26 Jan 2018

This article was originally published on the Data Journalism Awards Medium Publication managed by the Global Editors Network. You can find the original version right here.



Editors, reporters and, anyone in news today: how prepared are you for what is coming? Really. There is a lot of talk right now on new practices and new technologies that may or may not shape the future of journalism but are we all really properly getting ready? Esra Dogramaci, member of the Data Journalism Awards 2017 jury and now working as Senior Editor on Digital Initiatives at DW in Berlin, Germany, thinks we are not. The Data Journalism Awards 2017 submission deadline is on 10 April.


Esra Dogramaci, Senior Editor on Digital Initiatives at DW, Photo: Krisztian Juhasz


Before joining DW, Esra Dogramaci worked at the BBC in London and Al Jazeera English, amongst others. She discusses here the preconceived ideas people have about the future of journalism and how we might be getting it all wrong. She also shares some good tips on how to better prepare for the journalism practices of the future as well as share with us her vision of how the world of news could learn from the realm of television entertainment.


What do you think most people get wrong when describing the future of journalism?


There are plenty of people happy to ruminate on the future of journalism — some highly qualified such as the Reuters Institute and the Tow Center who make annual predictions and reports based on data and patterns while others go with much less than that. Inevitably, people get giddy about technology — what can we do with virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), personalisation (not being talked about so much anymore), chatbots, the future of mobile and so on. However with all this looking forward to where journalism is headed (or rather how technology is evolving and, how can journalism keep pace with it), are we actually setting ourselves and journalism students up with all that is needed for this digital future? I think the answer is no.


What is, according to you, a more adequate description (or prediction) of the future of news?


If we’re talking about a digital future, the journalists of tomorrow are not equipped with the digital currency they will need.

Technology definitely matters but it’s not so useful when you don’t have people who understand it or can build and implement appropriate strategy to bridge journalism in a digital age. Middle or senior management types for instance, are less likely to know how to approach Snapchat, which they would be less likely to use, than a high school teenager who is using it as a social sharing tool or their primary source of news.

So if we aren’t actually:

1. Listening to our audience and knowing who they are and how they use these technologies, and

2. Bringing in people who know how to use these tools that speak to and with the audience,

…the efforts are going to be laughable at worst and dismissed at best.

In essence, technology and those who know how to use, develop and iterate it go together. That’s the future of news. We should be looking forward with technology, but we’ve also got to look back at the people coming through the system that will inherit and step into the – hopefully relevant – foundations we’re building now.


“Are we actually setting ourselves and journalism students up with all that is needed for this digital future?”


When looking at the evolution of journalism practices over the past few years, which ones fascinate you the most?


There are two things that stand out. The first is analytics and the second is the devolution of power, both points are interrelated.

Data analytics have really transformed non-linear journalism. Its instantly measurable, helping people make editorial decisions but also question and understand why content you thought would perform doesn’t. Data allows us to really understand our audience, and come up with content that not just resonates with them but how to package content that they will engage with. For instance a website audience is not going to be the same as your TV audience (TV is typically older and watches longer content but again the data will tell specifics), so clipping a TV package and sticking it on Facebook or YouTube isn’t optimal and suggests to your audience that you don’t understand these platforms and more importantly, them. They will go to another news provider that does.

An example of this was a project where it was traditionally assumed [in one of my previous teams] that the audience was very interested in Palestinian-Israeli conflict and so a lot of stories were delivered about it. However, we discovered through the numbers, on a consistent basis, that the audience wasn’t as interested as assumed, rather people were more into the conflicts in Syria, Yemen as well as Morocco and Algeria stories. These stories and audiences may not have traditionally registered on top of the editorial agenda because of what was historically thought to be in the audiences interest, but our data was suggesting we needed to pay more attention to the coverage in these areas.

Now, that being said, it’s still stunning to see how little analytics are used day to day. There still seems to be a monopoly on the numbers rather than integration into newsrooms. There are a plethora of tools available in making informed editorial or data decisions but generally editors don’t understand them or follow metrics that are not useful because they don’t know how to interrogate the data, or we hear things like ‘I’m an editor, I’ve been doing this for x years, I know better.’

