Fifty years of Scottish baby names

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: United Kingdom

Publishing organisation: The Courier, the Press and Journal

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-03-28

Language: English

Authors: Lesley-Anne Kelly, Emma Morrice, Joely Santa Cruz


The DC Thomson data team was put together with the aim of democratising data for our readers.

We combine traditional journalism practices with innovative techniques to create eye catching data journalism and visual storytelling.

Project description:

Fifty years of baby names was a project born out of frustration. Every year we receive such rich data on the naming trends in our country and yet nobody had every delved into the history of the data and the trends it shows.

This project aimed to fix it and was a series of multiple articles looking at a different aspect of baby naming trends in Scotland. From trends, to names dying (or on a shoogily peg as we say in Scotland), to the most unusual names ever given.

Impact reached:

The project appeared to ilicit joy in our readers with strong engagement on our social media channels and long engagement times on the articles.

This project has recently been shortlisted for the UK Regional Press Awards in the ‘Digital Initiative’ category.

The project was created with an aim of being ‘evergreen’ and this has worked well as we still see daily users enjoying the articles, almost a year after initial publication.

Techniques/technologies used:

The project used the basics – Excel and a bit of R for data wrangling. Flourish and Figma for creating charts and we also employed flourish scrollytelling with uses javascript to animate between slides.

In order to have some exclusive elements of the project we also submitted Freedom of Information requests to the National Records of Scotland.

Context about the project:

Data journalism has been so covid focussed for so long that I felt our readers had become used to seeing fairly grim data. The aim of this was to surprise our readers and show that data journalism could also delight and in many of the articles very lighthearted.

We are a small team of three women who always strive to do the most with as many open source/free resources as possible and this project is probably the pinnacle of that aim. We have many time constraints as we have day to day duties within the wider newsroom and carving out time to dedicate to a project as in depth as this is always difficult.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Data journalism techniques don’t have to be reserved for the most serious of projects. This project set out to use traditional journalism practices (tracking down a man who was named Shart in 1981) and complex data analysis and data visualisation principles to create what we hope is quite a unique project.

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