Gaming by the Numbers

eSports–or competitive video gaming–has been on the rise as a legitimate sports event for many years now. But exactly how large has this rise been, both socially and economically? To find out, one simply needs to look at the numbers. does well to display eSports’ increasing popularity through various statistics. Of course, it’s easy to say that games are more popular just by looking around at how many people are desperate to beat their high scores on “Candy Crush” or “Fruit Ninja” on the train, but writer John Gaudiosi uses data journalist tactics to delve into the expansive eSports environment and calculate its growth.

Gaudiosi uses results from Newzoo and Repucom, sources dedicated to the games industry and sports, to support the growth of gaming. According to his research, eSports has a global audience of at least 335 million fans, with 145 million fans being active participants themselves. With this audience, the eSports scene is projected to generate over $451 million in revenue in 2017. These numbers make the popularity of eSports comparable to the popularity of regular sports.

This story wouldn’t have nearly as much depth without this kind of data. A simple and otherwise bland story is reinvigorated and contextualized by statistical information, literally measuring the subject matter and calculating exactly how much impact it can, has, and will make in the future.

SPJ Region Conference informs and entertains

This year, I was able to attend the first day of the Society of Professional Journalists Region 1 Conference. This opportunity allowed me to sit in on panels where industry experts shared their insight into what it takes to succeed in journalism from a variety of different angles.

Though my time at the convention was limited, I was able to sit in on panels like “Specialty Reporting,” which addressed those who prefer to specialize in what type of reporting they like to do and a lot of advice was thrown around, both from the professionals on the pulpit and from those who happened to be in the audience. This panel was very informative and inspiring. It gave me something of a good idea of how newsroom relationships between editors and reporters on a particular beat like science, technology or sports, is managed.

I also attended “Art Criticism in the Social Media Age,” which saw Newsday’s Rafer Guzman, amNewYork’s Scott Rosenberg and Sarah Montague, and veteran critic Peter Goodman talking about how the times have changed since their beginnings as culture reporters and critics. This panel, unfortunately was something of a waste. I discussed it with journalism students from other schools after leaving the talk, and we came to the consensus that those chosen to speak were unfortunately out of touch with the amount of effort that is now required to keep up a prominent social media presence. Though their personal anecdotes were actually pretty great, I didn’t take much away from this panel.

On the first day of the conference, we were given a tour of Hofstra’s radio station, WRHU, 88.7 FM, which is an impressive facility and makes it seem like radio might have a future.

Journalism of the future

The Texas Tribune has developed a website called “The Texas Tribune’s Government Salaries Explorer,” which they use in order to review how the United States public spends its money.

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On this site, the paper publishes earnings of thousands of employees in the state of Texas. The tribune acquires this data – available for the public- through governmental agencies and organizes it in charts to make it visually appealing as well as to make the information easy to understand for the general public.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 6.09.34 PMThe layout of the website allows for the public to explore how things have changed in their areas. The information is clearly presented and easy to follow.

This shows that data journalism can make for better stories.

The Upshot: an interactive form of data-driven journalism

On April 20 the New York Times published an article titled 1.5 Million Missing Black Men.

The article was to point out the fact that the most recent census showed a huge gap in the amount of black men in the country.

For some, analysis pieces can be kind of boring and dull. The way that this particular article displays the information is appealing to an audience because of all of the graphs.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 4.51.22 PMUsually stories that are data-driven are important stories to tell and report on. Unfortunately, not everyone will take the time to read these stories. The good thing about adding an interactive element, or a simple graphic, to a piece like this is that a person can log on, skim through a story, but still see there impact by viewing the graphs.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 4.54.20 PMThis graph above clearly displays the areas where the highest percent of black adults are missing. A quick look at this graph would give viewers the basic idea of which areas are experiencing this issue.

I think it is important for journalists to be familiar with how to incorporate these techniques into their stories because it guides the reader through more complicated stories where they can get lost with words. It is also a much cleaner and reader-friendly way to display data.



Data journalism on Upshot

How many homes on Long Island are currently unoccupied? Were have major car accidents happened? These are both questions that can only be answered with the use of data, and are prime examples of how data can be used to help enhance a journalistic piece. The New York times has a section on their website titled the Upshot and its main focus is on stories that are driven completely by data.

In one of their recent storied the NYT published a piece about 1.5 Million Missing Black Men in everyday life. The article opens up by stating the almost 120,000 black men between the ages of 25 and 54 that are missing from everyday life.

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The story unfolds by showing the reader all the statistics and numbers in chart for that it’s easier to understand. An example of data that the story uses is for every 100 black women in the age group living outside of jail there are only 83 black men.

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In most stories, throwing data at the reader makes it harder to understand, but putting it in this graph not only makes it more visually appealing but easier to comprehend.

