with a number of resources that journalists can access whenever they’d like. There’s a five-course series with data visualisation expert Albert Cairo. During the videos, Cairo explains the methodology behind graphics and how they support modern storytelling.

There are also tutorials and other courses that help users fully explore Microsoft Power BI. Users can go through these sequential tutorials at their own pace, so they can gain the knowledge they need to create visualisations to support their stories.

“The program offers a web portal with resources journalists can access whenever they like.”

Microsoft Power BI also offers a global online forum. In this forum, users can receive updates on the solution, ask questions and receive answers from peers and experts, and start discussions. There’s a specific Data Storytelling forum which data journalists will find quite useful, as it will give them greater insight into using visual information in storytelling.

The Data Stories gallery allows users to post their data visualisations. Journalists can browse the gallery for inspiration, discuss reports with their authors, and post their own data visualisations.

“Microsoft Power BI’s global online forum gives users the chance to ask questions of peers and experts.”

Because Microsoft values the insights of users, there’s a product roadmap to which users can contribute their opinions. They can suggest ideas for future improvements to Microsoft Power BI. Users can vote on ideas, too.

Enlighten Designs: Partnering with Microsoft Power BI to Enhance Data Journalism

In 2017, Enlighten Designs began collaborating with Microsoft in support of its data journalism program. We led a hands-on lab for journalists at Microsoft’s Data Insight Summit in June 2017. During that lab, journalists learned how to use Microsoft Power BI to aid their storytelling efforts.

Since then, Enlighten has worked with American news organisations to incorporate Microsoft Power BI data visualisations in their coverage. In the spring of 2017, we assisted Associated Press in creating an interactive map of how communities in the US state of Virginia voted. The visualisation delivered results in real time, straight from the ballot box.

“Enlighten Designs began collaborating with Microsoft to support its data journalism in 2017.”

Enlighten designed the visualisation so that it could be customised for news organisations that subscribe to Associated Press’ services. Those news organisations could show local audiences how their communities voted.

Thanks to this successful collaboration with Microsoft, Enlighten has gained partner status with the company. Our innovation, design experience, and data expertise make us an excellent choice to work with Microsoft.

“Thanks to this successful collaboration with Microsoft, Enlighten gained partner status.”

Enlighten has been working with Microsoft for some time, and this project is just one example of our partnership and familiarity with Microsoft products and services.

Why Choose Enlighten for Your Data Visualisation Project?

Enlighten Designs has twenty years of experience in the fields of software development, systems integration, and website design. We understand how to transform raw data into attractive, compelling, and meaningful data visualisations that grab readers and viewers’ attention.

We have been a Microsoft partner for several years, a result of the trust we’ve built with the organisation as well as our deep knowledge of Microsoft Power BI. To learn more about how Enlighten can enhance your data visualisations, contact us.

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