Local votes for hyperlocal #DDJ

There’s a good deal of interest in my feeds in a BBC report Local voting figures shed new light on EU referendum. The work has been a bit of a labour of Hercules by all accounts.  

Since the referendum the BBC has been trying to get the most detailed, localised voting data we could from each of the counting areas. This was a major data collection exercise carried out by my colleague George Greenwood.

This was made more difficult by a number of issues including the fact that: “Electoral returning officers are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, so releasing the information was up to the discretion of councils.”

But the data is in and the analysis is both thorough and interesting.  I particually like the fact that the data they collected is available as a spreadsheet at the end of the article. There are gaps and there have been some issues with this (but its already being put to good use.) . More and more I’m seeing data stories appear with no  link to the data used or created as a result of the reporting.

Getting local.

In a nice bit of serendipity, Twitter through up a link to a story on Reading (Katesgrove Hill)  based hyperlocal The Whitley Pump. The story, ‘Is east Reading’s MP voting for his constituency?‘, starts with the MP for Reading East, Rob Wilson questioning an accusation that he voted against his constituents in the recent Article 50 vote.  His response was  prove it! saying “Could you provide the evidence on how my constituency voted? My understanding is that no such breakdown is available.” That’s just what Adam Harrington of The Whitley Pump set out to do.

The result is a nice bit of data journalism that draws on a number of sources including council data and draws the conclusion: “There is nothing to support a view that Reading East voted to leave the EU, and available data makes this position implausible.” 

If nothing else, its a great example of how hyperlocal data journalism can work. Unlike the BBC the Pump didn’t need to deliver across the whole country but it did follow a lot of the same methods and fall foul of many of the same issues, not least the lack of data in the first place.

Encouraging data practice at hyperlocal level. 

The BBC’s recent announcement on the next steps for its local democracy reporters scheme include mention of a local Data Journalism Hub. In a blog post officially announcing the scheme, Matthew Barraclough noted:

We hope to get the Shared Data Hub in action very soon. Based in Birmingham, BBC staff will work alongside seconded journalists from industry to produce data-driven content specifically for the local news sector.

It would be great to see that opportunity to work and learn alongside the BBC included hyperlocals like the Whitley Pump.

Image courtesy of The European Parliament on Flickr.

2 Replies to “Local votes for hyperlocal #DDJ”

  1. You know, I always thought we Americans spoke English, but honestly it’s like we share words in common but understanding is interpreted completely differently. If I understood correctly you are reporting on a vote, the possible misreprestation of a member of–parliament, was it?–and also indicating that data for such reporting may soon be available in a localized source? Perhaps I just need more caffeine before I try to read something of an intellectual level as political reporting! Does American politics seem as hard to understand? (Setting aside, of course, how we managed to cock it up so badly as to elect our current leader.)

  2. Rob Wilson, the Reading East Conservative MP about whom we wrote our EU referendum story, lost his seat in the 2017 election and was replaced by Labour’s Matt Rodda. I’d like to think that as residents (and voters) in Reading East, contributors to the Whitley Pump have a good instinct about the local mood. In truth, Mr Wilson was voted out for many reasons, not least of which was that many Reading University students live in Reading East and Mr Corbyn played an unexpected blinder with young people. But thank you for your comments: I concur!

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