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This story is just of the examples that show how data can help enhance a story as well as make it more interactive.

Making numbers pop with data journalism

Let’s face it: a story that’s jam-packed with numbers and statistics doesn’t always hold a reader’s attention.

But sometimes, the most informative and useful stories are those that are drawn from specific data. Data journalism, according to VOX, a website that tracks the top headlines, tells a story with numbers instead of basing a story off documents and conversations. The numbers have to be significant enough for a story to emerge from them, however.

A data-based story cannot be complete with just simple reporting on the numbers. Explaining in writing won’t do any significant value justice. People need to see to believe. That’s why in order to be a well-rounded data journalism story, the story needs graphs and charts to put numbers into perspective. When considering the facts that most people read stories on the Web and how most people look to get their news the fastest way possible, graphs and other pictures explaining the numbers make the story flow easier. To make graphs even more fun, adding an interactivity feature is always a plus.

Screenshot of a graph used in Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.
Screenshot of a graph used in Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.

A recent story posted on The Upshot, a section in the New York Times that’s dedicated to number stories, reported on the increase in drought that is going on throughout the country. The story includes a large animated map of the U.S. with blobs of yellow, orange and red moving throughout the nation. Those “blobs” represent the drought and it’s intensity based on where it is in the country.

The story didn’t just simple report on the drought, it took an ongoing issue, global warming, and combined that with the increase in number of drought-like condition in the U.S. With the interactive map, readers can see how the drought moves and what areas are being hit most intense over the course of the last few weeks. The map is also updated weekly.

Screenshot of the interactive map on Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.
Screenshot of the interactive map on Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.

Along with that one map, there are more charts and graphs depicting the numbers visually. According to the story, 37 percent of the country was in moderate drought by April 7.

For someone on the east coast who is not experiences the major effects of this drought, this story helped break down the severity by using five different visual methods to help me better understand what is going on in the rest of the country.

Tennis data reveals earnings deficit in the sport

FiveThirtyEight, a website started by Nate Silver, known for his statistical work during elections, produces data journalism galore for the public to take in. Carl Bialik, the website’s lead writer for news, took a look at the world of tennis and what exactly the landscape of prize money looks like in a piece he wrote back in December.

His findings in short were that even though there are thousands of professional tennis players, only a small fraction break even, with even fewer making a nice living for themselves.

How did he find that out? He used data.

One of his first pieces of information was a press release from the International Tennis Federation, which broke down the number of players who played a professional tournament along with average expenses and relevant statistics.

The bottom line, as Bialik pointed out, is that only 589 men and women made enough on tour to break even in 2013. Considering 13,336 players competed during the season, it is shocking that only four percent of them finish with the same or more money than when they first started.

Keep in mind, that is not making money, merely getting back to even.

The piece used a graphic that showed just how large the disparity in the sport’s funding between the top-tier and everyone else is.

The data shows that the top levels in the sport may make money to survive, but the lower tiers make next to nothing. (Credit to FiveThirtyEight)
The data shows that the top levels in the sport may make money to survive, but the lower tiers make next to nothing. (Credit to FiveThirtyEight)

This season, as the chart shows, there will be about $100 million worth of prize money on the ATP World Tour, where only the top-100 or so, usually more exclusive than that, are able to compete. On the ITF and Challenger circuits, the minor leagues in the tennis world, there is only about $10 million up for grabs.

Someone out there very well could have taken all of the same numbers and put together an entirely-written piece hitting on the same point’s Bialik did, but it would not be as effective. Millions of dollars is millions of dollars so the difference between the levels of professional tennis may have seemed big, but not huge. That is where the graphic really hits home.

Bialik did the same thing when taking a closer look at the funding for lower-level tournaments specifically. “Futures” tournaments, the lowest of the low-level events, provide the least reward for performance. But, those held in Europe have more money to give the players. Now, look at the graph:

ITF Events in Europe have a far higher prize fund than the same level event anywhere else. (Credit to FiveThirtyEight)
ITF Events in Europe have a far higher prize fund than the same level event anywhere else. (Credit to FiveThirtyEight)

Describing it is one thing, but numbers put into graph form makes the information used in data journalism that much more appealing.

Freelance journalism is the future

Did you know that 1 in 3 American workers are freelancers?

That stat is about the overall workforce, but journalism definitely isn’t exempt. There are 30 percent less full-time journalists today than in 2000, according to Pews’ 2013 State of the Media report.

The Student Center at Hofstra Unviersity, where the SPJ Region I conference took place. Photo credit: Paul Berendsen, Wikimedia Commons.
The Student Center at Hofstra University, where the SPJ Region I conference took place. [Photo credit: Paul Berendsen, Wikimedia Commons.]
The days of health benefits, job security and a healthy pension might be over. But more newsrooms are building elite armies of freelancers, according to a recent panel at the Society Professional Journalists (SPJ) Region I Conference at Hofstra University.