Fortunately though, about 80–90% of editors I find are keen to understand this data-driven decision-making world and once you sit down and explain things, they become great advocates. Ian Katz at BBC Newsnight, Carey Clark at BBC HardTalk are two editors who embody this.

The second area is devolving power. The best performing digital teams are when not all decision-making is consolidated at the top, and you really give people time and space to figure out problems, test new ideas without the pressure always to publish. That’s a very different model to traditional hierarchical or vertical journalism structures. Its an area of change and letting go of power. But empowering the team empowers leaders as well.

An example of this is a team I worked with where all decisions and initiatives went through a social media editor. As a result, there was a bottleneck, and frustration for things not being done and generally being late to the mark on delivering stories and being relevant on platform as competitors were overtaking. What we did is decentralise control — we asked the team what platforms they’d like to take responsibility for (in addition to day to day tasks) and together came up with objectives and a proposition to deliver on those. The result? Significant growth across the board, increase in engagement but perhaps most importantly, a happier team. That’s what most people are looking for: recognition, responsibility, autonomy. If you can keep your team happy, they are going to be motivated and the results will follow.


Global Headaches: the 10 biggest issues facing Donald Trump, by CNN



Do you have any stories in mind that represent best what you think the future of newsmaking will look like?


CNN digital did this great Global Headaches project ahead of the US elections last year.

The project was on site (meaning that traffic was coming to the site and not a third party platform), made for mobile which would presumably reflect an audience coming mainly from mobile, used broadcast journalists and personalities as well as regular newsgathering, with an element of gamification. Each scenario had an onward journey which then takes your reader out of the game element and into the story.


Example from the “onward journey” with the CNN “Global Headaches” project


This isn’t a crazy high tech innovation but it is something that would have been much harder to pull off say 5 years ago. This example is multifaceted and making use of the tools we have available today in a smart way. It demonstrates that CNN can speak to the way their audience is consuming content while fulfilling its journalistic remit.

Examples like this doesn’t mean we should be abandoning long form text for instance and going purely for video driven or interactive stories. The Reuters Institute found last year (in their report The Future of Online News Video) that there is oversaturation of video in publishing and that text is still relevant. So, I would caution against throwing the text baby out with the bathwater, which then comes down to two things:

  1. Know your audience and do so by bringing analytics into the newsroom (it’s still slightly mind boggling the number of newsrooms who do not have any analytics in the editorial process)
  2. Come up with a product that you love and that works. The best of these innovations are multidisciplinary and do something simple using the relevant tools we have, that are accessible today. There’s no use investing in a VR project if the majority of your audiences lack the headsets to experience it.


Do you think news organisations are well equipped for this digital future?


Yes and no. There are the speedboats like Quartz, AJ+, NowThis, Vox, who can pivot quickly and innovate versus the bigger media tankers that turn very slowly. One question I get asked quite a bit is “what’s the most important element in digital change”. The answer is leadership. There needs to be someone(s) who understands, supports and pushes change, otherwise everyone down the ranks will continue to struggle and face resistance.

I truly believe in looking at the people who are on the ground, rolling up their sleeves and getting the work done, trying, failing, succeeding, and who keep persevering — versus always deferring to editors who have been in place for say 10 years to lead the way. Those people in the trenches are the ones we should be shining the light on and listening to. They are much closer to the audience and can give you usable insights that also go beyond numbers.

If I could name a few, people like Carol Olona, Maryam Ghanbarzadeh at the BBC, Alaa Batayneh or Fatma Naib, at Al Jazeera, Jacqui Maher at Conde Nast, need to be paid attention to. You may not see them at conferences or showcased much but by having people like them in place, news organisations are well equipped for a digital future.


Do you see some places in the world (some specific organisations maybe?) that are actually doing better than others on that front?


The World Economic Forum wouldn’t traditionally be associated as being a digital media organisation, but a few years ago they started to invest in social media and develop an audience that normally would not be interested in them. They take data and make it relevant and accessible for low cost, bite size social consumption.

Take this recent video for example:


Your brain without exercise, a video by the World Economic Forum
And also this related one:


Best of 2016 social video by the World Economic Forum


There is also this NYT video of Simone Biles made ahead of the 2016 summer Olympics which then has the option of taking you to an onward site journey.

