A few months ago, I was asked to produce an animated spike map to show how the coronavirus-related deaths grew in the UK every fortnight in each local authority.


The first coronavirus map that I did for the digital site was back in early February and it told how the virus was spreading across the Chinese provinces.

There were no European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), World Health Organisation or Johns Hopkins databases yet, and we gathered the data manually, using the news wires and translating Chinese official websites, Chinese news sites and science blogs.

Five months later, not only have I lost count of the number of maps, charts and analyses I’ve done, but I have also developed a more automatic way of doing my job.

Bitcoin — CC0

A few days after starting my new job, one of my colleagues asked me: “do you know how to use an API?” I almost hugged him.

Before that, I had spent a few hours explaining that not only I could make maps, but use programming languages such as R or Python to gather and analyse data. But when I mentioned the word “coding”, I got perplexing faces in return, like if I were talking in Spanish instead.

So, that colleague, who I had just met, by the way, gave me the perfect excuse to show what “coding” is and…

Designed by Kjpargeter / Freepik

A Spanish friend joked last week about how to keep her skin tanned for a wedding we’re attending in October.

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that, thanks to the final project in the MA in Data Journalism that I am finishing at Birmingham City University.

To help other journalists to catch up with statistics instead of worrying about their skins, I have gathered some of the materials that I revised this summer.

Back in June, I started reading what organisations such as the Royal Statistics Society and Science Media Centre have to say to journalists working…

Ben Orlin — Math with bad drawings

I have been chasing statisticians for the last three months because of the MA in Data Journalism that I am finishing at Birmingham City University.

They have explained to me measures such as the odds ratio, the caveats of surveys and polls, methods to control against population and models to include probability in the news (yes, I owe many coffees to them).

And we have also talked about the statistical literacy in the newsrooms.

The bad news is that we have work to do, but the good one is that there is less math than we think.


Warning: This is not an attempt at listing all the statistical methods, not even all of those useful for journalists. It is just my list, which was hidden in a ‘dirty’ and ‘messy’ Word Document.

I have been building this catalogue since June when I started the challenging (and sometimes frustrating) adventure of exploring the statistical analysis as part of my MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University.

This won’t be my final ‘personal’ list, because I am planning to work as a data journalist for some more years. …

Designed by freepik

One of my colleagues is determined to conduct a survey. As she knows that I am delving into statistics this summer (if you don’t, I explain it here), she asked me how to get a random and representative sample using only her resources.

I included her request in my interviews with statisticians, but the answers were not as encouraging as I expected. My favourite one came from Kevin McConway, professor of Applied Statistics at The Open University and who has been involved with More or Less BBC 4 program.

“It would be great if data journalists could deal…


Going to the beach is overestimated, or that is what I try to believe this summer because I have changed the peaceful Mediterranean for learning statistics in the UK.


Well, at least I can sleep without a fan by my bed.

My adventure is part of the MA in Data Journalism at Birmingham City University, and I have started by understanding a scientific paper.

I had never read a medical research before. I got those stories from press releases and… looking at other media (mostly…).

So, I decided to make a test. I found these two “curious”…

Created by Congerdesign — CC0

I have been working on an investigation about the olive oil fraud in the UK. The story “Tracking the olive oil fraudsters” was published here.

As part of the process, I also put together a list of resources for journalists to report about the oleic industry and the food fraud sector in the UK and within the European Union.

Types of olive oil

Firstly, it is worth knowing that the word ‘virgin’ in an olive oil means that it was obtained “solely by mechanical or other physical means” without alterations “other than washing, decantation, centrifugation, and filtration,” according to the International Olive Council (n.d.).

Egan Snow — CC BY-SA 2.0

For a story about the olive oil industry, I wanted to know the products sold in the UK by brand and price. There is no “free/public” list, so I made one.

I scraped the leading retailers using python. I mainly used quickcode, but I repeated the process with Jupyter notebook.

As an example, here is the code that I used on one website.

#!/usr/bin/env pythonimport scraperwikiimport requestsfrom lxml import htmlweb = requests.get("https://groceries.morrisons.com/webshop/getSearchProducts.do?clearTabs=yes&isFreshSearch=true&chosenSuggestionPosition=0&entry=olive+oil", verify=False)root = html.fromstring(web.content)print rootrows = root.cssselect("div.fop-content-wrapper")print rowsdataset = {}index = 0for row in rows:   index = index+1

Carmen Aguilar García

Data journalist. I learned coding, statistics, visualisation, and telling stories with data at @BCUMedia. Before, multimedia and TV reporter.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store