Innovators in Data Journalism: An Interview with Lv Yan

January 16, 2019

Topic(s):

Lv Yan is the Director of Data Journalism Department of The Paper (澎湃新闻). She was one of our trainers of our Fudan University Workshop in 2018.

Q. What’s the biggest challenge in becoming a data journalist? How did you overcome it?

I think the challenges can be summed up in two ways: (1) new technology, and (2) friction between colleagues.

Data journalism is data + news. You have to learn a lot of technologies, as well as develop an understanding about selected topics and its implications. This requires us to understand the different conditions of the subject matter. At the same time, the subject matter is not only limited to one field; we have to have an interdisciplinary understanding of it.

Another challenge is friction with colleagues. In the beginning, a new colleague may not understand how to compile data journalism, which requires them to understand what kind of materials they need to provide and how to use data to tell stories.

 

Q.  Could you share with us a piece that you wrote and feel most proud of? What happened during your writing that makes you feel this way? What difficulty did you face?

I have two articles that I personally think are well done and interesting.

The first article is about the tenth anniversary of Wenchuan Earthquake. For this project, we built a platform where people can share stories, a platform where anyone can tell their own story. Once shared, the story is instantly published, and a point on the map appears. The point represents the location of the story that the person is telling. The result of the article is very good, the quality of the collected stories is beyond expectation, and many people's stories are told in great detail.

http://projects.thepaper.cn/zt/2018/512_memory/index.html

The second is about the Qixi Blind Date Corner in Shanghai. We have noticed that the advertisements in the blind date corner all have a specific structure, which is generally divided into two parts: (1) some personal details about the person looking for the date and (2) what the person hopes to get from the date. The content is presented as text, but it is possible to visualize it. Our team spent six weekends on the Blind Date Corner and recorded thousands of ads. By the end, we had analyzed 874 ads and came to some interesting conclusions. At any age level, men are still generally looking for younger women, and women's age requirements have eased. Hard conditions such as hukou (“national registration”) and housing are the parts that everyone values, because it’s sort of a process of resource exchange. After analyzing 874 advertisements, we found that words such as “kindness” and outgoing appeared very frequently in the description of the person’s own personality, but there were few requirements for the other person’s personality.

https://m.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_2351635

 

Q. What is your expectation of your future?

Personally, I would like to do stories that are even more data-driven. From the data alone, it is difficult to see some patterns in the story. What I want to do is to present actual news with data. The media’s responsibility should be to provide exclusive and excellent content to the public.

 

Q. Can you share with us some data journalism media that you think is good?

There are two media outlets that I think are really good at data journalism.

The first is the New York Times. The team is very strong. There is no limit to their creativity, and they always try hard to tell the story in the best way possible. The team has a comprehensive skillset, and can clearly express the ideas in their minds. They tell stories first, and they do it extremely well.

The second is Propublica. They pay attention to the way they tell stories with data, and they’re willing to tackle difficult, complex stories that others shy away from. They are also open and willing to share data with their peers and have them analyze it together.

 

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Q:运用数据新闻是遇到过障碍吗?都有什么样的障碍以及如何克服它的?

我觉得障碍可以总结成两个:新技术和同事之间的磨合。

数据新闻是数据加上新闻,这个里面包含了很多技术需要掌握,同时还需要理解所选题材的内涵。这个就要求我们对题材的不同条件都要进行了解,同时题材不仅仅限于一个领域,这也要求了我们对不同的领域要可能要从头开始了解。

另一个就是跟同事之间的磨合。新同事可能一开始不能很好的理解如何编撰数据新闻,这就要跟新同事通过磨合让他们理解到他们需要提供一些什么样的素材,如何运用数据去讲述故事因为我们的内容要与图表相结合。

 

Q: 可以分享给我们一篇你感到自豪的文章吗?我们想知道写这篇文章的过程中发生的故事——为什么你对这篇文章感到自豪?在写文章的过程中有遇到什么困难吗?

我有两篇我个人认为做的不错,很有意思的文章。

第一篇文章是关于汶川地震十周年的。我们做了一个可以分享故事的平台,任何人都可以在平台上讲述他们自己的故事。故事会立马发布出来,发布出来的故事会在地图上有一个点,这就代表了这个人讲述的故事。文章的效果很不错,收集到的故事质量是超出预期的,很多人的故事都讲述的非常详细。

http://projects.thepaper.cn/zt/2018/512_memory/index.html

 

第二篇是关于七夕上海人民广场相亲角的文章。我们注意到相亲角里的广告都有着特定的结构,一般分为两个部分:找对象的人自己的身份特征和对对方的期许。内容上都是以文字的形式呈现的,但是是有可视化的可能性。我们团队在相亲角花了六个周末的时间录入了几千条广告,最后对874份广告进行了分析,得出了一些有趣的结论。在年龄层面,男性还是普遍想要找比较小的女性,而女性在年龄方面的要求已经有所松动。硬性条件像是户口跟房子还是所有人都看重的部分,因为这可以说是一个资源互换的过程。在分析了874份广告之后,我们发现在描述自己的性格方面像善良、阳光等是出现频率非常高的高频词汇,但是对对方性格的要求基本很少。

https://m.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_2351635

 

Q: 对未来的展望?自己的工作以及数据新闻?

我个人比较想要多做一些关于数据驱动方面的东西。单纯的从数据来看,是很难看出一些规律的。我更多的是希望能够用数据展示和包装新闻。作为媒体,我们的职责应当是给大众提供独家和优秀的内容。

 

Q: 可以分享给我们一些你认为不错的数据新闻媒体吗?

有两家媒体是我认为在数据新闻上很不错的。

第一家是New York Times。团队实力非常强大,创作上不设限,会尽量用最好的方式去讲述故事。团队很全面,可以驾驭脑海中的各种想法。他们会把故事放在第一位去讲述,这方面做得非常极致。

 

第二家是Propublica。他们很注重用数据的方式去讲述故事,很喜欢“啃硬骨头”。他们也很开放,会愿意把数据分享给同行,让同行一起分析。