The Financial Times hasn’t been afraid of digital either. You see them taking interesting risks which might go over a lot of people’s heads but the point is they’re trying. Like in their project “Build your own Kraft Heinz takeover”.



Then there are the regular suspects — AJ+ isn’t trying to do everything, they’re trying to be relevant for a defined audience on the platforms that audience uses. Similarly, Channel 4 News isn’t pumping out every story they do on social, but deliberately going for emotionally charged stories rather than straight reporting as well as some play with visualising data.


What would you like to see more of in newsrooms today which would actually prepare staff better for what’s coming?


When you’re hiring new staff, assign them digital functions and projects rather than putting them on the traditional newsroom treadmill. A lot of organisations have entry level schemes and this could easily be incorporated into that model. That demonstrates that digital is a priority from the outset. You could also create in house lightning attachments, say a six-week rotation at the end of which you’re expected to deliver something ready for publishing, driven by digital. My City University students were able to come up with a data visualization in less than an hour, and put together a social video made on mobile in 45 minutes (social or mobile video wasn’t even on the course but I snuck it in). Six weeks in a newsroom is plenty of time for something substantial.

Also, have the right tools in place and ensure that everyone is educated on the numbers. Reach and views for instance get thrown around a lot- they are big easy numbers to capture and comprehend, but we need to make a distinction between what is good for PR versus actionable metrics in the newsroom. As more people clue into what matters, I do think (and we see in certain places like Newswhip for instance) where success is based on engagement, interactions and watchtime rather than views, impressions or reach.

Finally and obviously, its devolution of power and more risk taking. Make people better by empowering them — that means carve out the time and space to experiment without the pressure to deliver or publish. When you are continually driving staff against deadlines, creativity suffers. Fortunately there are so many third party tools and analytics that will very quickly tell you what’s working and what’s not, contributing to a much more efficient newsroom freeing up valuable time to think and experiment. Building multi disciplinary teams is a good step in this direction. DW is experimenting with a “lab like” concept bringing together editorial, technical and digital folks in an effort to bring the best of all worlds together and see what magic they come up with.


From your experience teaching social and digital journalism at City University London, what can you say about the way the younger generation of journalists is being trained for the future? Do they realise what’s at stake?


At the beginning of term, I heard quite a few students say that digital didn’t matter, it wasn’t “real journalism” and that they were taking the class merely because it was perceived as an “easy pass”. That’s because the overall coursework, emphasized magazine and newspaper journalism. At the end of the term, and almost on a weekly basis since, my former students write to me about either digital projects they have done, digital jobs they are going for or how something we went over in the class has led to another opportunity.

There remains a major emphasis on traditional broadcast journalism — TV, radio, print, but very little for digital. That’s not something to fault students on. Digital is changing constantly but teaching staff mainly reflect the expertise of the industry, and that expertise is traditional. While there are a lot of digital professionals, it does not come close to the level of expertise and experience currently on offer at institutions training the next journalist generation. That being said organisations like Axel Springer have journalism academies where all of their instructors, are working full time in media and can translate the day to day relevance into the classroom. That’s more of the kind of thing we need to have.

The students I think do realise what’s at stake because a lot of those journalism jobs they’re applying for all require some level of digital literacy. Sure everyone might watch a YouTube video but what happens when an Editor asks you why a news video has been uploaded and monetised by other users elsewhere. Would you know what to do?


What could be done to improve the educational system in the UK and beyond? Simply make journalism courses more digitally focussed?


There is nothing that will compel places to change but reputation. If students are leaving institutions because what they are learning is not preparing them to meet the demands of the industry they’re choosing to go into, word will spread sooner than later. There will surely be visionary institutions who ‘get it’ and adapt, some are there already.

‘Smart’ places will build in digital basics so students can have the confidence to hit the ground running. I see this in a lot of digital job requirements. It’s a given that anyone starting in journalism in 2017 has basic social media literacy. Beyond that everything is a bonus — how can you file from a mobile phone, can you interpret complex data and tell a story with it. Then, are you paying attention to analytics?

