In the early stages of my journalism career there wasn’t a spreadsheet in sight – I couldn’t do basic calculations, nevermind how to use a dataset to find and tell a story. In other words I never expected my career to develop into one involving formulas and charts – but I am incredibly glad it has done so.
My early experience was very much centred around ‘traditional’ journalism. I studied journalism at Edinburgh Napier University and after graduating in 2012 I interned and worked freelance at numerous publications in the UK and in Germany I worked on small investigations and then on lifestyle content. I joined the central content features desk at local and regional news publisher JPIMedia in 2015.
I was really keen to broaden my knowledge and expand my journalism skills so I jumped at the opportunity to go on a three month secondment to the BBC Shared Data Unit in Birmingham. From being terrified of spreadsheets to working on my own investigations, the Shared Data Unit opened my eyes to the world of data journalism and showed me the impact it can have on not only the newsroom but on society as a whole. It was here that my passion for data journalism really began.
After leaving my secondment I returned to JPIMedia where I joined the newly formed data unit with Claire Wilde (Data and Investigations Editor for JPIMedia). Claire has been a huge support over the years and really encouraged my growth as a journalist. Together we produced a number of hard-hitting investigations for all local and regional JPIMedia newspapers.
The last year has seen some major changes at JPIMedia – including the launch of their new UK wide site NationalWorld. I now work primarily for NationalWorld in its data unit, led by Data and Investigations Editor, Harriet Clugston, where I produce data driven investigations, data explainers and respond to daily stats published by official bodies. Harriet is a fantastic editor and colleague and is very supportive in helping me develop stories. On a separate note, journalism is often recognised as being a very male dominated profession, especially data journalism, so I am incredibly proud to work alongside two top class female data journalists.
Working at NationalWorld since its inception has also been a brilliant opportunity and our editor Nick Mitchell is extremely supportive and passionate about the use of data journalism in everyday reporting. As a result we’ve run a number of training sessions to help reporters get to grips with not just spreadsheets but data visualisation too.
The analysis and visualisations are just one fraction of the role though and as a journalist I am extremely passionate about showing the human story behind the numbers. Whether it is pollution on your doorstep to asylum applications being rejected, my aim as a journalist is to tell these hidden stories and I hope the pieces attached showcase the best of my ability.
Description of portfolio:
Link 1: For this investigation I used government data to analyse planning permission for renewable energy sites across the UK. The story, which ran to coincide with the COP26 conference, aimed to highlight the state of the UK’s renewable energy sector as the country steps further away from fossil fuels. I discovered that planning applications for onshore wind farms in the UK had collapsed in the last five years after subsidies were scrapped. This led campaigners to warn that the UK’s 2050 net zero target would not be hit if there was not more investment.
Link 2: The Insulate Britain campaign group dominated UK headlines in 2021 by blocking major motorways in England. Their aim was for the government to take action on insulating Britain’s homes which inspired me to look into the energy efficiency ratings of some of the UK’s best known buildings. My focus was on Number 10 Downing Street and I revealed that the building, which is home to the Prime Minister, had a below average energy efficiency rating and failed to use any renewable energy sources.
Link 3: Sourced through publicly available data and an Environmental Information Request, this investigation looked into environmental crime across England and Scotland. This was an extremely messy data set and I spent some time clearing and analysing the data. My analysis revealed prosecutions for corporate environmental crime had plummeted. It was a complex analysis and I ended up running multiple stories based on the single dataset to show which companies had been prosecuted for polluting around the country.
Link 4: Having a smart meter is thought to be one of the main consumer actions needed to reduce energy consumption and achieve net zero by 2050 but the UK’s smart meter rollout was severely hampered by coronavirus restrictions. My analysis revealed that even before the pandemic the rollout was slowing pace making a 2025 target unlikely to be hit.
Link 5: In response to a Government U-turn on sewage discharges I looked into pollution at beaches across England and revealed incidents were at a record high. This included waste and oil spills.
Link 6: This investigation revealed how the UK Government denied asylum to dozens of Afghans during the Taliban’s resurgence, affecting both children and the elderly.
Link 7: The arts sector has been hit extremely hard by coronavirus restrictions so I was keen to explore how much support they have been receiving. My analysis found that the major cities (Edinburgh and London) have been hoovering up grants leaving culture deserts behind.
Link 8: Vaccine and health misinformation has been rife throughout the pandemic so I investigated whether controversial homeopathic treatments were still being prescribed by the NHS. My analysis found GPs had prescribed homeopathic treatments to NHS patients 1,000 times during the pandemic.