Innovators in Data Journalism: An Interview with Lv Yan

January 16, 2019


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.

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.


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.








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?






Q: 对未来的展望?自己的工作以及数据新闻?



Q: 可以分享给我们一些你认为不错的数据新闻媒体吗?


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。