As Chris Moran (Guardian) had pointed out:


“staff blame the stupid internet for low page views on a piece…but credit the quality of the journalism when one hits the jackpot.”

We need a much more sophisticated understanding beyond yes/no answers to points like these.

A lot of media houses have academies or training centres expected also to bridge digital gaps. The caution there is that the trainings they offer when it comes to things beyond CMS, uploading video, etc., is that other digital knowledge seem to fall in the “nice to know” rather than “you need this” category. The best thing is to find the in-house talents who know what they’re talking about and get them to lead the way.


Another recurrent question when talking about our digital future is the question of business models for news organisations. As the latter are under continual financial strain, you actually think we should get inspiration from the entertainment industry. Can you elaborate on this idea?


Yes. The entertainment industry always has a much larger creative capacity and funding so they are able to take more risks with less at stake. That’s where we should be looking and seeing what the obvious news applications could be rather than trying to build our own innovations all the time. Most news houses just cannot compete with entertainment budgets. Jimmy Fallon showcased Google Tilt brush in January 2016:






I then saw it in November 2016 at a Google News event but have yet to see anyone use it in a meaningful news application. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all these things will be picked up on, but it does mean we should keep a finger on the pulse of what’s possible. Matt Danzico, now setting up a Digital News Studio at NBC is in a unique position. He’s in the same building as Late Night, SNL, and others. That means he has access to all the funky things entertainment is coming up with and can think about news applications for it.

Similarly, how can news organisations think about teaming up with Amazon or Netflix for instance and start to make their content more accessible? These media giants have the capacity to push creative boundaries and invest, and news organisations have their journalistic expertise to offer in that relationship. That’s very relevant in this time of “fake news”.


You have recently been appointed Senior Editor of Digital at DW in Berlin. Can you tell us more about what this position entails and the type of projects you’ll be doing? How different is it from what you’ve done in the past at the BBC and Al Jazeera for example?


DW is in a position familiar to many broadcasters, and that is a slight shift away from linear broadcasting to a considerable foray into digital. The difference is that DW is not starting from zero, with plenty of good (and bad) examples around to learn from. The first thing is to set a good digital foundation — getting the right tools in house and bringing people along on the digital journey — in a nutshell increasing literacy and comfort with digital. Once that is done I think you’ll see a very sharp learning curve and a lot more ambitious digital projects and initiatives coming from DW.

We’re very lucky that we have a new Editor in Chief, Ines Pohl and new head of news, Richard Walker, both infused with ideas and energy of making a great digital leap. Complementary to that we have a new digital strategy coming from the DG’s office which I’ve been involved with in addition to a new DW “lab like” concept, as I mentioned before. A lot of people might not know how big DW is — there are 30 language services and English is the largest of those, so getting all systems firing digitally is no small task.

Compared to BBC or AJ, the scope and scale of the task is of course much bigger. At AJ we had a lot of free range in the beginning because no one was doing what we did, at the BBC, there was much more process involved, less risk taking. Based on those experiences, DW is somewhere in the middle, a good balance. 2017 could be the year where stars align for DW. There are approximately 12 parliamentary or national elections in Europe and DW knows this landscape well. So bringing together the news opportunities, a willingness to evolve and invest in something new along with leadership that can really drive it, I think DW will be turning heads soon.



Marianne Bouchart is the founder and director of HEI-DA, a nonprofit organisation promoting news innovation, the future of data journalism and open data. She runs data journalism programmes in various regions around the world as well as HEI-DA’s Sensor Journalism Toolkit project and manages the Data Journalism Awards competition.

Before launching HEI-DA, Marianne spent 10 years in London where she worked as a web producer, data journalism and graphics editor for Bloomberg News, amongst others. She created the Data Journalism Blog in 2011 and gives lectures at journalism schools, in the UK and in France.


06 May 2012

After studying Data Journalism for a year at City University I have come to appreciate the importance of having the skillset to make the most out of numbers and statistics. Many aspiring journalists still see data as something that is separate from journalism, and as something that does not interest them. In response, I have compiled some reasons why data is increasingly important:

1.       Make sense of Mass Information

Having the skills to scrape, analyse, clean and present data allows journalists to present complicated and otherwise incomprehensible information in a clear way. It is an essential part of journalism to find material and present it to the public. Understanding data allows journalists to do this with large amounts of information, which would otherwise be impossible to understand.

