President's Dream Colloquium on Engaging Big Data

Speaker: Chad Skelton

Telling Stories with Data

Chad Skelton, Award-winning Data Journalist and Consultant 
Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 3:30–5 pm
IRMACS Theatre, ASB 10900, Burnaby campus


Talk Highlights

Opening and Introduction
00:06 – Opening remarks by Peter Chow-White
1:40 –  Introducing Chad Skelton by Catherine Murray

Chad Skelton’s Talk
5:43 – Introduction
6:10 –  Data Journalism: Common Associations

Examples of Data Journalism Stories
6:19 -  New York Times – Impact of the digital revolution on jobs
6:55 – New York Time’s visualization shows the impact of changes on newspapers jobs
7:04 – Wall Street Journal data visualization - “Infectious Diseases and the Impact of Vaccines”.  Rate of measles infections across the states before and after the measles vaccine was introduced
7:29 – New Scientist - “Your Warming World”. Locations in the world according to changes in temperature

Expanding on the definition of Data Journalism
7:51  - Potential of Data Journalism.  Answers that data journalism provide and which regular journalism doesn’t: An Answer and Your Answer.
8:38  - Scientific Approach versus Journalistic Approach. How does Data Journalism change this dynamic.
9:52 – couple important caveats of Data Journalism: the world is complex and data isn’t perfect

Examples of questions Data Journalism can/cannot answer
10.35 - Case with the crime rate in Surrey
11:58 - The impact of new rules introduced by the city of Vancouver in the potshots across the city
12:59 –The probability of car owners (white versus black) to be searched by the police
13:57 – Remark by Chad: Data Journalism can provide “your answer”. Tailored made answers to the users
14:28 – Violations in daycare story in Metro Vancouver (questions unanswered)
16:10 – Special Needs and Second Language Students by Vancouver Sun
16:57 – Housing Affordability in Metro Vancouver by Vancouver Sun
17:53 – “Dollars for Docs” project: Payment that Pharmaceutical Companies make to doctors
18:20 – “How fast is LAFD where you live”
18:34 –  Locations of Starbucks:  An example of “fun” Data Journalism
20:19 – “Up Close on Baseball’s Borders” visualization

“Nitty gritty” of Data Journalism

20:40 – Conceptualizing data journalism as a tool, rather than type of Journalism.
21:09 – What drives data journalism in the light of recent changes? 1) More Data 2) More Tools
21:27 – Chad remarks about the opportunities for any citizen can engage with data
22:07 – “More Data” – the first factor that drives data journalism.
22:22 -  Strategies for acquiring data
24:36 –  Example of strategy in practice: BC ambulance service.

Examples: Stories that did not require complex data acquisition
28:05 – “Income based on your attributes”.
30:22 – “Commuting Patterns” visualization.
31:04 – “Are you Over the Hill?” visualization
31:32 – “Popularity of Baby Names” visualization

Where to Acquire Data: Sources for Open Data
32:11 – Open data. Chad guides us through the sources for open data
32:50 - Stat Can website. National Household Survey – how to access the open source dataset
37:36 – How to download datasets using different formats. Introducing IVT file format opened by the program Beyond 20/20
40:45 – Chad provides a link to all open data resources that he talked about (
40:50 – types of files to work with data. XLS, XLSX, XSV, TSV. Geography files (KML, SHP, (SHP,SHX,DBF)
42:46 – CANSIM datasets – crime data, business data

Data Visualization Tools

46:47 – Introduction to data visualization tools
47:51 – List of visualization tools
48:18 – Data wrapper
51:09 -  Tableau public
53:30 – Fusion Table

Question Time
57:46 – Fred introduces Question Time
58:01 – Question from Mandy on the validity and integrity of datasets used as a source for the articles
1:01:04 – Question from Ann on the future of data journalism and internet of things
1:03:33 – A joined question by host students Mandy and Ann
1:04:58 – Fred Popovich remarks

Questions from the Audience
1:06:28 – Q1: What tool that is possible missing and would be useful in working with data.
1:08:30 – Q2: Considering that journalism is in decline and newspapers are struggling , what role will data journalism play in this context? What disadvantage would citizen-journalist face from not being affiliated with newspapers?
1:12:03 – remarks by Catherine Murray
1:13:38 – remark by Carla Graebner, librarian for Data services and Government Information at SFU.
1:14:49 – Q3: Tools for handling data and visualizing networks.
1:15:57 – Q4:  On questions that should be asked when there is a lack of good data. How to ask those questions?
1:17:42 – Q5: How to deal with literacy issue in terms of visualizations and data analysis?
1:19:26 – Q6: On working with statistics from the journalistic perspective (average, standard deviation).
1:22:25 – Q7: Ethical Dimension in working with and presenting data (in the light of Chad’s presentation on special needs kids)

Final Remarks
1:25:13- Closing remarks by Catherine Murray
1:25:24 – Presenting a gift to Chad Skelton
1:25:58 – Final remarks by Fred Popovich and announcement on Edward Snowden’s lecture and final presentations by the students


Chad worked as a data journalist at The Vancouver Sun until 2015. In 2014, Chad won an international Data Journalism Award for his portfolio of work in the previous year. He has received the Jack Webster Award, B.C.’s top journalism prize, six times, most recently in 2013 for a data project on political donations and lobbyists in B.C.

Chad created The Sun's public-sector salary database, which has received more than 20 million pageviews, and has built popular interactive tools on everything from commuting patterns to income inequality. He also made a Twitter robot that checks court judgments (@BCCourtBot).

Chad has been an instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University since 2005, where he teaches the popular Citizen Journalism (JRNL 1220) and Data Visualization (JRNL 4165) courses. He receives consistently high marks from his students. He has also given several talks on data and storytelling, including at the 2015 Tapestry Conference sponsored by Tableau Software.


Award-winning data journalist Chad Skelton explains how you can turn raw data into compelling stories and engaging data visualizations.

Using examples of his own work, and that of others, Chad will discuss the principles of good data storytelling as well as introduce participants to some of the free tools available for building powerful interactive maps and charts.

Chad will also discuss how you can best use open data portals to find the numbers you need to tell your story.