Over the next three days, as part of a unique collaboration between the Lancashire Evening Post and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), we will run stories that lift the lid on care homes across the county. Megan Knight, Mark Porter and Francois Nel, of UCLan’s school of journalism and media, explain the project.
We are surrounded by data, and it is growing exponentially, they keep telling us.
All of this data is generated and stored, by businesses, governments and individuals, and unlocking it is the key to understanding modern society, and grappling with the problems that face us.
Understanding data, and how it can inform our daily lives, and influence our decisions, was the goal when staff at the University of Central Lancashire’s school of journalism and media sat down with Johnston Press and the Lancashire Evening Post to put this project together.
It’s not enough to have the data, it’s about making sense of it, and knowing what it can tell you that matters.
After that first meeting, a team of five student journalists, 15 student programmers and two members of the teaching staff sat down with the journalists at the LEP, and the Lancashire Care Homes Data project was born.
Alongside them, media business students were puzzling over what it might take to make these efforts sustainable.
Over the course of three months, students interviewed people, worked through data sets, wrote Freedom of Information requests and analysed financial reports. We also kept tabs on the effort it took and considered what success might look like.
The stories you will read here over the next three days, and the final software application, are the result of this work.
For the students, the chance to work on stories with the newspaper was invaluable, and the experience of digging through data for the final nugget of information was, although frustrating, ultimately rewarding.
In the words of Jacob Hooson: “Working with data has been a difficult journey and my appreciation for data journalists has grown tenfold throughout the process.”
Eva Grey, one of the student journalists said: “It gave me perspective on how versatile data really is and how it can help shape multiple products for various platforms – print and online.
“Also, observing their work style, which is more technical, precise and calculated inspired me to take a similar approach in my work – a step by step, logical work methodology which I clearly needed.”
Not all the stories are data-driven, although they all started with data.
As Jacob Hooson explained: “I have learnt the importance of not discounting the strength of a human source to support data and that whilst data journalism is primarily concerned with numbers and figures, having a human source to contextualise and add information can be invaluable.”
This project has been a pilot scheme, and it shows the value of collaboration, for the students, the teaching staff and for the newspaper. Most importantly, though, we hope that they show value for the readers, and the community of Preston and Lancashire.
In partnership with UCLan, we have created a web tool to calculate how much people will need to pay towards the cost of their care. You can try the calculator here
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