2.       New Approaches to Storytelling

Able to create infographics and visualisations, data journalists can see and present information in a new and interesting way. Stories no longer need to be linear and based solely on text. Data can be grafted into a narrative which people can read visually. Interactive elements of data visualisations allow people to explore the information presented and make sense of it in their own way.

3.       Data Journalism is the Future

Understanding data now will put journalists ahead of the game. Information is increasingly being sourced and presented using data. Journalists who refuse to adapt to the modern, increasingly technological world will be unable to get the best stories, by-lines and scoops and their careers will suffer as a result.

4.       Save Time

No longer must journalists pore over spread-sheets and numbers for hours when there could be a simpler way to organise the information. Being technologically savvy and knowing the skills to apply to data sets can save journalists time when cleaning, organising and making sense of data. Not making mistakes due to lack of knowledge can also save a journalist time.

5.       A way to see things you might otherwise not see

Understanding large data sets can allow journalists to see significant information that they might otherwise have overlooked. Equally, some stories are best told using data visualisations as this enables people to see things that they might otherwise have been unable to understand.

 6.       A way to tell richer stories

Combining traditional methods of storytelling with data visualisations, infographics, video or photographs, creates richer, more interesting and detailed stories.

7.       Data is an essential part of Journalism

Many journalists do not see data as a specialist and separate area of journalism, but an interwoven, essential and important element of it. It is not there to replace traditional methods of finding information, but to enhance them. The journalist that can combine a good contact book and an understanding of data will be invaluable in the future.

24 Jan 2012




Brian Boyer, news applications editor at the Chicago Tribune, describes PANDA in a video by Jon Vidar.

Earlier this month PANDA, which helps news organizations better use public information by creating new software that cleans up and helps analyze it, went beta.

Users can now test PANDA Project Alpha and give feedback on how it’s doing.

Above, Brian Boyer describes the project’s latest developments.

Boyer is news applications editor at the Chicago Tribune, where he was the 2010 employee of the year. [Read more…]

02 Dec 2011

Tool of the week: Playground, by PeopleBrowsr.

This post was first published on Journalism.co.uk

What is it? A social analytics platform which contains over 1,000 days of tweets (all 70 billion of them), Facebook activity and blog posts.

How is it of use to journalists? “Journalists can easily develop real-time insights into any story from Playground,” PeopleBrowsr UK CEO Andrew Grill explains.

Complex keyword searches can be divided by user influence, geolocation, sentiment, and virtual communities of people with shared interests and affinities.

These features – and many more – let reporters and researchers easily drill down to find the people and content driving the conversation on social networks on any subject.

Playground lets you use the data the way you want to use it. You can either export the graphs and tables that the site produces automatically or export the results in a CSV file to create your own visualisations, which could potentially make it the next favourite tool of data journalists.

Grill added:

The recent launch of our fully transparent Kred influencer platform will make it faster and easier for journalists to find key influencers in a particular community.

You can give Playground a try for the first 14 days before signing up for one of their subscriptions ($19 a month for students and journalists, $149 for organisations and companies).

Jodee Rich, the founder of PeopleBrowsr, gave an inspiring speech at the Strata Summit in September on how a TV ratings system such as Nielsen could soon be replaced by social media data thanks to the advanced online analytics that PeopleBrowsr offers.


Playground’s development is based on feedback from its community of users, which has been very responsive. Ideas can be sent to contact[@]peoplebrowsr.com or by tweeting@peoplebrowsr.

16 Nov 2011



This post is by Lucy Chambers, community coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation, and Friedrich Lindenberg, Developer on OpenSpending. They recently attended the Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2011 in Kyiv, Ukraine, and in this post, bring home their thoughts on journalist-programmer collaboration…

The conference

The Global Investigative Journalism Conference must be one of the most intense yet rewarding experiences either of us have attended since joining the OKF. With topics ranging from human trafficking to offshore companies, the meeting highlighted the importance of long-term, investigative reporting in great clarity.