The grind can be hard. Any given week a freelancer could be juggling 5 or 6 stories for multiple publications, all of whom expect you get it done. This excludes marketing yourself and researching pitches.

As veteran freelance journalist and author John Hanc says, “There’s always a deadline.” It’s a “hard-work business,” but it is possible to be well off.

To get the first job, in the words of Sandra Mardenfeld, sometimes you have to do “a little bit of targeted stalking” to get the job (or an interview for your story). Know your target. Do your research. Reach out on LinkedIn, Twitter, even Facebook if you have to. Know what they’re looking for and pitch ideas.

Liza Burby, Sandra Mardenfeld, Jason Molinet and John Hanc at the Effective Freelancing panel. Photo Credit: Susan Keith on Twitter.

Liza Burby of Anton Media Group remembers when she worked for $10 per week and produced 100 clips (100!). The experience matters and local journalism is the best place to do “renaissance reporting,” where you can report on multiple topics and build all sorts of skills. Not only do you get bylines and exposure, but you build a reputation and sources.

So beware the first impression. It’s a double edged sword. Make no mistakes, hand in good copy and be a friendly face when you visit for a good reputation to follow you. Just be sure to keep it up. But if you mess up, even locally, you can bet said editor won’t hire you again and a bad reputation might stalk you.

You don’t want something like that stalking you, right? No work means no pay.

A nearly empty Starbucks cup in a Stony Brook University lounge. [Photo Credit: Janelle Clausen]
A nearly empty Starbucks cup in a Stony Brook University lounge. [Photo Credit: Janelle Clausen]
That being said though, Hanc noted that one of the worst things you can do is “go whining about how you made more as a Starbucks barista” on your first contract. You’re in no position to negotiate. Those bragging rights come later. When you write with the Washington Post, Politico or Smithsonian- which should be done early as possible- then you might get away with it. Name power is important.

But creativity is vital. Papers are always looking for fresh content. Send pitches- the amount varies on your schedule- over with 2 to 3 sources and statistics at the ready. If you need help keeping them in steady supply, build off previous stories you’ve done.

“Ideas are your currency,” Burby says.

Sound like a lot of work? It is.

But every day is an adventure where you control your own destiny. So long as you have consistency, quality, ideas, passion and communication skills, you can find a healthy future in freelance journalism. If a panel like this shows up again, I highly advise you try attending.

Semester of Social Media

Social Media. What is it good for?

I mean other than posting some killer selfies on Instagram or venting about sleeping through your first class on Twitter. What benefits does it offer?

When I was a senior in high school, I took a journalism class and he forced everybody in the class to make a Twitter.

“You don’t have to use it,” he said.  “But I encourage you all to learn how to use Twitter, because you will use it so much in this profession.”

I looked at him and thought of only two things: Bull. Shit.

And naturally, I was wrong.

And then after hearing again at the start of this semester of the wonders of Twitter, I thought to myself, okay, I need to get out there more. So I spent most of my time this semester trying to expand my presence on Twitter.

Over the semester I have gained some followers to my Twitter account. *Cough cough* shameless Twitter account plug *cough cough* It was not all at once, but I found that gaining followers was focused around one main thing: being present.

If I tweeted 8 times a day, I might gain a follower or two. If I tweeted once or not all, I got squat. I also found that Tweeting many times a day over several days lead to even more followers. But this is almost common sense: the more I tweet the more my name is out there the more people might read my stuff and like it and then BAM they follow you. Okay no it is not that simple, but it something along those lines I am sure.

I also found that I got more favorites on things that we’re funny/ embarrassing. For example, the time I got a boot on my car because paying parking tickets are hard.

It was a struggle, but I got seven favorites and two retweets. Well wort the price of the tickets.

I tried to apply this kind of humor to tweets about the news, or event coverage I was doing. Anything journalistic, newsy or serious that I found most students would just scroll over on their timeline. Because lets face it, most college kids don’t read the New York Times everyday, but if you tweet their headlining with a funny caption, people might stop, laugh, and then be more inclined to read it.

I did this a little bit when I went to go see Ann Curry speak at Stony Brook a few weeks ago. I tried to make the tweets a little humorous so that students would want to follow my live coverage of the event and then, just maybe, become informed on things they didn’t know before. (disclaimer: there is cursing. I hope that’s okay for class.)

Stuff like this got me more favorites and retweets than if I wrote something without humor or without any spice.

Hopefully I will continue to grow in followers, spreading the words of journalism, and my own stupidity, one tweet at a time.