THE BRITISH LIBRARY

The Newsroom blog

News about yesterday's news, and where news may be going

Introduction

Whether you are studying history, politics, society, international relations, economics, media history, sports history or family history, our collections will have something for you Read more

08 June 2016

News is beautiful

Today's news may not always be happy, but it is often beautiful to look at. A new book, Visual Storytelling: Infographic Design in News, by Lu Yikun and Dong Zhao, shows how the rise in data journalism and reusable data sources has led to an explosion in infographics and data visualisations. These have been created by a skillful set of designers who can turn raw data into eye-catching illustrations that make better sense of the world while delighting the eye.

Visual

The book provides a background to the different types of data journalism design - pie charts, bar charts, radar charts, word clouds, 3D graphs, real-time maps and heat maps - and gives some of the history of the form. Mostly it is given over to sumptuous examples of news infographics produced by designers across the world. The index of artists at the back of the book provides web addresses, from which you can  discover the extraordinary array of work being done by what is, in effect, a new branch of professional journalism. Here are some examples (all of them illustrated in the book).

Body

Erik Nylund, 'The Average Resident in Helsingborg'. Reproduced with permission.

Erik Nylund is an infographics designer and illustrator, from Malmö, Sweden. His infographic, 'The Average Resident in Helsingborg', produced for Swedish newspaper Helsingsborgs Dagblad, takes data about the residents of Helsingborg and appositely presents the numbers as part of the anatomy of the resident (even down to one of four fingers conveniently expressing a figure of 26%).

Bond

 Erik Nylund, 'Statistics about James Bond Movies'. Reproduced with permission.

Nylund produced this infographic in response to a competition from the www.informationisbeautiful.net website, which provided data about James Bond movies and invited designers to express it creatively. It was published by the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenska Dagblade in 2012.

Workers

Ciaran Hughes, 'Workers Arise!' Reproduced with permission.

Ciaran Hughes is a Irish artist and designer, who has produced infographics for many newspapers, public and commercial sector clients. His 'Workers Arise!' was a front page graphic for the Daily Telegraph that accompanied an article on apprentices in the workplace. Its inspiration was the work of the great Russian graphic designer Alexander Rodchenko, and it makes powerful, symbolic use of the red bars and the worker's hand gripping a wrench - a model example of the coming together of theme and form.

Graph

Henrik Petterson, images from his series 'The Graph'. Reproduced with permission.

Henrik Petterson producers a regular infographic series for economia magazine, entitled 'The Graph'. Subtitled 'Britain in numbers: a statistical portrait of the month just gone', it illustrates not only how news information can be dynamically visualised, but shows by its regularity how it can function as a news service.

If you are interested to see more of the work of news infographic designers, here are some links to the individual designers mentions, some designer showcase sites and prominent news data sites:

Visual Storytelling boldly claims that "data journalism is the future of journalism".  It has certainly become an indispensable part of modern news production, and given the predicted rise in automated or robot journalism, we are likely to be seeing more and more of it. However, a robot is probably only going to provide us with bar charts. For wit, design flair, and deeper understanding, we are dependent on a talented group of designers, who like all good journalists, take raw observation and convert it into information and insight.  

Mapper

Political Meetings Mapper, produced using Open Street Map

A final thought is why the skills applied to create infographics out of current news data are not applied more often to historical news data? More and more is being done by researchers, here at the British Library and elsewhere, to undertake analyses of large-scale historical news data sets. There have been some visualisations produced, such as the maps generated by Dr Katrina Navickas for her Political Meetings Mapper project on 19th century Chartist meeting found in our newspaper archives. Machines are good at producing maps, but what more could be done if infographic designers could get their hands on such data? It's something we need to be exploring further.

01 June 2016

St. Pancras Intelligencer no. 39

It's time for another edition in our occasional series on news about news, the St Pancras Intelligencer. Here are some of the recent stories on where news and where it might be going which have caught our eye.

Accelerated

Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

Death to the Mass - Jeff Jarvis writes on the death of the traditional idea of the mass media as delivering the same content to everyone. What replaces it will be tailored to the individual, who is now the king over everything:

What has died is the mass-media business model — injuring, perhaps mortally, a host of institutions it symbiotically supported: publishing, broadcasting, mass marketing, mass production, political parties, possibly even our notion of a nation. We are coming at last to the end of the Gutenberg Age.

All well and good, says Roy Greenslade, but how in this brave new world are we to save public interest journalism?

When it comes to social media, news consumers tend to stick with 1 source - Media plurality is all very good, but humans still tend to stick with the familiar. The Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation find that 64 percent of social media news consumers get their news on just one favorite site.

43 percent of social media users don't know where the stories they read originally appeared - Some disheartening news for all news brands, as Digiday reports that 43% of social media users are unaware of them.Why China fakes 488 million social media posts a year - Mind-boggling report from Mashable on how China's government fills its social media with positive social media comments to distract its citizens from bad or politically sensitive news.

Digital archives of British national newspapers - Our own guide to current UK national newspapers available digitally at the British Library (and those which can't be found digitally anywhere).

A neighbor is better than a newspaper - A rather heartening report from Solutions Journalism Network, showing how the oldest form of news distribution - word-of-mouth - operates in rural Western mountain communities in the USA.