With around 500 participants from all over the globe with plenty of experience in evidence gathering, we used this opportunity to ask many of them how platforms like OpenSpending can contribute, not only to the way in which data is presented, but also to how it is gathered and analyzed in the course of an investigation.

Spending Stories – the brainstorm

As many of you will be aware, earlier this year we won a Knight News Challenge award to help journalists contextualise and build narratives around spending data. Research for the project, Spending Stories, was one of the main reasons for our trip to Ukraine…

During the data clinic session as well as over drinks in the bar of “Hotel President” we asked the investigators what they would like to see in a spend analysis platform targeted at data journalists. Cutting to the chase, they immediately raised the key questions:


It was clear that the platform should support the existing journalistic workflow through publishing embargos, private datasets and note making. At the same time, the need for statistical and analytical heuristics to dissect the data, find outliers and visualize distributions was highlighted as a means to enable truly data-driven investigations of datasets. The goal in this is to distinguish anomalies from errors and patterns of corruption from policies.


With the data loaded and analyzed, the next question is what value can be added to published articles. Just like DocumentCloud enabled the easy embedding of source documents and excerpts, OpenSpending should allow journalists to visualize distributions of funds, embed search widgets and data links, as well as information about how the data was acquired and cleaned.


Many of those we spoke to were concerned about the complexity required to contribute data. The recurring question was: should I even try myself or hire help? It’s clear that for the platform to be accessible to journalists, a large variety of data cleansing tutorials, examples and tools need to be at their disposal.

We’ve listed the full brainstorm on the OpenSpending wiki

You can also see the mind map with concrete points below:

Hacks & Scrapers – How technical need data journalists be?

In a second session, “Data Camp” we went through the question of how to generate structured data from unstructured sources such as web pages and PDF documents. [Read more…]

15 Nov 2011

Nicola Hughes from ScraperWiki shared this video on Twitter recently and we thought it would be a shame not to share it with you too.

Experts in data mining gathered at the Paley Center for Media on 10 November 2011 to discuss the future of journalism and how to sustain a journalism watchdod in the digital age. This session is about data mining and the new tools available online.

Watch the video and let us know what you think. If you’ve used some of them, tell us how good -or how bad- you think they are…

Next Big Thing: New Tools for Digital Digging from The Paley Center For Media on FORA.tv

Presenters include:

Bill Allison

Bill Allison is the Editorial Director at the Sunlight Foundation. A veteran investigative journalist and editor for nonprofit media, Bill worked for the Center for Public Integrity for nine years, where he co-authored The Cheating of America with Charles Lewis, was senior editor of The Buying of the President 2000 and co-editor of the New York Times bestseller The Buying of the President 2004.

He edited projects on topics ranging from the role of international arms smugglers and private military companies in failing states around the world to the rise of section 527 organizations in American politics. Prior to joining the Center, Bill worked for eight years for The Philadelphia Inquirer — the last two as researcher for Pulitzer Prize winning reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele.


David Donald

David Donald, United States , is data editor at the Center for Public Integrity, where he oversees data analysis and computer-assisted reporting at the Washington-based investigative journalism nonprofit.


Sheila Krumholz

Sheila Krumholz is the Center for Responsive Politics’ executive director, serving as the organization’s chief administrator, the liaison to its board and major funders and its primary spokesperson.

Sheila became executive director in 2006, having served for eight years as the Center’s research director, supervising data analysis for OpenSecrets.org and the Center’s clients. She first joined the Center in 1989, serving as assistant editor of the very first edition of Open Secrets, the Center’s flagship publication.

In 2010, Fast Company magazine named Sheila to its “Most Influential Women in Technology” list. Sheila has a degree in international relations and political science from the University of Minnesota.

Jennifer 8. Lee

Jennifer 8. Lee authors The Fortune Cookie Chronicles ($24.99). Also, she’s a New York Times reporter.


Nadi Penjarla

Nadi Penjarla is the chief architect and designer of the Ujima Project. The Ujima Project (www.ujima-project.org) is a collection of databases, documents and other resources that aims to bring transparency to the workings of governments, multinational non-governmental organizations and business enterprises.

