Quick walkthrough of my first piece of data journalism

Yesterday I published my first piece of data journalism for our online group blog Independent Everything. Our blog looks at independent small businesses in North London and I wanted to analyse what Thursday’s GDP statistics meant for them.

The data was published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The first dataset was how the output for the UK and its service sector changed from quarted to quarter. It was available to download as a spreadsheet. I imported the spreadsheet from Excel to a Google Spreadsheet and created a chart.

The second dataset was the output of the retail sector. This falls within the services sector and is far more relevant to our target readership. It was published separately (can be found via a link here). It was harder to extract the data as it was a PDF document which loaded in Adobe Acrobat, not in a web browser. I struggled for a bit on how best to deal with this, but in the end I typed it out manually in Google Spreadsheets and created the chart.

The charts didn’t come out perfectly the first time around. The first one showed the changes from 2000 to 2012. I decided to delete the data from the boom years of 2000 to 2006 because it was irrelevant and and it was distorting the look of the graph.

The chart before…
…and after editing

After I had the graphs looking the way I wanted, the next thing was to embed them into my WordPress blog. It took a while to work out how to do this. In the end, the solution was to go to Google Spreadsheets and click “Publish chart”, publish it as an image and copy the HTML. After that, you go to WordPress, edit a post and click on “Text” (not “Visual”) and insert the HTML. Like magic, the graph appears in your post.

How to publish the chart on Google Spreadsheets
The second paragraph here is the HTML for one of the graphs

At that point the graphs were in place. I was feeling pleased with myself, until I remembered I actually had to write the article to go with it…

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