Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mapping bus stops in your local area

Recently I helped Pupul Chatterjee map bus stops in Birmingham for the BrumTransport. I thought I’d share the process here as it demonstrates a number of techniques in filtering data that isn’t helpfully categorised.

Does the data exist? Searching in the right place

I started my search for bus stop data at Google’s Tables search engine – this allows you to search public Google Fusion Tables as well as ‘web tables’. I started with a broad search for “bus stops” – the top result looked promising: a Guardian datablog post on “Every bus stop, train station, ferry port and taxi rank in Britain“.

That post included a link to a fusion table that mapped those stops, as well as the original data on

The question was: how easily could we extract Birmingham bus stops from that? Continue reading

Court reporting – a guide from the investigative journalism summer school


Paul Cheston is the last specialist court reporter for newspapers in the UK. Court reporting may be a dying trade, but Cheston feels that this leaves gaps in the market for investigators to fill.

This year at the CIJ Summer School, he offered a practical guide to court reporting which we have summarised below…

Why you should report the courts

Cheston’s reasons for the importance of court reporting and why he enjoys the craft include: Continue reading

Organising investigations: a guide to story-based inquiry


This year at the CIJ Summer School, Adjunct Professor, Mark Lee Hunter, explained how using hypotheses can frame and sell your story. A hypothesis is what the investigator wants to prove or disprove. It takes the best information you have into account and contains factual assertions that can be verified.

How hypotheses frame and sell your story

Hunter suggested three key tips on making a hypothesis work:

  • It needs to be approached slowly
  • It should be viewed in the easiest way possible
  • You do not want to jump ahead to the most difficult approach first

It is also important to consider the worthiness of an investigation before conducting it. If the hypothesis is of high importance and easy to establish, then the investigation is definitely worth pursuing. However, if it is of low importance and difficult to prove or disprove, then do not waste your time. Continue reading

Understanding company accounts: How to get the most of Companies House

companies house logo

At the CIJ Summer School this year Robert Miller, Martin Tomkinson and Raj Bairoliya explained how to access company accounts and how to get the most of Companies House.

In the UK, all limited companies and limited liability partnerships must file their accounts at Companies House, which has offices in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. There are more than two million registered firms and over 300,000 new companies incorporated each year, and Miller feels that Companies House is one of the main skills needed by journalists. Continue reading

5 tips on mining and using big data for journalists


Matt Fowler is a freelance application developer and programmer who helps journalists understand and use big data. At the CIJ Summer School this year he gave some top tips in the field, which we have summarised below…

1. Double check privacy settings of your data

You don’t want private work being published on show for all to see.

2. Tidy up the data and make the structure simpler

This re-engineering effort can get details out and help you to discover information to turn into stories. Continue reading

How to get scoops from local councils


Since 2011, all councils have been required to publish expenditure on items over £500. At the CIJ Summer School this year, Paul Francis and Ted Jeory explained how to turn this information into a story… Continue reading

6 top tips on interviewing from Melanie McFadyean


At the CIJ Summer School this year, Melanie McFadyean gave tricks and tips for successful interviewing. We’ve summarised the top six tips below…

1. Do extensive background research…

…so unnecessary questions are not asked. These waste time and not knowing the background looks unprofessional to the interviewee.

Knowing key information also helps to back up your question, especially when interviewing ‘difficult’ people like politicians. Continue reading

6 top tips for filming interviews from Robert Miller and Martin Tomkinson

Centre for Investigative Journalism logo

This year at the CIJ Summer School, Robert Miller and Martin Tomkinson offered advice for how to get the best visual and audio footage of your interviews. Their top tips have been summarised below…

1. Keep any shot still for ten seconds

Spraying the camera results in confusing pictures. To add to this, only use the zoom image in extreme circumstances as it will pixelate quickly. Continue reading