Nadi’s work demonstrates that data analysis provides unique insights into international and local political controversies and brings the facts of the world into sharper focus. He has spoken and conducted workshops on computer assisted reporting at international forums such as the ABRAJI Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the GLMC Investigative Journalism Forum in Kigali, Rwanda, and at the Annual Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) Conference.

Nadi possesses a strong background in data analysis and data mining, including work as an investment banker, and a strategy and business analytics consultant. Past projects include consulting for Fortune 500 companies on how to improve strategic decision-making, enhance operations, conduct complementary marketing and transform related business processes by properly analyzing data and its implications. In 2003 Nadi was the founding editor of Global Tryst, an online magazine focusing on international issues from a grassroots perspective.

Nadi holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, an M.S in Engineering and Computer Science, and a B.S. in Engineering. He can be reached at 202-531-9300 or at nadi.penjarla@gmail.com

14 Nov 2011

This video is cross posted on DataDrivenJournalism.net, the Open Knowledge Foundation blog and on the Data Journalism Blog.

The Data Journalism Handbook is a project coordinated by the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation, launched at the Mozilla Festival in London on 5 November 2011.

Journalists and experts in data gathered to create the first ever handbook to data journalism over a two-days challenge.

Read more about the Data Journalism Handbook in this article by Federica Cocco.

What data tool or great example of data journalism would you add to the handbook? Let’s make this comments section useful!

Every contribution, big or small, to the Data Journalism Handbook is very much appreciated. So use this space to give us links and examples to what you think should be included in the manual.

And if you feel more chatty, email us at editor@datajournalismblog.com

14 Nov 2011

By Federica Cocco

This article is cross posted on DataDrivenJournalism.net, the Open Knowledge Foundation blog and on the Data Journalism Blog.

Ravensbourne college is an ultramodern cubist design school which abuts the O2 arena on the Greenwich peninsula. It is perhaps an unusual and yet apt setting for journalists to meet.

Members of the Open Knowledge Foundation and the European Journalism Centre saw this as a perfect opportunity to herd a number of prominent journalists and developers who, fuelled by an unlimited supply of mocacchinos, started work on the first Data Journalism Handbook.

The occasion was the yearly Mozilla Festival, which acts as an incubator to many such gatherings. This year the focus was on media, freedom and the web.

The manual aims to address one crucial problem: “There are a lot of useful resources on the web,” Liliana Bounegru of the EJC said, “but they are all scattered in different places. So what we’re trying to do is put everything together and have a comprehensive step-by-step guide”.

In data journalism, most people are self-taught, and many find it hard to keep up-to-date with every tool produced by the industry. “It could be vital having a handbook that really explains to journalists how you can approach data journalism from scratch with no prior knowledge, ” says Caelainn Barr of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Friedrich Lindenberg of the OKF believes there is a real urgency in making newsrooms data-literate: “If journalists want to keep up with the information they need to learn coding, and some bits of data analysis and data-slicing techniques. That will make much better journalism and increase accountability.”

And who better than the New York Times’ Interactive Editor Aron Pilhofer, The Guardian Data Blog’s Simon Rogers and others to lead the ambitious efforts?
In charge of sorting the wheat from the chaff, around 40 people joined them in the sixth floor of the college, for a 48 hour session.

The first draft of the handbook should be ready in the coming months, as other contributions from every corner of the web are still working on making an input.
Of course the first data journalism handbook had to be open source. How else would it be able to age gracefully and be relevant in years to come?

Workshops of this sort represent a decisively different break from the past. Aspiring data journalists will know that hands-on sessions are a cut above the usual lectures featuring knowledgeable speakers and PowerPoint presentations. Discussing the topic and citing examples is not enough. After all, if you give a man a fish you have fed him for a day. But if you teach a man ho w to fish, you have him fed for a lifetime.

Jonathan Gray concurs: “Rather than just provide examples of things that have been done with data, we want to make it easier for journalists to understand what data is available, what tools they can use to work with data, how they can visualise data sets and how they can integrate that with the existing workflows of their news organisations.”

At the event itself, after a brief introduction, the crowd split into five groups and began collaborating on each chapter of the handbook. Some were there to instill knowledge, others were there to absorb and ask questions.

“I like the fact that everyone is bringing a different skillset to the table, and we’re all challenging each other”, one participant said.

