Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Alberto Cairo (University of Miami) - interview, Data Journalism Course

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[Doing Journalism with Data]

There are two different complimentary things that get me excited.

You have to remember that I am a professor,

so the first thing that gets me exciting is teaching.

So that means that I get some students who,

at the beginning of their careers, know nothing basically

about infographics and visualization.

And one year later, or one year and a half later,

they have professional level.

They are able to produce professional level

information graphics and visualizations.

So that gets me really excited, educating people.

And not only my students.

I mean, you know, teaching courses online or doing lectures,

et cetera, all around the world, that gets me very excited.

At the same time, I'm also a journalist and a designer.

Whenever I have the chance to be involved

into a real world project I try to do that,

although, you know, days are only 24 hours long

and sometimes I don't have the time to do that.

But I try to be as involved as I can in real world projects

and, you know, doing visualizations

is still something very exciting for me.

[Did you have any mentors or people who deeply influenced what you do?]

Yes, of course I have a lot of different mentors

and people that I have learned from.

First of all, the people who helped me get the first steps in my career,

the people I Iove of La Voz de Galicia, the people at El Mundo, etcetera.

I learned a lot from all those departments

and I would not be here today

if it were not for what they helped me to do.

And then there are many people in the industry

that have influenced me quite a lot.

People such as Nigel Holmes, John [Greenweight],

who are very famous infographic designers.

And today, in the data visualization area,

obviously the New York Times graphics desk, the people

who work there are a huge influence to my own style of production.

And the way I teach infographics as well.

[Any interesting developments in this field that you would like to mention?]

I believe that the most exciting, recent development

in visualization is that the tools used to produce visualization

are growing increasingly easy to use.

So it's easier than ever to start doing visualization

in terms of learning the software.

That's what I mean.

So there are plenty of open-source tools

that you can use to produce visualization nowadays.

You can go online and find them.

You have R, you have iCharts, you have Many Eyes.

Not all of them are open-source,

but most of them are free so you can use them for free.

And that is amazing.

They are just, you know, point and click tools,

so you get a data set, you put the data set in there,

and the tool gives you the alternative, the options

to represent that data set visually.

So that is the most exciting thing in the field at the moment:

How easy it is to get started in the field.

[What is the data visualization project that you are most proud of?]

I worked in Brazil for a couple of years

as the Head of Multimedia and Information Graphics

for a news organization down there.

And we produced several interactive data visualizations

that were quite interesting.

The one that I believe that was more successful

was one about how much money a Brazilian congressman

or woman had to spend in telephone calls over a year.

Brazil has a law of transparency that means that those numbers

are publicly available in the Congress website,

but they are not available in a very useful format.

If you want to see those numbers, you'll have to go to the website,

look for a particular representative, look for a particular month,

and look for a particular expense, and you will get that figure.

But the Congress didn't develop any tool

to visualize all those numbers at once, or to compare

one congressman to another person, or to see the averages,

some on the parties, etcetera.

So what we did in that news organization,

by the way the name of that organization was Epoca Magazine,

we created an interactive visualization which lets you compare

all the representatives in the country,

how much money they spent in telephone calls.

And it was a huge, huge success.

[What is your advice for junior journalists?]

The main advice that I would give a young person today

is that, first of all, it is true that tools are easier to use than ever,

but the downside of that, or the other side of that,

is that the concepts needs still to be learned.

So, you know, using the software today is trivial

or learning visualization software, today, is a little bit trivial.

Anybody can do that and there are plenty of online resources

that can help you learn R or Tableau or other visualization tools.

There are plenty of that.

But you still need to get the theory.

You still need to, you know, read the books

and study the concepts, study the ideas, et cetera.

So you have to get a very good understanding

of statistics, analysis, the principles of data visualization.

You need to learn a little bit about visual cognition,

for instance, in order to understand how graphics should be produced.

[Why is data journalism important in the current media environment?]

Well, I believe that the opportunity that data journalism offers

today is that it can help the field move beyond

the old model of 'He said, she said."

Which is what we have had in journalism for many, many years right now.

People who learn about statistics, about research methods,

about the scientific method in general,

about visualization principles as well to display your stories,

et cetera, will be able to move beyond that model of journalism,

which is still important, obviously.

You still need to talk to people to get your information.

But now you can also interrogate and ask questions

through the data and to the evidence

that you can find in many different sources.

You will be able to analyze that evidence

and extract the stories from those data.

And create, what I like to call,

or develop what I like to call, evidence based journalism.

Which is what I would like to see developed in the near future--

evidence based journalism.

[Data Driven Journalism Where journalism meets data]

The Description of Alberto Cairo (University of Miami) - interview, Data Journalism Course