Instantarticles

Facebook's Instant Articles

Facebook news selection is in hands of editors not algorithms, documents show - So many stories out there about how Facebook's algorithms are shaping the world's news. The Guardian reports on the humans behind the algorithms making selection decisions much like a traditional media organisation. Quartz has Facebook’s news feed algorithm is so mysterious, users are developing “folk theories” about how it works; Will Cathcart at The Verge has a long talk with Facebook about its role in journalism; Fusion reminds us that the real ‘news curators’ at Facebook are the engineers who write its algorithms; while The Independent reports Facebook denies claims it suppressed conservative and controversial news on its ‘Trending Topics’ sidebar.

Facebook is the new paperboy - And there's more. Matt Carroll at Medium traces the history of news distribution from paperboys to platforms, and how this is changing how newsrooms work.

Social networks could do much more to protect eyewitnesses in breaking news - Josh Stearns at FirstDraftNews calls on Facebook, Twitter and Google to do more to help eyewitnesses supplying on-the-spot news at disasters to protect and understand their rights.

Beware the ‘false consciousness’ theory: newspapers won’t decide this referendum - Charlie Beckett at LSE's Polis blog says that traditional newspapers no longer have the influence over something like the EU Referendum debate that campaigners imagine they have.

How the New York Times plans to conquer the world - Alex Spence at Politico reports on how the New York Times is eyeing Europe for new digital subscribers.

Suddenly, national newspapers are heading for that print cliff fall - The end has been nigh for a while now, but Roy Greenslade is now certain: newspapers "have no future".

A BBC for the future - And finally, among all the stories coming out the BBC White Paper - funding local journalists, cutting back on sections of its News website, no longer running local news index web pages, possibly merging the News and World channels - we were pleased to see this line lurking towards the back of the document: "There should be particular scope to do more to enable access to BBC historic news archive". Let's hope so.

19 May 2016

Digital archives of British national newspapers

Did you know that the historic back runs of most of the British national newspapers that are published today have been digitised by online publishers and that these are all available for free in British Library Reading Rooms? With the recent addition of the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph,  Independent and Independent on Sunday to the digital archives you can search at the British Library, it’s a good opportunity to review what’s available for all current British nationals.

  Times

The Times was the first national newspaper to digitise its historic back run and The Times Digital Archive has been available in British Library Reading Rooms since 2003. This is a vast archive which allows users to search every page of the newspaper from its first issue in 1785 (when it was known as the Daily Universal Register) up to 2010.

The archive offers access to a 225 year back run of The Times and contains, in total, over 70,000 issues which include over 1.6 million pages or more than 11.8 million articles. The entire file is searchable by keyword and by date and the content can be viewed at page or article level. In addition there is an advanced search facility which enables a search to be focussed on particular parts of the newspaper  such as ‘News’ or ‘Reviews’ or ‘Politics’.

In the years since 2003, when The Times Digital Archive first became available, back runs of most of the other currently published British national newspapers have been digitised and these are all available in British Library Reading Rooms. The titles are:

  • Daily Express: 1900 to date, and Sunday Express: 2000 to date
  • Daily Mail: 1896-2004
  • Daily Mirror: 1903 to date
  • Daily Star/ Star on Sunday: 2000 to date
  • Daily Telegraph: 1855-2000 and Sunday Telegraph: 1961-2000
  • Financial Times: 1888-2010
  • Guardian: 1824 -2003
  • Independent: 1986-2012, and Independent on Sunday: 1990-2012
  • Observer: 1791-2003
  • Scotsman: 1870-1950
  • The Times: 1785-2010, and Sunday Times 1822-2006

Links to all of these can be via our Electronic Resources page (select Newspapers as a subject, then refine your search by Full Text). Please note that electronic access only works in British Library Reading Rooms and on our terminals.

Although the historic back runs of most of the British national newspapers that are published today have been digitised and made available online, not every current British national is available in this way. The following titles do not yet have digital archives:

  • Daily Record
  • i
  • Morning Star
  • People
  • The Sun

Telegraph

Sample search on the Telegraph Historical Archive

The most recent additions to the list of digitised archives of British national newspapers are The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Independent and Independent on Sunday. These titles have only been available on our Reading Rooms since earlier this year.

The Telegraph Historical Archive contains over 1 million facsimile pages of The Daily Telegraph from the first issue published in 1855 to the year 2000 and the Sunday Telegraph from its inception in 1961 up to 2012.

Independent

The Independent Digital Archive contains approximately 750,000 facsimile pages and includes every issue of The Independent from 1986 to 2012 and every issue of The Independent on Sunday from its inception in 1990 up to 2012.

In some cases it is possible to carry out a combined search of more than one historic newspaper archive which can increase the efficiency of the search process and deliver a wider range of results from different types of newspaper.  The historic archives of The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Independent and Independent on Sunday are all hosted by the same on-line publisher (Gale Cengage) and these archives can be searched individually or in a combination of two or more titles. Similarly, the historic archives of the Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Sunday Express and Star on Sunday are hosted by another on-line publisher (UKpressonline), and the archives of The Guardian and The Scotsman (along with the Irish Times) are hosted by ProQuest Historical Newspapers. It is possible to combine a search of two or more newspapers within these groups of titles as well.

Digital newspaper archives have transformed the use of historic newspapers in research. Whereas in the past it might have taken days, weeks or even months to search through large bound volumes of newspapers or to trawl through endless reels of microfilm to find all the information needed for a particular research topic, in a digital archive the information is much more easily accessible and can often be found in almost no time at all.

Stephen Lester, Newspaper Curator