Francis Irving, CEO of ScraperWiki, led the session on new methods of data acquisitions. He believes the collaboration between journalists, programmers, developers and designers, though crucial, can generate a culture clash: “When working with data, there’s a communication question, how do you convey what you need to someone more technical and how do they then use that to find it in a way that’s useful.”

“A project like this is quite necessary,” noted Pilhofer, “It’s kind of surprising someone hasn’t tried to do this until now.”

The free e-book will be downloadable from the European Journalism Centre’s DataDrivenJournalism.net/handbook in the coming months. If you want to follow our progress or contribute to the handbook you can get in touch via the data journalism mailing list, the Twitter hashtags #ddj and #ddjbook, or email bounegru@ejc.net.

Watch here the full video report from the Data Journalism Handbook session at the Mozilla Festival, 4-6 November in London.

The organisers would like to thank everyone who is contributing to the handbook for their input and to Kate Hudson for the beautiful graphics.

About the author: Federica Cocco is a freelance journalist and the former editor of Owni.eu, a data-driven investigative journalism site based in Paris. She has also worked with Wired, Channel 4 and the Guardian. 


01 Nov 2011

The following post is from Jonathan Gray, Community Coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

With the Mozilla Festival approaching fast, we’re getting really excited about getting stuck into drafting the Data Journalism Handbook, in a series of sessions run by the Open Knowledge Foundation and the European Journalism Centre.

As we blogged about last month, a group of leading data journalists, developers and others are meeting to kickstart work on the handbook, which will aim to get aspiring data journalists started with everything from finding and requesting data they need, using off the shelf tools for data analysis and visualisation, how to hunt for stories in big databases, how to use data to augment stories, and plenty more.

We’ve got a stellar line up of contributors confirmed, including:

Here’s a sneak preview of our draft table of contents:

  • Introduction
    • What is data journalism?
    • Why is it important?
    • How is it done?
    • Examples, case studies and interviews
      • Data powered stories
      • Data served with stories
      • Data driven applications
    • Making the case for data journalism
      • Measuring impact
      • Sustainability and business models
    • The purpose of this book
    • Add to this book
    • Share this book
  • Getting data
    • Where does data live?
      • Open data portals
      • Social data services
      • Research data
    • Asking for data
      • Freedom of Information laws
      • Helpful public servants
      • Open data initiatives
    • Getting your own data
      • Scraping data
      • Crowdsourcing data
      • Forms, spreadsheets and maps
  • Understanding data
    • Data literacy
    • Working with data
    • Tools for analysing data
    • Putting data into context
    • Annotating data
  • Delivering data
    • Knowing the law
    • Publishing data
    • Visualising data
    • Data driven applications
    • From datasets to stories
  • Appendix
    • Further resources

If you’re interested in contributing you can either:

  1. Come and find us at the Mozilla Festival in London this weekend!
  2. Contribute material virtually! You can pitch in your ideas via the public data-driven-journalismmailing list, via the #ddj hashtag on Twitter, or by sending an email to bounegru@ejc.net.

We hope to see you there!

05 Oct 2011

OJB – By Paul Bradshaw

I was very excited recently to read on the Scraperwiki mailing list that the website was working on making it possible to create an RSS feed from a SQL query.

Yes, that’s the sort of thing that gets me excited these days.

But before you reach for a blunt object to knock some sense into me, allow me to explain…

Scraperwiki has, until now, done very well at trying to make it easier to get hold of hard-to-reach data. It has done this in two ways: firstly by creating an environment which lowers the technical barrier to creating scrapers (these get hold of the data); and secondly by lowering the social barrier to creating scrapers (by hosting a space where journalists can ask developers for help in writing scrapers).

This move, however, does something different.

It allows you to ask questions – of any dataset on the site. Not only that, but it allows you to receive updates as those answers change. And those updates come in an RSS feed, which opens up all sorts of possibilities around automatically publishing those answers.

The blog post explaining the development already has a couple of examples of this in practice:

Anna, for example, has scraped data on alcohol licence applications. The new feature not only allows her to get a constant update of new applications in her RSS reader – but you could also customise that feed to tell you about licence applications on a particular street, or from a particular applicant, and so on. [Read more…]